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Resorts Seeking Wireless High-speed Internet
Access Should Exercise Caution
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May 17, 2004 - Vacation ownership/timeshare owners and guests are increasingly demanding wireless high-speed Internet, or Wireless Fidelity (WiFi), access and putting pressure on their resorts to find commercial-grade solutions.  When considering high-speed wireless access — WiFi —  there are a few items a resort manager needs to consider.

An article appearing recently in www.hotel-online.com was a windsock concerning the possible liability and pitfalls that could be encountered by resort managers improperly installing and providing wireless, high-speed Internet access.  “High Speed Internet Access in Hotels; A New Amenity Opens Up New Liabilities,” by Diana S. Barber, Esq., posted March 4, 2004, says, “Currently, hospitality managers are not required by law to provide HSIA [high-speed Internet access], whether wired or wireless, in hotel guestrooms or public areas.  Hospitality managers, however, must provide an environment that is safe and secure for the patrons and guests while on their hotel or motel property.  Once a hotel or motel provides a new service to its guests (such as providing HSIA) the law requires that they act prudently and use reasonable due care in providing and fulfilling the service.”  Although no known legislation concerning wireless high-speed, or wireless fidelity (WiFi), exists, vacation ownership resort operators need to exercise caution in delivering this new amenity.

Vacation ownership industry veteran and one of two managing members of WiFi service provider ResortWiFi, L.L.C., Richard “Dick” Drechsler explains, “The vacation ownership resort manager or operator needs to be aware of and in compliance with the standards that are becoming the wireless high-speed ‘norm’ in the realm of delivering first-rate service with the assurance of security.  Consumers are expecting resorts to provide them with this assurance by providing them with certified service and user support.  We are extremely concerned with the ‘do-it-yourself’ approach some are tempted to employ.   This invites less-than-satisfactory Internet service and will tend to reflect negatively on the reputation of an individual resort’s management, and perhaps, on timeshare management overall.”

“Furthermore, there are some special concerns unique to vacation ownership and distinct from those held by hoteliers, with respect to WiFi installation.  Because of our long-term participation in the vacation ownership industry, ResortWiFi is aware of these special needs and has designed specialized services for the industry, such as flexible usage plans for the vacation owner’s usage and an ‘open-arms roaming’ service, so that owners can enjoy roaming privileges throughout the resort network,” he adds.

According to Barber’s article, “It is critical that your Internet service provider or vendor goes through an extensive certification process whereby a complete security assessment is examined and security protocols are put in place prior to retaining them to install and provide the service.  Don’t use just any vendor to supply your Internet service.  Do your homework and make sure that appropriate security measures are in place such as adequate firewalls and other features that are becoming standard in the industry for the protection of your guests and your hotel.”

Perhaps a resort’s most prevalent concern is security, from the aspect of potential liability.  Jim Phalan, ResortWiFi’s co-Managing Member and founder of Beach Wireless – WiFi provider to beach-oriented locations says,  “Firstly, a resort should look at the reliability and reputation of the network operations center.  ResortWiFi uses Pronto Networks,” says Phalan.  “We selected Pronto because it is the Internet’s largest and most well-established wireless Internet gateway provider and has developed a highly sophisticated Operations Support System (OSS) with an integrated firewall for security.”

“Secondly, to assure insulation from liability, a resort needs to insulate itself as much as possible from the WiFi amenity.  ResortWiFi’s logon procedure requires the user to agree to the terms and conditions and to signify that they have read the applicable disclosures.  For instance, among the disclosures is the suggestion that laptop users turn off their file-sharing as a precaution against hackers.  Although the vacation ownership resort may not appear to present a serious environment for this sort of activity, it is important to make every conceivable effort to provide the ultimate in protection for the user and for the resort.”

“Resorts may even decide to use a dedicated Internet line,” Phalan continues.  “Even though segregated broadband technology is seasoned and bullet-proof, this is one additional step towards security.”

Perhaps the most obvious initial area of concern to resort managers is the need to insulate on-site staff and management from day-to-day operational issues involving their resort’s WiFi service.  While in the hotel industry, larger brands and properties may be able to provide for on-site customer support, the vacation ownership resort is typically not staffed with excess personnel to handle questions and concerns.  Management should not be burdened with questions about how to use the service or with requests to correct problems arising from its use.  Resorts should check with their prospective WiFi provider and ensure that they have minimum requirements for resort staff involvement, a 24/7 telephone hotline and plenty of collateral and instructional materials to help step consumers through the usage process.  ResortWiFi has invested in providing for training and staffing of a comprehensive support team, independent of the resort.  Whether the owner or guest is using their own laptop or a ResortWiFi kiosk, they have access to 24/7 support via the Web or telephone.”

Resort managers may have other concerns, such as a Board of Directors requiring further explanations or requesting unusual technical expertise.  “A resort’s WiFi supplier needs to anticipate the questions owners and guests will have with the service,” says Drechsler.  “Then, they have to have the expertise and competence to be able to supply solutions for those demands.  In addition to having consumer needs covered in advance, resort management should seek a WiFi provider that is willing to work with them and go the extra mile.”

“For this reason, ResortWiFi realized that we had to become known as the ‘never-say-no’ company.  For instance, we have devised several different revenue-sharing plans for HOA and management entities.  Keeping ourselves flexible has been a distinct advantage in this respect.  As another example, when we had a request from an owner who utilized a split-week (3- or 4-day stay) option, we instituted a split-week pricing plan overnight.  After all, when owners are on vacation, they can’t wait for decisions to work their way up a corporate ladder.”
Once these issues are answered — protection from potential liability, delivery of a high-standard product and insulation of staff and management from time-intensive involvement — owners will have a valuable and increasingly necessary amenity.  Plus, there is the potential of income through revenue sharing that can only be a boon in an industry that always watches the bottom line. 

ResortWiFi, LLC is a privately held company based in Scottsdale Arizona, with offices in Santa Ana and Sacramento, California. The company’s mission is to provide the highest quality wireless high-speed Internet access to vacation ownership resorts, while insulating the resort’s management team from training and servicing obligations and, in many cases, offering revenue sharing with the HOA or management entity.

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Contact:
ResortWiFi, LLC
R. Richard Drechsler
(480) 657-6956
r.drechsler@resortwifi.com

 
Also See: We're Not In Kansas Anymore; Differentiating your hotel through technology / Mark Haley / January 2004
Wireless vs.Wired High-Speed Internet Access Issues for the Lodging Industry / May 2002


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