Fairmont Wins with Wireless Technology

Now characterising themselves as `the Heart of the Destination`, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, the largest luxury hotel company in North America, has gone full speed ahead, delivering dynamic wireless internet access to every property in the company`s portfolio of 38 hotels.

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
  is a unique collection of 38 properties throughout six countries; eight of these world-class resorts date back to the late 1800s. The Fairmont collection includes historic icons, elegant resorts and modern city centre properties. Following the recent acquisition of the Princess Hotel Chain, The Fairmont has doubled in size. Having recently re-assessed the power of their offerings, Fairmont has gone through a massive re-branding process, which has been enabled by the implementation of a new strategy.

At the end of last year, Fairmont announced
the launch of its ambitious e-business strategy, designed to deliver the industry`s most customised and personal travel experience. The recent addition
of wireless connectivity in all public spaces of hotels,
is part of Fairmont`s goal to deliver an enhanced experience for guests and visitors, who can now access the internet without having to worry about wired connections. This makes Fairmont the first lodging company in the world to offer such a comprehensive service. The plan is that by the end of 2002, Fairmont will offer all forms of high-speed connectivity for travellers including Ethernet and wireless access in meeting rooms and public spaces.

Service is offered for $9.95 local currency for a 24-hour time period, and can be paid with a credit card interface in most properties. Gold and Platinum members of Fairmont President`s Club, the hotel company`s frequent guest program, will have complimentary access to wireless, as well as in-room high-speed Internet access. In addition, access to Fairmont hosted sites, and the Virtual Concierge and are complimentary to all users.

Fairmont currently has an end-to-end Cisco network infrastructure in place, which has made it possible to extend high-speed connectivity across its entire resort, connecting all 38 properties. The creation of this unified network infrastructure provides a vehicle for Fairmont to communicate with guests via new technologies, while offering enhanced services and reinforcing the brand promise of providing `The Heart of the Destination`.


Tim Aubrey
, Vice President Technlogy tells ITN, “We are a new brand. People are not aware what this Fairmont stands for”. Acknowledging that the Fairmont is behind other competitors that have had decades of exposure, he adds, “We have sunk disproportionately more capital into the electronic marketplace and many initiatives are now aimed at branding and awareness”.

Tim informs me that the three main objectives for the strategy are “to track preferences of top loyalty customer members, to support demand in the internet marketplace, and to create brand awareness”.

While delivering targeted and personalised information to existing and potential customers`, not everyone needs the same information. Therefore, the challenge for the Fairmont will be to customise information for the end user.

At around 7% usage, Tim tells me that wireless connectivity has been well received and is one of the most commonly used amenities. “We get a lot of positive feedback about how much productivity the guests achieve and an overall sense of satisfaction”. He added, “I think people are overall pleased that the Fairmont has made such a broad commitment”.

Wireless technology is growing at a great speed, with an estimated 137 million Americans equipped with some type of wireless service. The influence and possibilities that it presents for our industry are astonishing.

Recently at the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International`s (HSMAI),
Henry H. Harteveldt, senior analyst at Forrester Research
, provided some interesting statistics to put usage into perspective:

U.S. laptop and mobile phone owners are mainstream, but PDA owners are more elite;
26% of business travellers are 24% more likely than leisure travellers to have a wireless device;
Business bookers are 44% more likely than all business travellers to own a wireless device;
Smaller devices win wireless access on the go: Laptops are used the least, both at airports and hotels; mobile phones win at airports and are number 2 at hotels; and PDAs win at hotels yet are number 2 at airports.

The Fairmont is currently on target with timelines and budgeting for their e-strategy, which Tim refers to as a “three portal strategy”. He informs me, “The three portals are interconnected and managed to a common content management framework with dynamic content”.

The three portals target different audiences: there is an external portal, fairmont.com; an internal portal, myfairmont.com; and an in-hotel portal, thefairmont.net. These portals have been created as a point of access for information, offering a low cost method of distribution for Fairmont.

Tim contends that a huge sense of efficiency has already been gained from management capabilities. The Fairmont will next focus on extending capabilities to the guest on the digital front.  Bearing in mind the Fairmont Slogan, `Places in the Heart`, Tim comments “We must also focus to provide guests with real-time access to all the information and capabilities to a total experience when they are at Fairmont cities and resorts”.

Fairmont has clearly recognised that wireless technology offers valuable applications that can enhance business operations and customer relationships. However, with every benefit comes a cost. It has been suggested that advances of technology, such as wireless, could result in a customer base short on patience, with changing expectations.

Dr. Lalia Rach, Ed.D, associate dean of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Travel Administration at New York University commented
“Consumers will not want to wait in real time when they don`t have to wait virtually”.
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