, Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ style brand, has announced that all 16 of its U.S. properties are 100% wired, with high-speed Internet access (HSIA) in all guest and meeting rooms. In addition, all W properties in the continental U.S. feature Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) - also known as wireless 802.11b - providing accessibility in the hotels’ public spaces including Living Room lobbies and welcome desk areas. WiFi will be accessible in all W guestrooms in the United States by the end of 2004. The brand’s flagship - the W Times Square-New York - is already 100% wireless throughout the hotel.
Starwood began rolling out HSIA applications last year at approximately 100 North American Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis and W properties, with its Turbo Net system. Starwood Turbo Net, is 50 times faster than standard dial up. To date, the W brand’s broadband usage has increased to double digit guest usage in the second quarter of 2003, approximately double the level of a year ago and a significant increase over the first quarter of this year.
In 2001, Starwood announced it was forming a strategic relationship with Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) to introduce broadband technology in Starwood’s hotels and selected Cisco as its preferred infrastructure and technology provider for HSIA. Unlike its competitors who chose to work with small, niche hospitality providers, Starwood believed that by partnering with Cisco, the global leader in networking systems, and developing it’s own branded solution, it would be able to provide a better, more reliable high-speed Internet access service to its guests, and more sophisticated business enhancing applications down the road.
“Our goal was to deliver a superior high-speed Internet experience which was hotel branded and customized and develop applications in the future that improve the guest experience or reduce operating costs for all of Starwood’s six brands, particularly W,” said Carl Cohen, Vice President, Property Technology, Business and Systems Strategy. “Since W guarantees a superior level of business amenities and services required by today’s business travelers, Starwood Turbo Net was a natural,” added Cohen.
Introduction of “Thin” Clients
In addition to both wired and wireless applications, “thin” clients have recently been introduced at select W and other Starwood properties for guest use. Thin clients are real, functioning computers that act primarily as a communications device (as opposed to a business computing device) in select guestrooms and lobby areas. Initially, thin clients are being used by guests for general Internet access and email, in the near future they will likely serve a role in the delivery of guest services (such as check-out and room service) which will help reduce or control operating costs and improve guest satisfaction. A major benefit of thin clients is that guests traveling without their laptops can still stay connected to their corporate network.
The first W Hotel opened in New York in December 1998. There are now five W Hotels in New York City (W New York, W New York - The Court, W New York - The Tuscany, W New York - Union Square and W New York - Times Square) and 17 hotels brand-wide in the U.S. and abroad. W’s first property in Latin America - the W Mexico City - is scheduled to open its doors in September. Two new W Hotels are currently under construction in Seoul and Montreal and just recently, properties have been announced for both Dallas and Fort Lauderdale.