Business travelers increasingly demand a wired world — and many hotels are rolling out new high-tech amenities that cater to that continent-hopping, Blackberry-toting contingent.
Omni Hotels is testing out ORION, a new system that will allow guests to order hotel services or communicate with hotel staff via a customized "virtual environment." Though it’s currently only in pilot phase at the Omni Mandalay, ORION could potentially bring hotel service to a whole new level: Imagine being able to order room service while you’re wrapping up your meeting … or requesting via e-mail that Housekeeping clean your room between 7-7:30 a.m., while you’re at the gym.
Leaving your laptop at home for a few days? W Hotels safeguards you from separation anxiety with its new Wired2Go service: $25 a day gets you a Web-enabled Apple laptop, office supplies and 24-hour tech support — available with one click of the WHATEVER/WHENEVER button. (Note: Use this service in case of workplace emergency only, as it’s guaranteed to put a damper on a vacation.)
Also special to the W is the new "Farewell Kiosk," a computerized checkout station from which guests can also print boarding passes or check the weather in their next destination. Coming soon to a W Living Room near you.
Hyatt Hotels also now enables guests to print boarding passes upon checkout, using secure Hyatt Fast Board™ computer kiosks located in the lobby. In keeping with the forward-thinking theme, they’ve launched a Web-based "E-Concierge" service through which travelers can pre-book dinner reservations and tee times, or make special requests ahead of time. And finally, the chain jumps on the social networking bandwagon with yatt’it, an online community for regular Hyatt customers. Hyatt concierges provide some of the original content.
Westin and Nintendo just partnered up on a program that may finally succeed at getting you to the gym during business trips: WestinWORKOUT fitness centers are now equipped with custom-designed Wii consoles. If the treadmill and stationary bike are a bore, guests can now work up a sweat with Wii Sports tennis, baseball or boxing, to name a few — or with the brand-new Wii Fit interactive fitness game. Currently only available in 10 Westin Hotels, but one can assume that more will follow.
Some hotels, like the Regent, use technology to create a more comfortable, enjoyable stay. In-room Internet radios at the Regent Palms Turks & Caicos pick up 10,000 international radio stations, allowing guests to listen to their hometown morning talk show or to the BBC from the road. The Regent Bal Harbour saves guests from an early AM coldwater blast with the "toe tester" faucet groove, built into all guest room showers. Little things for sure … but they add up to a much more pleasant journey.
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Lena Katz lives on the Left Coast and writes about tropical islands, beach clubs and food, but her heart belongs to NYC.