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Eurhotec 2001: ‘Bed and Broadband’ – hotels for the internet generation?

High-speed Internet access will be the "next essential guestroom amenity," and to make it happen, "tomorrow's hotels will feature broadband connectivity as much as anything else," predicted Larry Birenbaum, VP Ethernet Access Group, Cisco Systems, keynoting the recent European Hospitality Technology Conference, Eurhotec<.> 2001, (19-21 February) in Paris.

Business travellers are increasingly dependent on Internet-based resources while on the road. Already, 75% of business travellers use laptops all the time, he said, and over 62% access the Internet from hotel with an average log-on time of 30 minutes. Total Internet users worldwide are anticipated to reach 1.17 billion by 2005, up from 407 million in 2000.

Increasingly, travellers expect more than just an e-mail connection, said Birenbaum. Many would like access to corporate intranets while on the road but find the data too heavy to download over a telephone line – the most widespread form of Internet connection currently used. Broadband access solves the problems associated with data transmission over the phone – except one: if the corporate intranet is security-protected, the traveller will resort to Virtual Private Networking (VPN) to get through the firewall.

Broadband's applications extend well beyond guest communications. From the service point of view, it can be used for video-on-demand connectivity, virtual concierge services, inter-active gaming, and IP telephony. It can also enhance the services available at the hotel's meetings facility in areas such as training, video-conferencing, webcasting, and wireless technology. And it can power-up back-office capabilities such as roving check-in/out, mobile staff communications, supply chain management (extranet), and web-based training.

"Broadband is more than just incremental revenue – it's strategic," he insisted. "It will be ubiquitous – as important as the telephone."

In a subsequent session entitled, "In-Room Internet Access: Necessity Or Hype?" telecom consultant Derek Wood, and Kirsten Limbacher, Senior Manager Hotel Communications EMEA, Bass Hotels & Resorts, advised hoteliers not to add on high-speed Internet access as a service isolation – "It should be a strategic decision to put the cabling in," they agreed. Hoteliers contemplating this in the guestroom have this advice from Limbacher: Ask the customers what they want – both now and in the future – then estimate how your property can best meet that need.
Remember, customer demand for very new technology is very small – and therefore so is the profit opportunity
If you do decide to invest in the technology, look at the vendor's reputation. Have they worked with hotels before, do they provide training and support, Will they share the cost of advertising?
Estimate the payback time on the investment.
Ensure contracts with vendors will accommodate future changes in customer tastes.
Make sure front desk and meetings facility vendors know how to sell the benefits of the new technology to potential guests.
Data transmission requires new charging patterns – establish a value proposition.
Monitor the impact of Internet on the hotel's telephone margins – protect revenue.
Above all, she emphasized, any new technology must be user-friendly. "It doesn't matter why the guest can't make the technology work – it will reflect badly on the hotel."

EURHOTEC 2001, the annual European Technology Show and Conference of the International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA), attracted a record 1850 participants and 81 exhibitors of tech-based products and services. Corporate sponsors were Cisco Systems, Trust International and VingCard Elsafe….

High-speed Internet access will be the "next essential guestroom amenity," and to make it happen, "tomorrow's hotels will feature broadband connectivity as much as anything else," predicted Larry Birenbaum, VP Ethernet Access Group, Cisco Systems, keynoting the recent European Hospitality Technology Conference, Eurhotec<.> 2001, (19-21 February) in Paris.



Business travellers are increasingly dependent on Internet-based resources while on the road. Already, 75% of business travellers use laptops all the time, he said, and over 62% access the Internet from hotel with an average log-on time of 30 minutes. Total Internet users worldwide are anticipated to reach 1.17 billion by 2005, up from 407 million in 2000.



Increasingly, travellers expect more than just an e-mail connection, said Birenbaum. Many would like access to corporate intranets while on the road but find the data too heavy to download over a telephone line – the most widespread form of Internet connection currently used. Broadband access solves the problems associated with data transmission over the phone – except one: if the corporate intranet is security-protected, the traveller will resort to Virtual Private Networking (VPN) to get through the firewall.



Broadband's applications extend well beyond guest communications. From the service point of view, it can be used for video-on-demand connectivity, virtual concierge services, inter-active gaming, and IP telephony. It can also enhance the services available at the hotel's meetings facility in areas such as training, video-conferencing, webcasting, and wireless technology. And it can power-up back-office capabilities such as roving check-in/out, mobile staff communications, supply chain management (extranet), and web-based training.



"Broadband is more than just incremental revenue – it's strategic," he insisted. "It will be ubiquitous – as important as the telephone."



In a subsequent session entitled, "In-Room Internet Access: Necessity Or Hype?" telecom consultant Derek Wood, and Kirsten Limbacher, Senior Manager Hotel Communications EMEA, Bass Hotels & Resorts, advised hoteliers not to add on high-speed Internet access as a service isolation – "It should be a strategic decision to put the cabling in," they agreed. Hoteliers contemplating this in the guestroom have this advice from Limbacher:


Ask the customers what they want – both now and in the future – then estimate how your property can best meet that need.

Remember, customer demand for very new technology is very small – and therefore so is the profit opportunity

If you do decide to invest in the technology, look at the vendor's reputation. Have they worked with hotels before, do they provide training and support, Will they share the cost of advertising?

Estimate the payback time on the investment.

Ensure contracts with vendors will accommodate future changes in customer tastes.

Make sure front desk and meetings facility vendors know how to sell the benefits of the new technology to potential guests.

Data transmission requires new charging patterns – establish a value proposition.

Monitor the impact of Internet on the hotel's telephone margins – protect revenue.


Above all, she emphasized, any new technology must be user-friendly. "It doesn't matter why the guest can't make the technology work – it will reflect badly on the hotel."



EURHOTEC 2001, the annual European Technology Show and Conference of the International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA), attracted a record 1850 participants and 81 exhibitors of tech-based products and services. Corporate sponsors were Cisco Systems, Trust International and VingCard Elsafe.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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