San Diego-based ATCOM/INFO specializes in supporting business travelers
with Internet, e-mail, and information services. The company's
"cyberbooths" -- kiosks that connect users to the World Wide Web, e-mail,
and other online resources -- are currently installed in airports, convention
centers, and hotel lobbies across the country.
From e-mail to spreadsheets, the "road warriors" of today's business world demand access in their hotel rooms to the same information systems they
use at the office. But a laptop makes a poor substitute for a desktop PC, and checking e-mail over an in-room data port is not only slow but a burden on the average hotel's PBX. What hotels and business travelers alike need is a more effective way to bring the power of the latest information technologies into the hotel room.
Microsoft Certified Solution Provider ATCOM/INFO has created a sophisticated
in-room Internet solution that gives business travelers high-speed access
to e-mail, online services, the World Wide Web, and more right from their
rooms. Powered by Microsoft BackOffice®, the system features powerful
multimedia PCs running Microsoft Office and Microsoft Internet Explorer, as well as a variety of information services and local guides.
ATCOM/INFO supplies everything needed to get the system up and running for one flat price, and shares a portion of the monthly revenue with the hotel.
Using the ATCOM/INFO solution, hotels can provide guests with an online
connection 30 to 40 times faster than traditional data ports -- and free up
valuable phone lines in the process. Convenient access to e-mail and
productivity tools will enhance customer satisfaction and generate repeat
business. And since the system is so cost-effective, hotels can expect to
recover 100 percent of their initial investment within two years.
Powered by Microsoft BackOffice and Microsoft Internet Explorer, the
ATCOM/INFO system provides high-speed access to e-mail, the World Wide
Web, America Online, Compuserve, and Internet newsgroups, as well as
news, weather, stock, and travel reservation services.
In addition, the system comes with the Microsoft Office family of business
productivity tools and fax software. Guests receive a unique, temporary
e-mail account during their stay.
The ATCOM/INFO solution even puts hotel information, site maps, restaurant
menus, guides to local events and attractions, and more right at a guest's
fingertips.fingertips.Connection Asthe business world has come to rely
more and more on information technology, so too has the business
"There's a big need by the business traveler to be effectively
connected to the Internet and e-mail," says Neil Senturia, CEO of
ATCOM/INFO, "and the hotel industry hasn't really addressed it yet."
The key words, Senturia emphasizes, are "effectively connected": many
hotels provide in-room data ports, but their performance can be annoyingly
slow. Nor are data ports any more popular with hotels, which have seen
their supply of available phone lines stretched to the limit. Meanwhile,
with their small screens and cramped keyboards, laptops make poor
substitutes for a desktop PC when it comes to working on a proposal,
spreadsheet, or presentation.
ATCOM/INFO realized that business travelers and hoteliers alike would benefit from a solution that brought the full power of an Internet-ready PC to the modern hotel room.
TheATCOM/INFO in-room Internet solution puts a powerful multimedia PC, with full-sized keyboard and screen, in each guest room. The PCs are connected (via either cable or wireless transmission, depending on the hotel's preferences) to a server running Microsoft Windows NT® and Microsoft Internet Information Server, products that ATCOM/INFO President and Chief Technology Officer Peter Van Horne
praises for their security, tight integration, and ease of administration. The
server, in turn, is linked to the Internet via a leased phone line (ISDN,
fractional T1, or T1). An interface to the hotel's property management
system enables the system to post charges to a guest's bill automatically.
Technical and Business Benefits
From a technical standpoint, the ATCOM/INFO solution offers both travelers
and hotels significant advantages over data ports. For one thing, it's
between 30 and 40 times faster. Senturia likens using his company's
solution to driving a Maserati, and predicts that business travelers will be
willing to pay for the privilege.
Of equal importance to hotels, the ATCOM/INFO solution by-passes their PBX, freeing up valuable phone lines.
Additionally, the ATCOM/INFO system is an attractive deal financially for
both hotel and guest. Guests get the high-speed information services they
need to make efficient, cost-effective use of their time. ATCOM/INFO
recommends that hotels price the service at a flat rate of between eight dollards and 12 dollars per night for unlimited usage. Business travelers -- and their managers -- are likely to find that an irresistible bargain in light of what it gets them.
"No longer will laptop users have to make 60-minute, 30-dollar long-distance
calls over slow, unreliable phone lines," notes Van Horne.
What hotels get is a service their customers want on favorable terms. The
hotel pays an initial setup charge and ATCOM/INFO supplies all of the
necessary hardware, software, and installation services.
"We take care of everything," says Senturia. Once the system is up and running, the hotel pays $100 per room, per month and covers telephony charges. Fifty percent of the remaining revenue stays with the hotelier.
"We estimate that a hotel should recover its entire initial investment within 24 months," says Senturia. "From the hotelier's standpoint, if you pay off the investment in two years and it raises occupancy by even 1 percent, bottom-line profit has increased dramatically."
The ATCOM/INFO solution went live for the first time in November, 1996 at
the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington D.C. and the Claremont Resort and Spa in Oakland, California. The Renaissance is currently running the system in 13 rooms; the Claremont offers the service in 42 rooms, and plans to add another 40 by summer of 1997. Both hotels have supplemented the system with custom functionality.
The Claremont, for example, offers guests an online guide to local restaurants and a service that automatically prepares written directions and a map to any local address a guest specifies. Ultimately, the hotel hopes to put its entire Guest Services Directory online.
Says Mark Everton, the Claremont's Director of Finance, the ATCOM/INFO solution "will help us generate more room revenue, by selling more rooms at higher rates, because our rooms offer something no one else does." Everton also expects the availability of high-speed Internet access to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Senturia points out another potential source of revenue: advertising. Hotels can rent space on the Microsoft Windows® operating system desktop, displaying logos that link to a company's Web site. Guests who need to make flight reservations, for example, could click an airline's logo and get sent automatically to that airline's Web site.
According to Senturia, ATCOM/INFO has deals in place with two major hotel chains and is currently talking with three more. The ATCOM/INFO Internet solution is slated to roll out in another 1000 rooms by the summer of 1997. With the demand for high-speed Internet access growing, it's no surprise that momentum for the ATCOM/INFO solution is growing, too.