It's an unlikely scenario that an owner of one of the most technologically advanced and successful hotels in the world would have absolutely no hotel management or ownership experience when getting in on the ground floor of the project. But that was the case for Pete deLeuw, managing partner at First Avenue Properties and co-owner of Seattle's Hotel 1000. "All we knew about hotels is what we'd experienced as users of them," deLeuw recalls, laughing.
The hotel is more often associated with its management company MTM Luxury Lodging which operates eight properties across the United States and was recently awarded the 2008 Hotel Visionary Award for overall technology innovation by Hospitality Technology. Together, deLeuw and the leadership team at MTM Luxury Lodging built a property with one of the first fully-converged IP-based infrastructures in the lodging industry.
In the beginning
When considering the Hotel 1000 identity, MTM leadership knew that differentiation would be key. "Seattle is very much a tech-savvy city," recalls James Simkins, a partner and senior vice president at MTM. "It seemed to be the right place to work with this approach when creating this hotel. We were very fortunate that the owners were on board from day one."
This network was among the first of its type in the world. It allows for unprecedented communication between in-room technology and back-of-house systems. All key systems in the guestrooms are connected to the IP converged network, allowing them to exchange information via HTNG-based XML interfaces. The network also 'future-proofs' the hotel, in that IP-addressable applications can be added with relative ease and economy.
Hotel 1000 opened in June 2006, and it took just seven months for the property to achieve the number one position in RevPAR (revenue per available room) in Seattle and Washington state. The hotel shows no signs of loosing ground; in an Expedia ranking based on guest reviews of more than 89,900 hotels worldwide, it ranked third in the world on the 2008 "Insiders' Select" list.
So what comes next for a property that's already created so many firsts, and been on the ground floor of innovation? Quite a bit, according to the MTM team. "When we first started Hotel 1000, the technology vendors said, 'you guys are nuts,'" recalls Chuck Marratt, director of information systems at MTM Luxury Lodging. But since then, other hotels in the industry have begun to follow suit. MTM fully intends to leverage the network for all of its future-proof-ability, adding new applications to the network based on their ability to improve both the guest and employee experience, and maximize investment returns for ownership. "We've become respected; now the technology vendors say, 'Here comes MTM again, they're always looking to be on the cutting edge.' They're very willing to sit down with us."
Hospitality Technology offers this inside look at the current and future planned innovations taking place in this living technology laboratory.
Complimentary network connectivity allows guests to work in wireless comfort throughout the hotel. Three bonded T-1 lines provide 4.5 MB of dedicated bandwidth to all guestrooms for Internet access. The property is currently exploring the feasibility of adding Fiber to the curb, allowing for faster upload and download speeds. They're also working with their HSIA provider Guest-Tek (www.guest-tek.com) to institute a tiered-bandwidth interface and offer UHSIA (ultra-high-speed internet access) for a fee, available by the end of this year.
Guest rooms are equipped with smart temperature tools. Digital thermometers with infrared signals scan the room for motion, alerting the system to activate a desired temperature if movement is detected, indicating that the guest is in the room. Currently, guests can provide temperature preferences to hotel staff, who then include that information in the guest's CRM profile so room temperatures are pre-set upon arrival. Coming advancements include the capability to capture guests' temperature preferences automatically based on the temperature setting they've manually adjusted in the room, and then populate that information into the guest profile.
The motion detectors used to regulate climate control are also leveraged to enhance guest privacy. Hotel staff can press a silent button outside the guestroom to determine if a room is occupied. The infrared signal scans the room to detect movement and notes 'do not disturb' if the room is occupied. All servicing of a guest room is provided only after staff verifies that the room is unoccupied.
Hotel 1000 was one of the first hotels in the country to provide guests with true high-definition television via IP, along with surround sound for movies and local free-to-guest channels. Rooms are equipped with 40-inch HD LCD televisions with digital 5.1 surround systems. Coming soon, the property is working to install media hubs in all guest rooms that will allow guests to feed information from their personal electronic devices, such as an iPod or laptop, into the television. "Channels on the television will be mapped to specific ports so when the guest plugs in their iPod and presses the iPod button on the hub, the television will tune to that channel automatically and read information from it," says Marratt. Other future advancements include a wider range of music channels and streaming Internet radio, along with the possibility of satellite radio.
Art in HD
The property uses fine art and photography content provider GalleryPlayer (www.galleryplayer.com) to offer guests 14 different genres of art for display on in-room televisions. Guests select art genres based on their personal preferences and all works come with a description of the piece, including the artist's name, its completion date and the gallery where the original is housed.
Two-line color display voice over IP (VoIP) telephones offer guests the ability to receive complimentary local and long distance domestic phone calls. Guests can view a host of features on the color display, including flight details, weather, stock quotes, area dining and entertainment choices, and personalized text messaging.
Since opening, the hotel has added the capability to view a group directory and use the phone's touch screen to call guest rooms. Furthermore, the addition of Cisco (www.cisco.com) video phones at key areas such as the front desk, concierge and room service allow guests to see whom they are speaking with via streaming video.
Staff members use a Vocera communication system (www.vocera.com) to stay connected with each other across the property. The hands-free, wearable badges enable instant voice and data communication. Users press the badge and say the name, title or function of the person they want to reach and the system connects the associate instantly.
The property recently integrated the housekeeping department's alpha-numeric pagers with Vocera and HotSOS (Hotel Service Optimization System) from MTech (www.m-tech.com). The integration enables these front-line employees to instantly report on any maintenance or service delivery issues by tracking the incident in the HotSOS system and working to ensure it doesn't reoccur.
The element most clearly defined by these technology innovations is the level of quality service that pervades Hotel 1000. "What we're really successful in doing is providing a very high level of service on top of the technology. Tech is great and really provides us with the tools, but without the service you're never going to make an impact," explains Simkins. MTM works diligently to prevent its high-tech approach from getting in the way of the customer experience. "All systems need to be designed in such a way that they're pretty intuitive and the average person can be comfortable with them," says Simkins. That's one of the core reasons they're focusing the entertainment hub and other new development around the television instead of the phone. "People are very comfortable working with TVs," notes Simkins.
The future for Hotel 1000 will continue to be one of differentiation, as the MTM team works with its technology partners to leverage new applications, such as working with Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) to develop new features for the guestroom and meeting space areas. They'll also explore ways to enhance guest control over their in-room environment, including lighting, sound, temperature, etc. "We'll seek new ways to leverage the infrastructure to enhance and personalize the guest experience as new applications emerge," says Marratt.
And it looks like they'll continue to have the full support of ownership: "If you want to go into something with this level of innovation, you can't do it with a bean counter's perspective," says deLeuw. "You can't learn to swim by sticking a toe in the water."