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Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?

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June 01, 2008
Hotel | Technology
Geneva Rinehart

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© 2008 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

Focusing on what makes guests happy might mean taking a look at something that guests never see. If done correctly, cabling infrastructure should be a complete nonthought by your guests. It’s certainly not something you want your guests to spend a great deal of time thinking about when traveling. And yet the cable question still hangs out there. It seems the argument for or against most often comes down to one thing: cost. And what happens when cost is not an issue? Then usually the answer is: new builds opt for the fiber throughout and renovations do what they can. But the tide seems to be turning away from the cost obstacle to what would be required for a positive and perhaps even unique guest experience. Now, that sounds hospitable.

Dan Phillips talked about this more than a year ago when he referred to cabling as sexy (Sexy Cabling, Hospitality Upgrade, Spring 2007). Without going that far, this change in thinking is proof that the industry is moving away from segregated backbones of copper and coax to a faster frontier of converged networks where guests enjoy the speed, connectivity and entertainment they expect, and hoteliers are promised cost savings, systems connectivity and a happier clientele.

In Montgomery, Ala., the newest five-star hotel to open, the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa at the Convention Center, believed in this revolution. The hotel, which opened in February, is running on a fully converged, voice, data and video network.

Each of the 345 rooms at the Renaissance Montgomery is considered a guest portal, designed to enable new opportunities for serving guests. Director of IT of PCH Hotels and Resorts Scott Watts said that the owners encouraged the team to be creative and, “develop unique capabilities that continually will surprise and delight” the guests.

The $64 million renovation promised a new level of sophistication, but how do you wow guests, especially those who are not particularly technical? This was a challenge but hoteliers can start with the guest’s first impression. The Renaissance has digital art or promotions showing in high definition on all televisions when the guest enters his room for the first time. And to wow those guests who are more techie, the inroom phones are touchscreen and enable guests to check stocks and weather, make spa, dining or show reservations, or zoom into street-level views of city maps.

This project also works toward the integration of the hotel systems. “Using standards, like those developed through the efforts of HTNG, the different hotel systems can now begin to communicate directly with each other, versus having to rely on the interface PCs to translate,” Watts said.  “In other words, these different hotel systems are being taught to speak the same language to each other.

“In the hotel business there’s a term called triple-play,” said Watts. “This takes that concept a step further and creates a completely converged environment with one network supporting wired and wireless voice, high-speed wired and wireless data networking, as well as IPTV and video on demand.”

There are hotels that are doing some components of what the Renaissance has done, however, Watts believed what has been done here is far different. It is a truly converged network that currently brings 1 Gig to every port, or, every jack in each guestroom. “Not just the triple play or IPTV, but one common fiber connected network that serves all systems at the hotel.  This includes the obvious systems like the VoIP, IPTV and wireless mesh, but also includes the building automation, lighting controls, point of sale, hotel local area network, and every other technology system installed at this property. It is because we planned on this level of convergence, in addition to exceeding the technology needs of our guest that we installed such a robust network to pull all of this together,” said Watts.

While work is still being done on the first phase of the project, the next phase is to create a seamless, self-service room service menu where a guest orders off the TV menu and that order goes directly into the POS to expedite the order as well as settle the bill. The hotel will also promote spa and golf amenities through an interactive menu system presented on the TV, where guests will have the ability to browse and book golf times and spa appointments simply by using the TV remote control. Also looking ahead, the Renaissance is working on a plan to allow in-room pay-per-view hotel channels that show live coverage from events in the convention center and the hotel’s state-of-the-art 1,800-seat performing arts center.

“This project is an example of the growing demand from hotel owners and operators for a well-designed technology platform that puts the control of the guest experience back in the hotelier’s hands, allowing them to deliver a suite of services at least on par with what their guests have in their homes,” said Guest-Tek CEO Arnon Levy. Guest-Tek served as the general contractor for the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel networking project and provided HSIA, IPTV and video-on-demand services to the property.

Repeat guests are extremely valuable to hotels, especially when it costs five to 10 times as much to get a new guest versus retaining repeat customers.  Also, a happy guest is the best kind of advertising a business can have, as word of mouth advertising goes.  When you think of the additional revenues a happy guest can bring the hotel, the few dollars it might cost to go that extra mile is more than worth it.  If a robust cabling plan delivers a good entertainment system, a fast Internet or just a comfortable environment, that is very appealing. So, cabling might just be sexy after all!

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