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Hotels go hi-tech to woo travellers

By Byravee Iyer & Aabhas Sharma in Mumbai/New Delhi
May 18, 2009 09:57 IST
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The move ensures more than just 'five-star' treatment; provides Wi-Fi access, Internet Protocol phone, plasma screens, gaming consoles. . .to residents.

Today, when you check into a hotel, be sure to expect more than just a helpful bell-boy and a smiling concierge. As it is, the category of business travellers has been growing at a healthy clip. However, the rise of low-cost airlines and the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi has now given the entire travelling space a shot in the arm.

Not surprisingly, hotel chains across the nation are hell-bent on luring this lot by getting tech-savvy. So , plasma screens, drop down projectors and wireless or Wi-Fi networks have become the rule rather than the exception across five star hotels in the country.

At the Renaissance Mumbai Hotel, guests are not only provided Wi-Fi access at packages starting at Rs 500 an hour, but every room comes equipped with an Internet Protocol phone, which is multi-purpose, serving one moment as a map and the next as a weather forecaster.

"The Internet Protocol phone serves as a virtual concierge and comes at no additional cost," says Oliver Kahf, general manager of Renaissance Mumbai. His hotel also rents gaming consoles like the Sony PlayStation and the Nintendo Wii at Rs 250 per hour to its guests.

Another in-room incentive the hotel offers is a remote jack device, which can be plugged in to a camera, an iPod and a laptop.

Bucking the trend of charging for Wi-Fi connections is the Royal Orchid Group. "We were the first ones to introduce plasma screen televisions and we are probably the first hospitality major to provide free Wi-Fi services," claims Royal Orchid Central's ,  vice president (Corporate Affairs), Keshav Baljee.

"So what prompted the business hotel chain to offer free Wi-fi services? "For our guests Wi-Fi is just as important as hot water," he reasons. What's more, gaming console like the

Microsoft's Xbox too is provided on a complimentary basis to guests during their stay at Orchid Mysore. "We don't find these to be of great revenue potential and they are cost-effective too, hence we don't feel the need to charge for them," he adds.

Further, the Renaissance Group also boasts of a top notch back-of-house technology. Referred to as Espresso, this software helps track and analyse a guest service request. At the front desk too, the hotel is empowered with software that evaluates customer preferences.

"The Renaissance group wants to achieve a universal image for its customers. So, we take note of consumer preferences so that it can be applicable at any of our hotels in the globe even if the guest has never stayed at that particular hotel," explains Kahf.

Not far behind are The Gateway Hotels, a mid-segment brand of Taj Hotels. If you are staying in its property, then you can avail the wireless internet anywhere in the hotel premises with a single click log-in process. As Ajoy Misra, senior VP-sales and marketing, The Gateway Hotels, puts, "We need to offer ability to work anywhere, anytime to our guests."

No wonder, the hotel is targeting customers who lug around a lot of technology with them.

Similarly, all The Park hotel properties are Wi-Fi enabled. Of course, all this comes at a cost. For example, at The Park Kolkata, one will have to shell out Rs 125 for half an hour usage of Wi-Fi usage. At The Park Delhi, it's Rs 800 for a 24-hour package.

The Park, Mumbai, offers monthly packages too but one will have to pay a whopping Rs 13,500 for the service. If you need an extra laptop, then just ask. The Park lends out laptops to guests on request on a minimal charge of about Rs 2000 per day.

Anirban Simlai, executive manager, The Park, Kolkata takes pride in hotel's technology offerings, "The Park Hotels have always been design and technology driven so it's only natural that this would extend to our guest services in rooms, dining areas and nightclubs and entertainment options making it an ideal choice for the tech savvy traveller."

Adding a personal touch to technology services is the Oberoi Bangalore. The hotel has introduced a product which is specifically designed for the genre of business travellers called the Business Traveller Plus package. The package includes a buffet breakfast, one way airport transport and internet usage.

"This is very popular amongst discerning corporate travellers" says the general manager of the hotel, Huvida Marshall. The Oberoi has also ensured an on site technology concierge, available 24 hours in the hotel for any kind of guest assistance.

Surprisingly, the high-profile JW Mariott comes forth as quite limited in its technology offerings. "We don't really provide gadgets. But we do have Wi-Fi, which costs about Rs 500 for an hour and Rs 1000 for an entire day," says Guy Godet, general manager of the JW Marriott in Mumbai.

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Byravee Iyer & Aabhas Sharma in Mumbai/New Delhi
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