Hotels gear for IP wave

The hospitality industry can make use of technology advancements to introduce value-added services that in turn generate new revenues, says Alcatel-Lucent.

Check into a hotel using your thumbprint as verification, access valet services via virtual video and upload your family or vacation pictures to Internet-enabled picture frames mounted on the wall of your hotel room.

These scenarios could become a reality by 2010 for the hospitality industry, and hotels in Asia in particular, according to networking and communications provider Alcatel-Lucent.

Michael Steiner, director of hospitality and cruise industry at Alcatel-Lucent, told ZDNet Asia in an interview Wednesday that hoteliers worldwide are catering to a new generation of business and leisure travelers. These travelers not only demand the basic needs of lodging and food, but also connectivity and entertainment.

Hoteliers, said German-based Steiner, are looking at how they can "transfer the office into the hotel room", and provide a customized and lasting experience for the guest such as being greeted in his or her native language.

There is potential for additional revenue streams for hoteliers, given the increasing convergence of technology, said Marc-Alexis Remond, Alcatel-Lucent's head of marketing and strategy for Asia.

With IP (Internet Protocol) infrastructure, hotels could offer valued-added services such as issuing guests mobile phones with local SIM cards, explained Remond. Guests could use the mobile phones to make IDD calls and also receive calls made to their hotel rooms while they are on the move.

Another way that hotels can look to monetize services is to provide applications that their guests can access even off the hotel premises, such as Web-based conferencing software that dials out to participants rather than have them dial in.

However, Steiner pointed out that not all hotels have the ready infrastructure to offer such value-add services. Another issue is the lack of transparency in billing calls, compared with other areas such as food and video-on-demand. When guests can see plainly what the costs are, user adoption for such services will improve, he added.

According to Steiner, hotels that wish to deploy IP technology to enhance guest experience should do so "step-by-step"--making additional investments every year.

"We give [clients] a roadmap according to their budget, and what they want to achieve, and work toward milestones," said Steiner, adding that the rip-and-replace approach may not be necessary as legacy systems can have a place in delivering hotel services.

Alcatel-Lucent secured 15 partnerships in the hospitality industry last year in Asia, excluding China. They include Grand Indonesia and Singapore's M-Hotel and Crown Plaza Changi Airport.

The hospitality sector contributed 15 percent of the company's enterprise revenues in Asia last year.