Marriott and Starwood to roll-out virtual video conferencing

Marriott and Starwood have announced plans to install high-resolution video conferencing systems in city hotels around the world, in a sign that businesses are replacing travel with technology.

Marriott has inked a deal with AT&T to install the Cisco-designed Telepresence systems in 25 hotels in cities including London, New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, Paris and Frankfurt. The systems will go into a variety of Marriott, J.W. Marriott and Renaissance hotels. The hotel giant expects some will be operational by late October.Starwood, meanwhile, has tied up with Tata Communications in Singapore, saying it would feature the technology in ten hotels to begin with, including Sheraton hotels in New York, Sydney and Toronto. It also said it had earmarked key business cities such as Paris, Hong Kong and Singapore for the technology.

The system uses large high definition video screens positioned around a table and real-time audio to give the illusion of being in the same room as others in the teleconference. The top-of-the-range systems cost $350,000 and can host up to 20 people.

Marriott sees the high-end virtual meeting rooms as something hotels can sell especially at a time when businesses are cutting back on overseas travel, rather than something that might discourage less travel and therefore lower demand for rooms.

“As the 24/7 world economy becomes more interconnected, the need to hold small global meetings that cross continents and oceans will only grow,” Arne Sorenson, Marriott International’s president, said in a statement.

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“We believe Telepresence will create more business meetings because people can travel shorter distances and easily connect with colleagues and clients around the world.”
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