By Keith Loria
Choice Hotels International, Inc., has chosen AT&T as its new partner to deliver Internet, Wi-Fi, and mobility solutions to its nearly 6,500 properties, representing more than half a million rooms.
“You can’t overstress the importance of connectivity and high-speed Internet at a property these days,” said Rick Summa, VP of procurement services for Choice Hotels International. “We believe that connectivity is an expected amenity. Just like soap and shampoo were once expected when you walked into your hotel bathroom, connectivity at its best is expected today.”
He stressed that Choice is constantly looking for partners and companies that are best-in-class all around the world to partner with. “We look at companies that have delivered in the past so our guest consumers and our hotel owners can rely on the fact that they can deliver what is needed,” said Russell Anderson, senior manager, national accounts at Choice Hotels International. “It’s very important that any company we work with has a proven track record, because if we’re going to put our name behind someone, we need to make sure they will provide the best service possible.”
The attributes that made AT&T the right partner and Qualified Vendor, Summa said, were its size and reputation of being reliable and quick with connectivity all over the globe.
“We share a passion with Choice Hotels International for transformative technology,” said Linda Rogers, vice president, AT&T Global Business Enterprise Solutions. “We’re here to help Choice provide the best experience to guests and empower its employees with the tools needed to do so.”
Choice Hotels has two contracts with AT&T: One is for mobility, so they can sell their cell phone services to any of Choice’s 11 brands, including Ascend Hotel Collection; Cambria; Comfort Inn; Comfort Suites; Sleep Inn; Quality; Clarion; MainStay Suites; Suburban Extended Stay Hotel; Econo Lodge; and Rodeway Inn.
“The general manager might choose to purchase a group of cell phones for their employees or if the employees just want to sign up for a specialized rate, they can,” Summa said.
The second contract is for high-speed Internet and there are three things they can do with that and each property has the option of choosing how it wants to utilize AT&T’s services.
“AT&T can provide the Internet bandwidth coming to the property; they can offer their services to manage the WiFi system at the property; or they can provide everything in one big package,” Summa said. “We have over 6,400 properties in the U.S., so it really is important that we have someone in place that we work with who can reach as many as our properties, and AT&T certainly has that reach.”
Guests at participating locations, Summa said, will use AT&T Wi-Fi to work efficiently, enjoy entertainment or just stay connected. AT&T is providing wireless access points, equipment, installation services and 24/7 guest support.
“Connectivity is key for today’s traveler, and AT&T is providing high-speed reliable connections whether they stay at our hotels for business or leisure,” he said.
Anderson, meanwhile, believes connectivity is just as crucial for Choice Hotel franchisees as it is for the guests. “For back-end operations, it’s a complete necessity to have reliable, quick Internet to run a property,” he said. “One of the reasons we partnered with AT&T is they can provide that and that’s only going to help our properties improve their operations, move quicker and more efficiently.”
All Choice Hotel franchises utilize Choice Advantage, a proprietary cloud-based property management system, and so connectivity is vital.
“It’s constantly being updated, and is essential for our hotel operators,” Summa said. “The cloud-based technology offers great support and there’s no hardware that needs to be purchased, and an owner can be on vacation and still check out what’s happening at the property through the cloud.”
AT&T will also be providing mobile connectivity to Choice employees through its AT&T Enhanced Push-to-Talk program.
“It’s going to be a way for our properties to better communicate when they are on site,” Anderson said. “A general manager can purchase this device and communicate with all the staff easily, and it will save time and improve efficiency around the property.”
Corporate offices also use the AT&T MPLS network to run operations in Australia and the UK and the new agreement lets Choice Hotels International expand current mobile solutions to additional properties and more easily manage operations to improve guest services.
“We are partnering with a major, world-recognized company,” Summa said. “Through these partnerships, it only serves to further the guest experience and what they can do at Choice Hotels.”