Calgary-based Guest-Tek Interactive Entertainment Ltd. has signed a deal to install high-speed Internet access in 15 Alberta hotels.

The hotels are operated by Canalta,

based in Drumheller, Alta., whose properties include Super 8, AmeriHost, Best Western, Holiday Inn, Ramada and Travelodge locations in Western Canada.

Doug Vickerson, vice-president of sales and marketing at Guest-Tek, would not disclose the value of the deal but said it is relatively small by his company’s standards. Although 15 hotels are involved, all are in smaller centres. Guest-Tek has installed its system in about 570 hotels worldwide, between 75 and 100 of them in Canada, he said.

Brooke Christianson, vice-president of hotel operations at Canalta, said his company has begun to see strong demand for high-speed Internet access at its hotels in smaller Alberta communities. He attributed this largely to the number of hotel guests travelling on business for oil and gas companies. “”A lot of people seem to be traveling with laptops,”” Christianson said, “”and a lot of the markets we’re in have pretty heavy-duty oil and gas.””

Vickerson said hotels in northern Alberta where Guest-Tek has already installed high-speed Internet services have some of the highest usage rates in North America, showing that the service is not just for posh urban hotels. “”Most hotels realize that they need to install high-speed Internet access if they cater to business at all,”” he said.

Canalta has been trying out high-speed access in a limited number of rooms in its Best Western hotel in Brooks, Alta., and its Super 8 location in Cochrane, Alta., for two years, said Christianson. The company will extend the service to all rooms in those hotels, and will introduce the service in 10 other locations within the next three months and three more by the end of this year.

In some of the hotels the service will be free, while in others there will be an extra charge, Christianson said. “”It basically depends on the local market.””

Vickerson said a growing number of hotels are offering high-speed Internet access at no extra charge to guests. He noted that mid-market hotels are more likely to do this than expensive four- and five-star operations, many of which are still charging for the service. “”I guess they just feel that they can get away with it,”” he added.

About half the hotels included in the Canalta deal will have some form of wireless access, such as service in restaurants and lobbies, a Guest-Tek spokeswoman said. According to Vickerson, more than half of all the hotels where Guest-Tek offers high-speed service have wireless access at least in some areas. “”The long and the short of it is that wireless is here,”” he said.

Hotels pay Guest-Tek to install high-speed Internet access facilities, then pay monthly fees for operations and support, which includes operating a 24-hour-a-day help line for hotel guests. Vickerson said the speed of the service depends on the type of Internet connection into the hotel. The network within the hotel can provide bandwidth up to 100 megabits per second, which opens the door for Guest-Tek to add other services such as video and voice transmission.

“”We’re definitely trying to increase the number of properties that we get into. . . . We are 100 per-cent dedicated to the hospitality industry, and once you get into a hotel supplying Internet access there are a number of other technologies that we can get into,”” Vickerson said.

The company is moving into providing video services, and could also offer voice, he said.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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