A long day of meetings and presentations is finally over. You're settling back in a hotel suite perusing the "room service" menu.
You pick up the phone and place an order.
"I'd like a fax machine, access to a laser printer and I can't get my laptop hooked up to this T1 line. Please send someone up to help me."
Welcome to hotel room service on the information superhighway, where an order of shrimp cocktail and a steak are as accessible to travelers as a laptop computer, where a concierge can help with theater tickets or a hard drive crash.
Most of the world's upscale hotel chains have rolled out premium business-traveler services that go far beyond the once novel high-speed Internet lines in guest rooms.
We're talking around-the-clock help connecting your laptop to the Internet; secretarial service; fax machines in every room; cell phones and pagers available for guests; 24-hour document copying and delivery; even helicopter service.
Hotels are becoming offices-away-from-offices rather than home-away-from-home because that's what business travelers are demanding: the same kind of technology, support, amenities and services they are used to having when they aren't on the road.
"Business travelers have become very sophisticated regarding their expectations," said Tricia Messerschmitt of the
Four Seasons Hotel
in Washington D.C. "They know that they should expect a two-line speakerphone in the room. They know to expect a fax machine and voice mail. They also know they should expect complimentary shoeshine and car service from the hotel."
But they also want access to technology and help with computers because, according to a recent poll taken by published in
magazine, 70% of business travelers bring a laptop on their trips and 47% use the Internet while on the road.
To give business travelers the help they might need with connecting to the Net or working through a software problem, many hotels have revised an old concept in the hospitality industry.
Concierges have been around for years, working out of a hotel's lobby or bellman's station and helping guests make dinner reservations, get theater tickets, learn about the city where they are staying and the like.
To meet the demands of today's cyber business world,
Hyatt International Hotels
has staffed properties with "technology concierges" who work as computer troubleshooters, helping guests through virtually any virtual problem they might have.
chain, the same concept is called "technology butlers."
"Business travelers on deadline for important meetings and presentations often experience computer challenges," said Tom Kelly, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Chicago. "They need to know they can remain productive while with us, so we have equipped the hotel with the proper technological resources."
The Ritz has discovered that the most common computer-related glitches and hassles encountered by business travelers are problems with printing a document; connecting to the Internet; dataport compatibility; downloading information as well as laptop crashes; disk errors and hardware trouble.
To help travelers with computer headaches, the Ritz in Chicago has developed what it is calling a "compcierge," with the skills, tools and devices needed to solve cyber problems.
Compcierges are available during business hours and in addition to expertise have surge protectors and universal power converters, telephone spools, RJ11 couplers and power adapters available for guests.
The hotel has also opened a 24-hour Executive Business Center equipped with
PCs, laser printers, laptop hookups and Internet service providers such as
. There is even a local provider for travelers who don't have an Internet account or can't access their provider from the hotel.
"We don't want our guests to have to compromise their work quality simply because they are away from home," Kelly said.
In Las Vegas, the Four Seasons Hotel opened what is called "the first nongaming luxury hotel on the Strip" last March, said spokeswoman Lori Kennedy.
The hotel offers 24-hour business services including document copying and delivery, cell phone and pagers for guests, in-room computers and secretarial services.
Each of the hotel's 424 guest rooms come equipped with high-speed Internet access lines, voice mail, and a multiline telephone with a modem/fax port.
Yet hotels aren't completely forgetting that guests often have more basic needs.
The Four Seasons' "I Need It Now" program makes available more than 100 items -- from Band-Aids and bobby pins to cummerbunds and hairspray -- 24 hours a day.
"We want to be able to give our guests the services and help they might need for their business, such as high-speed Internet lines," Kennedy said. "But sometimes a guest just needs a toothbrush."
Patrick Crowley is a political reporter and columnist for The Cincinnati Enquirer. At time of publication, he held no position in any securities mentioned, although holdings can change at any time. Crowley can be reached at email@example.com.