Fairmont delivers improved Internet connections

Staying connected to the Internet on a business trip has just been made easier at Fairmont Hotels and Resorts with the launch of its new “virtual assistants,” technology that will offer on-site technical support to both guests and employees.

“Fairmont, unlike any other brand, takes direct responsibility for offering, delivering and supporting the guest’s technology needs,” said Tim Aubrey, vice-president of technology.

Guests will have access to a 24/7 in-house help desk staffed by Fairmont’s support pros. All of Fairmont’s 38 properties offer wireless and wired high-speed Internet service in their meeting rooms, lobbies and open-space areas. While not all the hotels offer in-room Internet service right now, by August, 25 per cent of guest rooms in each hotel and resort will be Internet accessible. Many Fairmont hotels in Canada will have 100 per cent of their rooms equipped by that time.

About 10,000 rooms in all of Fairmont’s hotels and resorts worldwide offer both wireless and wired Internet connections to their guests, as long as they have their own laptop computer; Internet connections were introduced in Fairmont hotels two years ago. According to the hotelier, more than 50 per cent of Fairmont’s guests are mobile professionals attending conventions or business meetings hosted on their properties. “If I’m a traveller visiting the hotel, I want to be able to work in my room,” said Aubrey.

The online hotel services allow the guests to access their corporate network resources, potentially improving their productivity and satisfaction.

The end-to-end network is based on technology from Cisco Systems Ltd. known as the Cisco Mobile Office Solution. “We partnered with Cisco to build capabilities and we manage it ourselves,” Aubrey said.

Hotels tend to outsource their IT departments, but Aubrey said Fairmont wanted to exercise complete control over the system to offer consistent service at all their hotels. He added that the customer service nature of the hotel industry makes them well-equipped to manage their own network support system.

“It’s not a team that’s just concerned about delivering technologies, it’s a team concerned with delivering solutions to our customers,” he said.

However, the real motive, he said, was cost; it was cheaper for Fairmont to run their network support system internally.

“But the greatest benefit hasn’t been economic,” he stressed. “It’s the insight you gain by directly interacting with customers.”

By integrating the support system into their current network the system that supports their own employees also provides technical support to guests. In fact, guests’ calls are prioritized over internal employees.

When a guest is experiencing difficulty with their computer or network connection, they call a toll-free help-line number that connects them to a help-desk in Toronto.

For example, one guest had trouble installing a new network interface card and connecting to the Internet. The Virtual Assistant examined his laptop, and discovered that a TCP/IP connection was missing; it was soon added and the guest could access the Internet.

One hundred per cent of rooms at the Fairmont Chateau Montebello in Montebello, Que., the Hotel Macdonald Waterfront in Edmonton, the Palliser in Calgary, and the Mont-Tremblant, Que.’s the Tremblant will offer high-speed Internet service. Fifty per cent of rooms at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in Whistler, B.C., Chateau Lake Louise In Lake Louise, Alta. and Banff Springs in Banff, Alta. offer the service. It costs $10 at all Fairmont hotels and resorts to receive 24 hour unlimited Internet usage. Fairmont Gold and Platinum members receive complimentary Internet service, and guests can request Internet-accessible rooms. In public-Internet-accessible areas, there is kiosks set up for users, and there is a credit card payment option at each station.

Aubrey said the next step in Fairmont’s support system would be to provide multilingual support in English, French and Spanish.