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The Power of Wireless

Lessons learned from the tale of two hotels

As for DFW, well, architecture isn't one of its finer qualities. At nearly 30 square miles, it is, however, one of the nation's biggest airports. And with nonstop service to more than 160 international and domestic destinations, it is one of the nation's busiest airports. In fact, more than 50 million people pass through the facility each year.

En route to another location somewhere, thousands of visitors spend a night at or near DFW. Many go to the Hyatt Hotel, which is on-site, while others gravitate to one of a score of properties near the airport. This is a tale of two of those off-site properties"and the power of wireless technology.

Among the many lodging options outside the airport are two Marriott Courtyards. One sits at the north end of the airport, the other at the south end. They are a little less than seven miles apart, both in the city of Irving. The hotel at the south end is only 18 months old and includes just about everything a business traveler could need. For example, it's one of a growing number of Courtyards that features a newer, more contemporary interior, plus a host of technology amenities: free Internet access in all rooms and a two-line phone, fax machine and printing service on site. There's also wireless access in the lobby and in the restaurant, which allows customers to log on while they eat their breakfasts. On average, the hotel charges $119 per night, which is quite a bargain when you consider all that's offered at the facility. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to beat the Marriott Courtyard Dallas DFW Airport South in Irving for value.

Meanwhile, the Marriott Courtyard Dallas DFW Airport North charges more and boasts a higher occupancy rate than its counterpart, according to Tom Rizol, vice president at SMC Networks, maker of the Wi-Fi equipment used at the Courtyard North. Despite a slightly older interior, the only real difference between the properties is the Wi-Fi option that the property at the north end offers in all of its rooms, not to mention in and around the lobby, the pool and, with a strong signal, even the parking lot. Oh, and it's all free.

Brandon Robertson, general manager of the property at the north end of the airport (and, by the way, a hospitality-industry professional who can't say enough positive things about the property at the south end), says his hotel has offered Wi-Fi access for three years. It's part of a "transformation of level of service" that his hotel provides to customers, he explains.

It's also yet another excellent example of how influential wireless technology can be to a company's bottom line.

Budget-conscious business travelers, SMC's Rizol notes, will pay a little more for the convenience of not having to get on all fours and hunt down a phone or cable jack or, better yet, for the opportunity to reply to mindless e-mail from corporate bureaucrats from the comfort of a hotel bed while listening to a Jay Leno monologue. That's why he has pushed SMC to develop and pursue the hot-spots-in-a-box concept that the company can sell to resellers looking to help customers take advantage of the Wi-Fi revolution. The solution includes everything that a coffeehouse or truck stop may need to set up a hot spot: a printer, billing software and even a credit-card reader, not to mention an SMC router.

"This is about making it easier for partners," Rizol says. That includes those not yet enrolled in the company's Elite Partner Program, which has helped SMC greatly expand its base of allies. But they remain disjointed, he concedes, while the company is trying to get its partner base better organized. "We simply do not have all the partners we need to go after every opportunity there is in wireless," he says. "But we are recruiting and building our base and our service offerings."

Along the way, Rizol hopes to show partners how they can help their customers stand out in their fields, the same way the Courtyard property on the north end of the DFW airport stands out in its field"literally and figuratively.

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