In today’s connected world, an internet connection in your hotel room is no longer cutting it as a means to stand out from the crowd. Travellers expect their connectivity to be as good – if not better – than what they’re accustomed to at home, so in order to stay competitive, hotels abroad are offering an increasing array of digital perks to their guests.
At the push of a button
Taking advantage of the popularity of smartphones and tablets, hotels are now able to communicate with their customers at the right time and place using customised apps. Want to request an early-check-in or late check-out, shuttle service, room service, concierge service, dinner reservation, massage, or fitness instructor?
It’s an app away at the Chancellor Hotel, San Francisco. Don’t want to download an app? The Plaza Hotel in New York ups the ante further by supplying their guests with an iPad in their room. At the Westin O’Hare in the Wisconsin, guests get free Internet for the duration of their stay.
If an app doesn’t sound advanced enough, Rhode Island hotel the Ocean House offers guests a virtual fitness machine comprising of a touch-screen machine that they can select fitness classes like spinning, aerobics or Zumba at any time of the day. For a proper ‘wow factor’, a screen then drops from the ceiling and a virtual instructor appears.
More than a ‘nice to have’
In a 2011 study by Concur/Global Business Travel Association, 91% of business travelers use laptop computers, 81% use wireless broadband, 73% use a smartphone and 67% use mobile travel apps. For many a traveler, their work is affected by their level of connectivity. This means a consistent and quality Internet connection with adequate bandwidth is an investment hotels should not skimp on.
To obtain adequate bandwidth, hotels have sometimes had to invest in rewiring. The cost per room can range from $250 to $900, depending on the hotel, said Craig Ziegler, the president and co-founder of SuiteLinq, a hotel technology company. If a hotel is new, the wiring can be part of initial construction. Some hotels charge as much as $10 a day for high-speed wireless Internet access and streaming, but include standard Internet access in the room rate.
Some hotels have phased in technology. “We installed high-speed Internet first, then Wi-Fi, and extended bandwidth more than a year ago,” said Pierre-Louis Renou, general manager of the Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square and a member of the Sofitel technology committee. Sofitel manages 120 hotels globally. The Sofitel So Bangkok, which opened in mid-March, goes further with iPads in all suites and common areas and Mac minis in every room.
John R. Hach, senior vice president for global product management at TravelClick, a hotel service provider in New York, said that hotels with optimized Web sites were capturing 10 percent or more of their reservations from mobile devices.
Or, as Mr. Ramos of Chancellor Hotel put it, “You don’t want to be left behind.”