The Sheraton Centre Toronto recently unveiled its WiFi high speed Internet connectivity which will give guests of the downtown hotel wireless access poolside, at restaurants and in convention
Utilizing the Bell Canada AccessZone wireless system, and working with Intel and DataValet, more than 250,000 sq. ft. of the downtown hotel now features uninterrupted WiFi service. Guests and visitors to the hotel can access the Bell AccessZone hotspot service in numerous locations, including the hotel lobby, all meeting rooms, boardrooms and ballrooms, in the hotel restaurant Bistro on Two, Traders’ Bar & Grill, the 43rd floor Club Lounge and at the pool. The hotel’s portion of Toronto’s underground city, PATH, is also available for wireless Internet access.
Sheraton and Bell partnered on the project (as they did with high-speed service) and have a profit-sharing arrangement: the hotel collects fees from guests for high-speed and wireless service and shares it with Bell which provides the AccessZone technology.
AccessZone provides business travellers and hotel guests who have 802.11b-enabled laptops or handheld devices another option to wirelessly access the Internet, e-mail and corporate networks while staying at the hotel or attending conferences in the facility. The network supports virtual private networks so travellers can tunnel in to their corporate home office at broadband speed.
The advent of wireless access at the hotel is a matter of guest convenience, Rekha Khote, General Manager of the Sheraton Centre.
They would otherwise be confined to their rooms if they wanted to get online. “”The problem for some guests is they feel they never get out of their room. They would love to take their laptop down to Traders’ Bar & Grill and check e-mail but until now they didn’t have the option,”” she said.
In addition to offering its guests the wireless service, the Sheraton plans to make use of the wireless network for its back of house operations such as recording shipments from suppliers and keeping track of inventory. In future it is hoped guests will be able to check in and out more quickly if customer service representatives can assist them using wireless devices. Khote expects it will also be a bonus for trade show participants who need Internet access at their booths.
Providing wireless ability throughout a hotel means providing more of the tools business travellers are demanding today, said Shawn Winter, senior associate director of wireless LAN solutions with Bell Canada.
“”In the lower concourse level, for example, where 1,000 to 1,500 people can be attending a meeting, and the CEO is delivering a presentation, the material can be delivered to the guests wirelessly as they are sitting in the chairs with their laptops,”” he said.
The service will mean reduced costs to trade show participants says Winter as it can be expensive to roll out Internet connections on a show floor. “”It’s extremely valuable at trade shows. Each booth can have access without restriction,”” he said.
The service is supported by the hotel’s existing DataValet 24-hour multilingual help desk, which supports the existing high-speed Internet service, if guests have problems.
To access the system, guests open their Web browser and depending where they are in the hotel, they will then use a special browser where they log in and are authenticated by the hotel’s system.
The Sheraton is offering the service free to guests from now until the end of the month. After that, the hotel will charge a fee, which has not yet been determined, said Khote.
Other hotel chains, such as Fairmont, have launched wireless service in the last year and have implemented a flat fee of about $10 to $12 for unlimited access for a day use.
In the highly competitive hospitality arena, offering services such as high-speed and wireless Internet connection is becoming a big part of maintaining market share when it comes to conference and trade show business.
The Fairmont chain, with nearly 40 properties around the world, equipped all of its hotels with high-speed Internet two years ago with the help of its technology partner Cisco Systems. It then followed with wireless access in the public spaces of all its hotels. At the time, Fairmont said it believed the service could become a profit centre for the chain as well as a factor for customers when deciding who they wanted to do business with.
Fairmont has also explored the idea of giving its room staff wireless handhelds.