Guestroom Phone: Dodo Bird?

Guestroom 2010, the IBM-sponsored display at the recent 2008 Hospitality Information Technology Exposition & Conference in Austin, TX, was, as usual, brimming with the latest in technology. The forward-looking tech spanned elaborate, Second Life-based guestroom tours, a fantastically engineered, mattress-free, $20,000 “body suspension system” known as the Ammique, an energy-generating closet, and a voice recognition-activated alarm clock.

What it didn't have was a bedside, guestroom telephone. Instead, the bed stand in Guestroom 2010 (to be called Guestroom G2X at HITEC 2009, set for the Anaheim, CA Convention Center June 23-25) featured a cell phone and antique intercom device. The latter aimed to emphasize the belief of the Guestroom 2010 selection committee that the traditional bedside phone is a thing of the past — despite displays of just such phones by vendors including TeleMatrix, Teledex, PhoneSuite and Bittel USA.

“We believe that the traditional guestroom phone…will not exist in the guestroom of the future,” Frank Wolfe, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals, HITEC's sponsor, told visitors to Guestroom 2010.

“Who uses the phone in their room anymore?” says Brenda Burke, a selection committee member, who was recently laid off from her long-time job as director of technology for Hilton Hotels Corp. “Especially now when you can get your alarm clock by voice; you don't even need the front desk.”

“The traditional hotel room telephone is becoming irrelevant,” says David Sjolander, vice president of information systems for Carlson Hotels Worldwide. “It is now being used primarily as an internal communications device.” As chairman of the HITEC advisory council and a member of the Guestroom 2010 task force, Sjolander's opinion has force.

In addition, as the person who makes the IT purchase decisions at Carlson, his word packs financial clout. Carlson “is spending as little as we can for basic phones because they're not being used,” Sjolander says, noting costs could increase for voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phones — which Carlson isn't buying.

“This new stuff is fancy technology looking for a user,” he says, “but our guests aren't interested.”

One vendor, who wished to remain anonymous, acknowledged that traditional guestroom phones are primarily useful for dialing 911 and for intercom. But, he adds, when “computers go down and the power goes out, nice little analog phones keep working.”

The display of the antique intercom device “makes a point for all of us to talk about,” says Carlson's Sjolander. “The dialogue is the healthy part.”

Tech Bytes

The 55-acre Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, SC has selected the Eatec inventory & procurement solution and the InfoGenesis POS solution from Agilysys… With approved vendor status from several national hotel chains, PhoneSuite has sold more than 2,000 of its telephone systems…Magnolia Hotels, a collection of historic-luxury hotels in the West and Southwest, has selected PMS and CRS solutions by Hotel ConceptsFraser Hickox has joined the advisory board of Lorica Solutions. Hickox is general manager of research and technology for The Peninsula Hotel Group… Noble Hotels & Resorts selected the Watson solution from Unifocus for labor management and budgeting … SuiteLinq has contracted with Axela Hospitality to provide in-room video services for the 194-room Park View Hotel in Chicago.

InnQuest Software was inadvertently omitted from the Technology Handbook we published in June. It should have been listed under property management systems, central reservation systems, web management services, systems integration/data management, point-of-sale, training & implementation and ASP/web-enabled software development. For more specifics, contact lodginghospitality@innquest.com or call 813-288-4900. In addition, Goodman (Amana) should have been listed under safety & security and energy management along with its listings under PMS. Lodging Hospitality regrets the omissions.

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