Seattle Takes Hotel Industry to New Tech Heights

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2011-01-21
 
 
 

As one of the core high-tech hubs in the nation, Seattle is making a splash as a hotspot for delivering more diversified technology experiences for the hotel industry.

With companies such as Amazon and RealNetworks headquartered in Seattle, and Microsoft in nearby Redmond, Wash., the area has been a leading corridor of high-tech activity as veterans of these companies, along with entrepreneurs coming out of the University of Washington have sprouted startups galore.

Meanwhile, as the emerging technology hub of Seattle, the city's South Lake Union area is home to the new headquarters of Amazon.com, numerous biotech companies and one of the country's most wired hotels. Recognizing the ever-growing need for additional bandwidth, the Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle provides guests complimentary access to what has been rated among the fastest Internet service providers in the country to supplement the hotel's other tech offerings.

"Our guests want the option to be connected, whether they are traveling for business or pleasure," said Kini Parente, director of sales and marketing for the hotel. "We recognize hotel Internet connections, and unexpected Internet connection fees, are a point of frustration for travelers. Connecting with CondoInternet.net positions the property to set an industry standard and provide the best service available to our residents and guests."

Historically, hotels have struggled to keep up with growing demand for bandwidth for guests and conference attendees. As the popularity of file sharing, smartphones, VOIP (voice over IP) phone calls and video streaming increases, hotels are often unable to provide the bandwidth and connectivity speed expected.

According to Speedtest.net, Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle offers its complimentary ultra-high-speed 100M bps Internet access to guests through the country's fastest Internet service provider, CondoInternet.net.

Moreover, Parente said Condointernet.net can, on short notice, provision competitively priced connectivity for up to 1GB per second (1,000M bps) if a client required this kind of access. And as one of only two hotels in Seattle served by CondoInternet.net, Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle has a clear advantage over competitors when it comes to providing bandwidth for technology-intensive events.

"Reliability and bandwidth are extremely important for business travelers and those attending events at our hotel," David Sullivan, general manager of Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle, said in a statement. "Guests often need to stream video, collaborate online and share large files, and the hotel is now equipped to meet and exceed the demands of even the most technology-intensive events."

The Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle's amenities include complimentary wired and wireless broadband connectivity throughout the entire property, a flexible in-room workspace with easy-to-access plugs, iHome docking stations and more.

Meanwhile, Seattle also is the home of a new startup called buuteeq, which was founded in February 2010 by former Microsoft executives Forest Key, Adam Brownstein and Brian Saab, and officially launched in January 2011. Buuteeq offers its Digital Marketing System, or DMS, for independent hotels. The subscription-based buuteeq DMS fuses technology with online marketing savvy to help hotels reach more guests, persuade them with great marketing and put more heads in beds. The system enables independent hotels to create and manage high-performing Websites, mobile and social channels, promotions and reservations-all from one place, company officials said.

In a press release describing its launch and new service, buuteeq said hotels today are challenged to boost occupancy rates above the 55 percent average that typifies the industry. Buuteeq was designed to help independent hotels, in particular, raise that number by empowering them with tools to generate digital marketing that reaches guests where nearly all hotel discovery and buying decisions are made today-on the Web, mobile phones and in social networks.

In fact, analysts estimate that nearly $30 billion of hotel business was booked online in 2010. And buuteeq's SAAS (software as a service) approach gives independent properties access to a scalable, cloud-based solution that delivers the high level of marketing support previously available only from multiple high-cost, single-purpose services, the company said.

The buuteeq DMS is an integrated system designed specifically to address the ways guests search for hotels online. It includes four main components: a CMS (content management system), digital distribution, online reservations and BI (business intelligence), buuteeq officials said. Independent hotels simply upload photos, videos, maps and other assets; enter the room, location, seasonal promotions and other data through an easy-to-use Web-based "back office;" and can choose to populate a variety of marketing channels-Web, Facebook, mobile applications, booking engines and more-with that data using proven formats.

"We know from industry research that guests demand direct engagement with a hotel's brand online, but what they find there often turns them off," Adam Brownstein, CEO of buuteeq, said in a statement. "Almost 40 percent of travelers say they avoid staying at certain hotels because of a Web experience that makes them feel uncomfortable about booking. The buuteeq DMS gives hotels a simple way to reach guests directly with the property details and great user experience they need to make confident, on-the-spot purchase decisions."

The CMS is the heart of the buuteeq DMS. The back-office user interface makes it easy for hotel staff to enter/upload, edit and modify information using rich interactive forms. As localization is key to success in reaching global travelers, buuteeq translates all content into multiple languages as chosen by the hotel and seamlessly maintains multiple-language versions of the hotel's marketing materials, the company said. The system includes flexible administration and automatic versioning, backup and recovery.

Once hotels populate the CMS, buuteeq automates digital marketing channels, presenting hotel information and images in optimized formats for Web, mobile, smartphone applications, tablets, Facebook, e-mail and search/display advertising, the company said. As it is based on modern, industry-standard presentation formats rather than Adobe Flash, all the marketing materials are discoverable through search engines and viewable on all relevant consumer devices, buuteeq said.

To address guests' desire to find, explore and book a property directly with the hotel, buuteeq includes an integrated online reservation system, which reflects all seasonal pricing and promotions as they are centrally managed by the CMS. The system can also be integrated with a hotel's existing third-party-booking engine to enable integration between the buuteeq DMS and existing reservation and property-management applications. Additional near-term features will include CRM and affiliate marketing capabilities.

Meanwhile, access to buuteeq's BI tools helps hotels gauge marketing effectiveness, through reports of each marketing channel, Web traffic insights, campaign-specific reporting and search-engine optimization. These insights can be used to further optimize promotion terms and availability, and seasonal changes in pricing.

The company has been in development for the last year with dozens of hotel customers worldwide who have been live on the system for several months. Launch customers include boutique hotels in Asia, North America and Latin America.

For instance, the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto, Calif., adopted buuteeq to launch its spring 2010 $10 million remodel opening. "We went with buuteeq initially because it gave us complete control over our Website and we didn't have to wait or rely on an outside source to make changes," Susanne Smith, director of marketing at the property, said in a statement. "With buuteeq, I can log into the system and make changes whenever I want, preview the changes and then release them to our Website as well as to our Facebook page. With a lot less effort than before, I'm getting much better-looking, better-performing marketing materials."

"I'm just amazed at how buuteeq has changed our business," Cecelia Liu, co-owner of the LiAn Lodge, a luxury hotel in Guilin, China, said in a statement. "We have a 16-room property, but it's still a challenge to fill every room, even in the high season. Since we changed our Website over to buuteeq, our referrals from search engines and social networks have gone way up, and we're giving guests the right information, images and access to have them book directly."

Fixed annual buuteeq subscriptions run from a free Facebook-only solution, up through comprehensive packages ranging from $3,000 to $15,000 per year.

Though headquartered in Seattle, buuteeq has engineering resources in Palo Alto, and Beijing, China, and operation centers in Austin, Texas and Santiago, Chile.


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