Westin Chicago upgrades for comfort, efficiency

Comfort and connectivity are what today's guests want from their hotels. The technology has to be in place to allow them to work efficiently and quickly, but the ambience and look of the facilities are just as important for many guests.

The Westin Chicago River North recognized both trends when it recently renovated its Executive Club Level. The guestrooms on the four floors of the club, as well as a newly created lounge, combine a soothing, relaxing décor with the latest in computer and entertainment technology.

Every one of the club's 100 refurbished guestrooms features frehigh-speed Internet access, a speakerphone, ample desk space, and something not found in many hotel guestrooms: an iMac desktop computer.

“A computer is an added amenity, but we wanted a system that would differentiate us from other hotels in the market,” says Peter Simoncelli, general manager. “Aesthetically, the iMac is perfect for the look of the rooms. Also, it's a completely integrated unit that operates very consistently and with virtually no problems, particularly with viruses.”

He says guests primarily use the iMacs to surf the web and to do simple word-processing. They can use the business center on a lower level for printing or other functions. The hotel's staff provides around-the-clock support, but Simoncelli says they mostly help guests connect their laptops to the Internet, not the iMacs.

The rooms feature a muted décor with an oatmeal-colored chair and chaise longue, dark chocolate-brown wooden headboard and soft wall coverings. For entertainment, each room has a 37-inch flat-panel TV and some have iPod docking stations. Simoncelli says they'll soon install in all club rooms a new-generation docking unit compatible with all models of iPods.

A key feature of the renovation project was conversion of a former presidential suite into the club room. Like the guestrooms, the club room features a sleek and subdued décor. The space is divided into a number of sections that are well-suited for small meetings.

“The goal in redoing the Executive Club was to make our guests' stays as easy and comfortable as possible,” says Simoncelli, “and the club lounge in particular makes that happen. It has a very residential feel, but it's also a good place to conduct business.”

The lounge has free Wi-Fi, several 42-inch flat-screen TVs and a selection of magazines and local tourist literature. Other freebies include continental breakfast in the morning, evening hors d'oeuvres and an honor bar. Simoncelli says the continental breakfast is sufficient for most guests, “many of whom just want to grab a yogurt and a banana and go.”

Guests of the club level have access to the hotel's WestinWORKOUT Powered by Reebok Gym, as well as a private concierge and complimentary shoeshine service. Simoncelli says the club rooms get a $70 premium over the hotel's run-of-house room rates.

The 424-room Westin was built as a Hotel Nikko. It's located directly on the Chicago River in the city's blossoming River North restaurant, shopping and entertainment district.

Like most downtown Chicago hotels, the Westin is a transient property from Monday through Thursday and a tourist hotel on the weekends. It also does strong local banquet and catering business, hosting about 50 weddings a year. One attractive feature: the grand ballroom overlooks the water.

Even though Chicago recently slipped into third place (behind Las Vegas and Orlando) in the number of large conventions and trade shows hosted annually, Simoncelli believes the city's hospitality industry will continue to thrive. “I was born and raised here, so I have a bias,” he says, “but few cities have the visitor options that Chicago does. It's a true destination.”

Later this year, the remaining guestrooms in the property will get an upgrade. The project will start in December and be finished by next March 1.


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Goodman Co./Amana
Green Suites International
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Intouch Digital Systems
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Mintek Mobile Data Sol.
Northwind Maestro
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Four Winds Interactive
GenaRes Worldwide
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Micros Systems
PAR Springer-Miller Systems
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