TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Sheraton Hotels, Yahoo Offer Free Lobby Internet

Sheraton Hotels, Yahoo Offer Free Lobby Internet

Reuters News Wire (
Mon, 9 Jan 2006 22:04:16 -0600

Travelers can stay connected without lugging a laptop at certain
Sheraton hotels offering free Yahoo-sponsored Internet access at lobby
computers, the companies said on Monday.

"This is an opportunity to bring Yahoo beyond the desktop," said
Murray Gaylord, vice president of brand marketing at Yahoo Inc., the
world's largest Internet media site.

The companies are conducting pilot projects at the Sheraton San Diego
Hotel & Marina and Sheraton Boston, where a section of lobby has been
reconfigured with work stations at round conference-type tables as
well as sofas and other comfortable seating. The Wi-Fi and broadband
Internet service can also be accessed without charge from the hotels'
guest rooms.

Sheraton is the largest and most global hotel brand operated by
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.

"The idea is to reinforce our themes of warm, welcome and connected,"
said Javier Benito, Starwood's chief marketing officer.

At hotels in New York City and Stamford, Connecticut, the pilot is
described as "virtual" because it is limited free in-room access to
the same services.

These include special pages of online information like local weather
reports and restaurant listings as well as a 30-day free trial to
Yahoo services such as expanded e-mail and computer games.

"As the Internet is evolving, people want to have access to it
wherever they are," Gaylord said.

He said the companies will gauge over the next couple of months which
model works best at which hotels.

The two companies are sharing the cost of the project as well as any
potential revenue from sales of Yahoo services, Benito said.

Driven in part by the need to justify higher room rates, hotel
operators have been adding amenities.

Many offer free high-speed Internet access for laptops, but Sheraton
and Yahoo say they are the first to offer a co-branded product.

Starwood itself kicked off the hotel industry's renewed focus on VIP
amenities with its 1999 "Heavenly Bed" concept.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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