The Hills are Alive With HSIA

By  Lindsay Elkins • Assistant Editor | January 01, 2006

For hotels, it's no longer enough to simply be connected. Although high-speed Internet access (HSIA) started out as a strictly business-oriented amenity, prevalent in conference rooms and business centers, and not in every guestroom, attitudes have finally shifted across the entire industry. Now, HSIA is no longer considered an amenity for the business elite, but a basic need for every guest. And as high-speed Internet access becomes more of a commodity, many hotels now recognize their solutions must be feature-rich and flexible.

Strictly business
The Trapp Family Lodge, the inspiration behind the classic musical and movie The Sound of Music, deployed a resort-wide Wi-Fi network via networking solutions from Nowirz, (nowirz.com) in conjunction with multi-service wireless LANs from Colubris (colubris.com), upon the recommendation of the lodge's corporate clientele. "We have companies that have regular meetings here, and they identified high-speed Internet access as a critical need to continue doing business with us," explains Hans Van Wees, general manager of the Trapp Family Lodge.

To keep up with the needs and expectations of its guests, the lodge implemented its HSIA solution in late 2004, and while Van Wees says it's still too early to say if there has been a significant boost in occupancy, the Trapp Family Lodge is publicizing it as one of their amenities that's available to both the corporate and leisure traveler. Access is also complimentary for all guests, which according to Van Wees helps to offer some differentiation between the lodge and other properties.

It's the business clientele that was also the driving force behind the Lake San Marcos Resort and Country Club deploying HSIA from nStream (nstreami.com) over the summer of 2005. "Corporate clients expect it when they travel," says M.J. Bradford, director of information technology, Lake San Marcos Resort and Country Club. Until their summer 2005 implementation, the resort offered Internet access in only one wing of the property. Since wired HSIA is now available in every room, "we can put business clients anywhere," adds Bradford. "Our corporate business has expanded, and HSIA is an absolute necessity these days."

At your leisure
While corporate clients are the obvious heavy users of the Internet when traveling on business, hotels like the Fiesta Americana Grand Chapultepec, have noticed that their leisure travelers are savvy to the benefits that having HSIA can offer while on vacation.

"Independent of the fact that most of our users are business travelers, we have noticed the service is not only used for work purposes, but for personal communication with family and friends," notes Jesus Aguilar, IT manager for the Fiesta Americana Grand Chapultepec. The property, which utilizes Hotspot International's (hotspotinternational .com) solution via Eleven Wireless software (elevenwireless.com), first implemented the service in public areas, and in May of 2005, enhanced the coverage to include guest rooms. Aguilar adds that vacationers utilize the service for planning their tours and checking into their flights.

Guests taking leisurely vacations and staying at the Clarion have also seen the HSIA light. According to Sales Manager Todd Reynolds, leisure travelers expect the service to not only be available, but be in their room. "They expect it; if it's not there they're kind of shocked," he says.
Reynolds relates an example of a woman staying at the Clarion who was able to print her boarding pass and avoid the long lines and hectic atmosphere of the airport. The Clarion upgraded to HSIA from Telkonet (telkonet.com) about two years ago as part of the Choice Hotels brand HSIA mandate, and has been reaping the benefits ever since.

"Throughout the hotel, any electrical outlet will provide an Internet signal," notes Reynolds. "There's a small lightweight box with an Ethernet cord in it, and all you have to do is plug it in. Guests can use their laptop anywhere from the lobby to the pool room, not just their desk." Local San Diego residents often rent meeting spaces in Lake San Marcos, according to Bradford. "I see people carrying laptops; someone came in with a desktop computer. It's becoming much more common than people realize."

Van Wees of the Trapp Family Lodge says having high-speed Internet access available is a nice side effect to the property's social guests. "We first introduced the service in public areas, and saw groups of guests gathering around with laptops."

Spreading the word
Since having HSIA available in every hotel room hasn't quite hit the masses, operators are looking into different ways of leveraging this amenity to draw in more guests, and in turn, boost revenue. Lake San Marcos' Bradford suggests that as soon as the service is available, operators redo their brochures and advertising to announce that access is on hand.

"We reworked our brochure to tout that we had high-speed Internet in every room," notes Bradford. "We also went through all of our websites to change what amenities we had. You really have to follow up and make sure everyone knows about it."

The Trapp Family Lodge's Van Wees publicizes high-speed Internet access as one of their amenities available to every guest. "We felt particularly for being an independent property in a fairly rural area, it was even more critical to offer the service right away, in order to provide some differentiation between us and our competitors," he says.

Since the Fiesta Americana Grand Chapultepec's May 2005 upgrade, Aguilar has noticed a boost in occupancy."It's interesting how many customers have preferred our hotel for the option to connect any using a either a wireless connection or network cable," he says. A loyalty link between the guest and hotel is created, since they are aware that there is an easy-to-use, reliable Internet service available. Also, the service doesn't require making any changes in the configuration, allowing for a quick VPN connection.

Clarion's Reynolds explains that when you're able to get more guests in the door, you can command a higher price. "We're in the business part and we probably wouldn't have the demand if we didn't have the service available. If you don't have high-speed Internet, you're not after business travelers by any stretch."

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