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All Things Travel: Hotel Biz Centers Being Replaced By Wi-Fi

BOSTON (CBS) - The hotel business center is going away. It is being replaced by a Wi-Fi business gathering spot in the lobby and Sheraton Hotels is leading the way.

The Sheraton Boston Hotel was part of the test with Microsoft in 2006 and the concept was rolled out to all of their hotels and resorts in the last two years. Sheraton is part of Starwood Hotels that also has two Westin hotels in the city.

There are a couple of reasons for this major change in what hotels are now providing for their guests. First it was the laptop computer now carried by just about all business travelers. Now 20 percent or more of these travelers now carry smart phones to stay in touch.

Sheraton worked with Microsoft in creating The Link, a working and meeting place for people who do not necessarily want to do all of their work in their room. The Link provides a working environment where people can also socialize. In the case of The Sheraton Boston, the lobby space is located between a Starbucks and the hotel lounge.

The Global Brand Leader for Starwood and Sheraton is Hoyt Harper who began his career at Sheraton Hotels 20 years ago when its headquarters was at 60 State Street in Boston.

"The Link has become a destination at our hotels," said Harper in a recent interview.

"It has provided our guests with a higher perception of their stay and the brand. More importantly, women travelers like it as a place to work and meet people without having to go to the bar."

One of the great successes of companies in Boston's waterfront and Kendall Square in Cambridge is having a working environment where people can also mingle with their peers.

"We are now working to increase band width in The Link area and working with Microsoft on video applications and more band width. We want to be able to offer more content for our guests," said Hoyt.

Bob Weiss
Bob Weiss, CBS Boston travel contributor

An added value for the Sheraton Hotels has been strong increases in food and beverage sales in the lobby facilities.

Sheraton started The Link program before the current recession began and has continued to expand the concept. That leadership position has put the brand ahead of their competitors Marriott and Hyatt according to Hoyt. The new service is not inexpensive, costing upwards of $250,000 per hotel.

Sitting around the hotel lobby with a laptop is now very much in style.

Bob Weiss' All Things Travel Reports can be heard on WBZ News Radio


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