Seaport Hotel Redefines Hi-Tech; Provides T1 Internet Speed As An Amenity

BOSTON? The mini-bars contain cables for local-area network (LAN) and telephone connections; the in-room safes are large enough to accommodate laptop computers. The digital phones cost $500 and are equipped with caller ID. The flat-screen computers cost $7,000 and access the Internet at T1 speed. This is no ordinary hotel. The 427-guestroom Seaport Hotel is to technology what Microsoft is to software. Fittingly, when Microsoft held its Outlook conference last fall, it chose the Seaport because of the technology infrastructure that was in place. The man most responsible for raising the technology bar at the Seaport Hotel is Steve Bearden, a CHTP certified executive, who is vp/hospitality technology for Fidelity Investments, parent of the Seaport and World Trade Center. Bearden, who previously headed up the technology group for Intercontinental Hotels, is responsible for information systems and telecommunications for Seaport and Boston?s World Trade Center. ?Our biggest challenge is getting the message out to people,? Bearden said. ?We?re so far ahead of the curve in terms of meeting planners. It?s ahead of what the average traveler is accustomed to and knows to ask for.? The Seaport?s technology infrastructure allows guests to: ? Connect to all conference, meeting and ballroom space between the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center using a site-wide computer network. ? Access the Internet from guest rooms via a high-speed LAN. ? Teleconference using a multiline, fax-capable digital phone equipped with caller ID and speakerphone capabilities. ? Retrieve voice mail from any location in the hotel or World Trade Center. ? Place calls on digital phones with caller ID, conference calling and speaker phone. ? Link room-to-room audio/video. ? Rent personal cellular phones or pagers. Bearden said a sizable percentage takes advantage of the services, at a higher rate than Seaport officials expected. Twelve of the rooms are equipped with Cybercom, a menu-based, user-friendly browser that allows hotel guests to access the Internet from their rooms. Seaport, which has offered the service for seven months, also provides Cybercom in the hotel lobby via a large-screen monitor. Seaport plans to expand Cybercom to 50 rooms by year-end. The hotel plans to charge an extra $20 for Cybercom-equipped rooms. ?The technology wasn?t inexpensive but it?s a selling feature,? Bearden said. ?We see Cybercom as an amenity, for example. It gives people a reason to stay here, and it will pay for itself over time.? Seaport?s technology prowess prompted Microsoft to hold its Microsoft Outlook meeting here last fall. Seaport?s infrastructure includes three separate T1 lines to provide the high-speed bandwidth that allowed Microsoft to demo 300 computers during the event. ?To my knowledge we?re the only hotel with live LAN connections in each guest room. And we do not charge for that. Some hotels have LAN connections but I doubt they are in every room,? Bearden said.

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