While many hotels tout “free” Internet access, they should be reminded that such access may not be everything a guest needs or expects. And that “free” can have a price.

Here are some additional concerns: Don't assume a business person always travels with a laptop; there may be problems with connectivity and bandwidth; security concerns exist; and the inability to offer guests a way to print or fax are serious drawbacks of relying on Internet access to cover your business center needs.

Even hotels that subsidize such access with a business center aren't beyond improvement. Manned centers are typically open only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., stranding night owls and those with late-night emergency projects.

Unmanned centers realize the “off-hour” needs of most business travelers, but free-use unmanned PCs create a problem of their own: Guests who make the workstation their “office away from home” for hours at a time, taking full advantage of the free Internet access and PC use and leaving few options for others. Guests leave angry, unhappy and unsure if they will return.

But with business center services consistently ranking in the top two of the most important hotel amenities for business travelers, how does a location overcome these obstacles while scoring high points in guest satisfaction?

The solution is the self-service, 24/7 business center that accepts credit and debit cards for service and provides the location with the utmost in flexible options for meeting guests' needs and keeping their guests happy.

Some programs allow the hotel to set up its own payment defaults, such as the first 10 minutes free and $1 a minute beyond that, or printing boarding passes free with pay-per-use for everything else. A relatively small investment in an unmanned, automatic public PC or other business center equipment that accepts credit cards for payment represents a huge investment in ensuring the guest's experience at your hotel is a positive one — and keeps them coming back again and again.

By Cecil Ledesma, vice president and Hospitality Channel Manager at USA Technologies, Malvern, PA. Reach him at 610-842-3276 and/or

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