Hotels answer the call for Internet service | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Hotels answer the call for Internet service

Susan Wood

A growing number of South Shore hotels have signed on to Internet access for their guests, who managers have noticed ask for the service in greater numbers.

Many travelers want to check their e-mail. Some go on Web searches. Others wish to stay connected to their companies.

“It’s becoming one of the things that’s expected when they come into a room or lobby,” South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Duane Wallace said. “I see it as a lobby service first then it should travel into the rooms. Most charge for it, but I can also see it as free-to-use competitive advantage.”

The technology has also evolved into a demand for a high-speed service.

“This is becoming the standard. People don’t like to sit and wait,” said Pegan Berkheimer, Holiday Inn Express manager.

The hotel near Stateline offers Internet capability via a computer in the lobby. It will soon add high-speed access in the rooms.

Gloria Stewart, assistant manager of the Best Western Station House Inn, estimates about one-fifth of travelers booking rooms now ask for the service.

An informal survey of Lodging Association members found an even split among 40 properties of hotels offering Internet access. About a quarter of the properties have installed a wireless capability.

“I know for a fact they’re asking for it. Many people ask before they book a room,” said Jerry Birdwell, South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association president. Birdwell, who runs the Black Bear Inn, is considering going wireless.

However, some places make a concerted effort to give their guests a break from the technology.

Even though The Inn at Heavenly fields requests from one in 10 guests wanting computer access, it has maintained a more primitive, isolated feel to its surroundings. No phones are plugged in the rooms.

“Sometimes it takes people a day to get used to it. We like it nice and quiet,” said co-manager Chauntell Gardner.

But the wave of the future lies in the wireless technology for an increasing cluster of laptop- or personal digital assistant-wielding travelers seeking a way to work without having to carry a cord or limit themselves to four walls.

“The majority of our guests using high-speed Internet access are business travelers,” Embassy Suites Information Technology Specialist Tim Harmon said.

Like many lodging establishments that offer the service, the hotel near Stateline issues a card with a number the user plugs into a computer. It charges a flat rate of $10.95 a day for 24-hour access around the hotel so visitors can take in the surroundings.

If they want to stay in the room, they can use Web television.

In addition, Embassy Suites has set up a kiosk in front of the hotel.

“All this allows us to adapt to any type of user,” Harmon said.

Michael Steiner, executive vice president for Ovation Corporate Travel, said his New York-based travel management firm’s clientele of 300 companies is seeking the service at a whirlwind pace.

“I think what our travelers are looking for are both touch-screen services and high-speed access in the rooms,” Steiner said.

In decline for five years, business travel is making a comeback. The Travel Industry Association of America expects a 5.7 percent increase in business trips this summer.

To cater to that market, Inn By the Lake has established a business services center for its guests to use a FAX machine, copier and computer terminal.

Inn Manager Dan McHale also signed on as a wireless site a few weeks ago in a cooperative agreement with BlueGo and Hot Spots Kiosks. The Stateline company has contracted with the transit system to offer a wireless capability with the touch-screen transportation service. The wireless service is primarily in hotels, with more businesses adding every week.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com


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