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Hotels wire up for guests

By Nick Easen for CNN

Many business travelers have come to expect wireless, broadband Internet connections in hotels.
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(CNN) -- For executive travelers the hotel room is more than just a place to sleep at night; these days it is also a work zone where the businessperson can get connected to the office.

Wireless and broadband Internet connections in lobbies, restaurants and rooms were once the domain of the world's top hotels. Now road warriors are demanding connectivity wherever they go.

"A high speed Internet connection is crucial and if you can have Wi-Fi (wireless connections) so much the better," Jonathan Mann, an investment fund manager and business traveler, told CNN.

Hotels are also rigging up broadband connections in their rooms and installing flat screen televisions that double as monitors. This is in response to executives' expectations of the same speed and level of connectivity they have at work.

"You try to go into the e-mail through your television, but if it is not broadband it is not fast enough. Everyone gets very impatient with it now," says John Elliot, an architect for Wimberly, Allison Tong and Goo.

In a bid to be more interactive, Starwood Hotels is going a step further. It is planning a blog or web log service on its Web site. Travelers can access this when they log on to check e-mail in the room.

They will also be able to see what other guests are doing via the Web site, allowing guests to meet up for sports or share tips on nearby restaurants.

At Hilton hotels, guests may soon be able to buy in-room movies and music with the hotel's reward points through the television. Guests will also be able to add entertainment preferences such as favorite shows or news channels to their profile.

Another group, InterContinental Hotels, also plans to test wireless electronic menus in its Holiday Inn hotels.

These will allow customers to view a list of menu options updated in real time, while searching for added nutritional information, browsing the Internet, or looking for travel information.

Already many hotel chains have rolled out Web sites with interactive maps showing local shops, restaurants and bars, as well as virtual tours of hotel facilities.

Hoteliers are also waking up to the fact they need to provide high-tech security as well.

"In the old days hotels were typified by huge doormen who stood there at the top of the steps and that was what guarded the place," says Elliot.

"Now it is all being done by much more subtle means (with) closed circuit television (CCTV) in corridors. Security is now taken very seriously in the hospitality industry."

The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong even has CCTV in guest rooms, so a guest can see, via a small screen, who is directly outside the door before letting them in.

-- CNN's Rosalind Chin contributed to this report

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