Technology is changing the hotel industry | ParkRecord.com

Technology is changing the hotel industry

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record staff

As technology evolves on a daily basis, the hotel and resort industry is forced to meet the demands of a rising number of tech-savvy guests.

"I think it’s something that’s starting to change and going to explode within the next few years as far as telecommunications are involved and the way we do business," said Debbie Batt, the director of sales and marketing for the Park City Marriott.

Highest on the list, according to Batt is high-speed and wireless Internet.

"Internet is No. 1," Batt said.

Scott Aaron, the senior account executive at iBAHN, a Salt Lake City internet provider that provides service to hotels and resorts across the country, said hotels will lose customers if they don’t provide Internet access.

"There are very few that don’t offer high-speed Internet," Aaron said. "People just won’t go if they can’t get out on the Internet."

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Dial-up access is considered archaic now and guests won’t be satisfied with slow service because programs they need require a high-speed connection.

"We are seeing a huge trend of the guests wanting high-speed Internet for YouTube, Skype, Slingbox. There’s a number of applications that are more bandwidth-intensive," Aaron said.

People who go on vacation usually want to be connected to the World Wide Web in some capacity, Aaron said, whether for work or play.

"They want to be able to access applications or go into their home networks, VPN (virtual private networks,) and tunnel with their network to other locations. Or they can get into applications at work from their hotel. It’s out there for people that want to access home e-mail. That has been a lot more in demand," Aaron said.

Other general applications are used for leisure time.

"A bunch of college kids might want to go to Youtube," Aaron said. "We provide for video needs and data needs. Personally, I bring it along to be able to Google a map or find directions on where to eat.

"A lot of it is business, and a lot of people use it for leisure," Aaron added. "These applications have to be run over some type of medium. We provide high-speed so they can get megabytes in a matter of seconds. The Web has become this huge highway for video data and other solutions. You build it and they’ll use it."

Aaron said the Internet has changed everything, even for those on vacation.

"Just like people can’t be without their cell phones, people can’t be too long without their laptops now."

Wireless Internet is also desired among guests, although it usually isn’t as fast.

"They prefer both wireless and high-speed," Aaron said. "There are some properties that are strictly wireless. It’s a lot more convenient."

The concern most people have with a wireless connection is security.

"We utilize standard as well as propriety security measures," Aaron said. "They can be wireless but still protected. People demand greater speed, more applications and it has to be secure."

The Park City Marriott, like other hotels now, provide both.

"There’s big demand for wireless more than high-speed," Batt said. "We have wireless in the public areas, the lobby, meeting space and public foyers."

Each guest room has high-speed Internet connection ability as well.

"It is a big to-do," Batt said. "Our guests really want Internet capabilities."

The demand is becoming greater and guests want more for less.

"The last two years, it’s been a No. 1 request and they want it free," Batt said.

Batt added that because most people use their cell phones instead of hotel phone lines, revenue is dropping. Marriott and other hotels are charging people for the high-speed access along with free long-distance to make up for it.

"It’s making it difficult; it’s quite competitive, especially the free Internet," Batt said.

It is especially tough for smaller hotels and property management companies that don’t have the same resources to keep up.

"Smaller end hotels, they don’t have as much of a luxury," Aaron said.

Blake Provo, the reservations coordinator for Blooming Property Management and Lodging, agrees.

"Not all of our properties have Internet," Provo said. "It’s easy to install it for an entire complex, where as in our case it’s not. Frequently we get requests for people to temporarily install it, but an owner doesn’t want to pay for full-time high-speed Internet."

The demand for Internet is a surprise to Provo.

"That’s becoming a top priority," Provo said. "That to me is a surprise, because you are on vacation."

Nonetheless, Provo said he tries to convince all of his owners that providing high-speed access is an asset.

"Having high-speed Internet makes it much more attractive," Provo said. "If you are going to install high speed Internet you might get more guests. It’s a good marketing tool. (Guests) will choose the one with the high-speed Internet."

Guests are also asking for other types of technology. Most hotels have disposed of their VCRs and replaced them with DVD players.

"People will ask if there are DVD players in the rooms," Provo said. "They want to bring their own DVDs to watch."

Batt agrees, but adds that on-demand movies, iPod connections and high definition TVs are also desired.

"All hotels, as far as I’m concerned, have on demand television," Batt said. "Some of my competitors, a lot of the newer hotel chains, are putting in iPod connections that have the little ports for iPods to play music in the room, and DVD players. They are having that as a standard. We are going to be putting in flat screen TVs and HDTV. I think that’s coming."

Batt said the industry has to attract more of the "Gen X-ers and Y-ers." To do so, they have to keep up with the technology that the customer demands.

"For someone like me it’s scary. For the younger generation, they are like, ‘bring it on.’"