Hospitality sector boosts service levels with wireless technologies

Wireless is the latest technology fad to hit the Middle East's hospitality market as outlets from across the region attempt to extend internet access throughout their properties.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  April 24, 2003

I|~||~||~|Wireless is the latest technology fad to hit the Middle East's hospitality market as outlets from across the region attempt to take service points closer to their customers and extend internet access throughout their properties.

The Irish Village at the Aviation Club, for example, has implemented a “wireless waiter” system with Key Information Technology (KIT) that uses Symbol PPT 2800 Pocket PC handhelds to accelerate service. Staff no longer have to shuttle between customers and entry stations. Instead, they can send orders directly to the either the bar or kitchens.

“Something as simple as saving five minutes per customer order multiplies out into a huge amount of time saved on a busy evening,” says Mike Allen, director of channels for EMEA at Symbol Technologies.

“Having the information systems accessible directly from the point of activity means staff can use the technology where it's needed most — when they are interacting with the customer,” he adds.

In addition to techno-savvy outlets such as the Irish Village, a number of hotels have also deployed wireless networks. For example, the Grand Hyatt Dubai has installed a fully structured IP network from Siemens and has armed its hotel staff with Palm handhelds to ensure that they are capable of meeting guests’ requirements on the spot.

“We have a fully structured network and a lot of capital investment went into it,” comments Roy Verrips, information systems manager, Grand Hyatt Dubai.
The hotel has also created a number of wireless hotspots in its lobby lounge and Grand Club lounge to serve business travellers.

“This is a prepaid internet system where you [guests] pay US$27 for half-and-hour,” says Verrips.

“Our cards come in various denominations and, as you start up, the system will ask you for your user name and password, and you can use this in any Hyatt hotel,” he explains.

||**||II|~||~||~|The Fairmont Dubai has been offering wireless internet connectivity for the
past eight months and has deployed hotspots in approximately 90% of the hotel’s public areas.

“We have tried to put hotspots in our public areas like the lobby, the lounge, some of our cafes and restaurants, our entire ballroom, the pool deck, the second floor, which is for businesses, and our auditorium, where all our conferences are based,” says Andrew Huzyk, technology manager, Fairmont Dubai.

The hotel's wireless network was built using Cisco hardware and offers guests internet plug & play access.

Although Cisco's building broadband service manager (BBSM) controls all the internet access in the building and provides standard networking security, the network is relatively open. “We have disabled most of the security features as far as the wireless goes to prevent any conflicts or compatibility issues that guests may have when entering this hotel,” explains Huzyk.

Moving forward, the Fairmont's IT team intends to extend hotspot coverage to its penthouse suites and those meeting rooms that have yet to be included in the wireless network. However, to achieve complete coverage for the entire property, Huzyk and his team have to overcome two main obstacles, namely constant connection and the hotel’s walls.

“The walls in this building are so thick and we have so much reinforcement in them that we would literally need a hotspot in almost every single guest room and every single suite. The cost would just go through the roof so a way around that is to wait until wireless can penetrate walls a bit better,” explains Huzyk. ||**||

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