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One Hotel Room add Technology Equals Condo Conversion

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March 01, 2005
Condo | Conversions
Dan Phillips - dphillips@its-services.com

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© 2005 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

The new wave in hotel ownership is the conversion of hotels to condo-hotels. What a great concept! You take an existing hotel in a good location, renovate the heck out of it, sell the units ahead of time to have the capital for the renovation plus profit, and then run the place like a hotel for most of the year blasting out your competition with a guest value that brings more amenities per dollar spent than anyone else can offer.

One can’t pass up the old truth about location, location, location. But, from a technologist’s point of view, giving guests an in-room experience that equals or surpasses what they can get at home or in the office is still a great philosophy to use when converting to a condo-hotel. In-room technology started years ago with color televisions, movies on demand and two line telephones. Today, hotels should be leveraging IP infrastructures to bring such an array of applicable technology in room that it is short of staggering. Literally, the technological amenities are such that they can take what used to be an ordinary hotel room and help it sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the guy buying it won’t even live there 11 months out of the year.

The Falor Companies may be the leader in hotel to condo-hotel conversions. Chris Falor, director of A&C, said, "The technology we put into the rooms really depends on how successful our pre-sales efforts are. At a minimum we provide HSIA, VOD on a 42-inch plasma, a LCD television in the bathroom, cordless phones and, perhaps some music. When more amenities are required, we upgrade the access control measures, bring in a better selection of free-to-guest television, put in Dolby for movie sound and music, and maybe include an in-room concierge that provides things like controlling the lighting or curtains or helping the guest find restaurants or look at room service menus. The amount of technology we put in really depends on the return we can get from the sale of the condos."

Imagine this: The condo owner notifies the hotel that he will be staying there soon. Upon arrival, he heads to his condo. Outside the door is a touchscreen welcoming him back home and asks him for his thumbprint. He touches the screen with his thumb, the door unlocks and the touchscreen releases from its holder to be removed. Upon entering the room, the air conditioning kicks on in bringing the room to his preferred temperature. The curtains open and the lights automatically dim. The Dolby surround sound is playing his favorite music. The touchscreen in his hand shows a menu of options from which he can choose, including closing the curtains, picking a satellite TV channel for the 42-inch HD plasma television, or perhaps he would consider an on-demand movie with a pizza and some beer to be delivered. At the desk is a dynamic, interactive guest directory provided on a terminal that enables him to schedule spa times, tee times and check out the menu at the new restaurant down the street. Phone calls he makes are priced at residential rates. He quickly checks his e-mails and then begins to enjoy his stay in this, his home-away-from-home.

Once this owner leaves, any hotel guest can enjoy almost all of the same amenities. When this guest uses his keycard to enter the room, the temperature controls will leave standby and come to agreeable default settings. He would still be able to control the music, the curtains, the HVAC from the interactive terminal. Phone calls are priced back at hotel rates. The hotel brand uses the interactive guest directory to push marketing information to the guest. On-demand movie packages, HDTV and music selections are all just a touch away. High-speed Internet access is not the only technology amenity offered in this hotel.

These amenities are available today. Sure they’re costly, but that is the beauty of the condo-hotel. Let’s say you have an existing hotel in a good location, like South Beach or New York City. These technology packages may be bought at $10,000 to $15,000 per room, depending on how robust your plans. One could assume that you could spend another $10,000 to $20,000 in FF&E per room. In prime locations, these condos are selling for $300,000, and up. Think what this new facelift will do to the ADR.

Dan Phillips is the COO of ITS, a consulting firm located outside of Atlanta, Ga., specializing in technology in the hospitality industry. For comment or question, he can be reached at dphillips@its-services.com.

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