Hotel chain allows guests to go wireless

Hewlett-Packard Co. and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts have teamed up to offer the hotel’s clientele access to HP’s newest wireless technology — the HP iPAQ Pocket PC.

This announcement arrived on the heels of HP’s launch of its newest Pocket PC in June of last year, as well as the launch of Fairmont’s wireless LAN almost two years ago.

Starting Thursday, throughout Fairmont’s 41 international locations — 20 of which are in Canada — members of the company’s guest recognition program will be offered use of the wirelessly-enabled HP iPAQ during their stay. The program, called the Fairmont’s President’s Club, can be joined by signing up through the company’s Web site.

The iPAQ, which runs on Microsoft Pocket PC software, allows Fairmont’s guests access to applications including Word, Excel, Windows Media Player as well as the Internet.

The device also includes access to 10Best Inc., a publisher of local destination information and application services, through a Web-based portal.

According to Vineet Gupta, vice-president of technology at Fairmont, this program gives users access to the 10Best Virtual Concierge, a program which offers unbiased, localized recommendations on services including the “ten best” restaurants in close proximity to the hotel.

HP chose to partner with Fairmont for this initiative because of the hotel’s global reach, its ability to capture the attention of HP’s target audience and because Fairmont already had a wireless LAN in place, according to Ken Price, marketing director for the personal systems group at HP Canada.

The two organizations have been developing the framework for their plan for the past year, and other than the fact that it “took some time” to complete, and to figure out how to roll it out across its 40 locations, Gupta said the two companies didn’t face any serious challenges with the initiative.

Gupta added that in terms of overall connectivity, guests see Internet access as the equivelant of access to a telephone. He explained that although it is unrealistic to expect a direct return on investment (ROI) from adding wireless functionality, the convenience it gives the users itself is very important.

The device being used throughout Fairmont’s hotels, the HP iPAQ PC h1940, is priced at US$399 and includes integrated Bluetooth wireless technology, 64MB of RAM and a Samsung S3C2410 processor.

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