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Marriott Chain to Install Telepresence Rooms in Hotels Worldwide

By Patrick Barnard, Senior Web Editor, TMCnet.com

6/30/09

Seeking to attract more business travelers in this down economy, the Marriott chain of hotels is installing telepresence facilities in its hotels in all major cities worldwide.

"As the 24/7 world economy becomes more interconnected, the need to hold small global meetings that cross continents and oceans will only grow," said Arne Sorenson, president and COO, Marriott International, in a release. "We believe telepresence will create more business meetings because people can travel shorter distances and easily connect with colleagues and clients around the world. The addition of telepresence meeting suites in our hotels will give Marriott a leg up on its competition."

On the face of it, this business decision might seem counter-intuitive — perhaps even ironic — as companies everywhere are slashing their travel budgets in order to cut costs. Many of them are adopting conferencing services and solutions — including audio conferencing, Web conferencing, and videoconferencing — in order to facilitate live multi-party communications between employees, customers, partners and prospects.

Regardless of whether they are adopting Web-based conferencing services or deploying expensive videoconferencing systems on-premises, companies are finding that these powerful solutions can improve collaboration and boost productivity. In fact, some recent adopters have come to question how they ever got along without conferencing — and many of them are now making it part and parcel of their unified communications deployment strategy.

The Marriott chain off hotels is smart in deploying advanced conferencing technology at it major locations because, even though most companies are cutting back on travel, many are finding that it is impossible to eliminate it entirely. Therefore it makes sense for hotels to offer telepresence to business guests who still might need to hold live, face-to-face meetings while they are on the road.

In some cases, companies will allow employees to travel only to the most important events — but once they are on location, they might have other important meetings with clients in other locations that they cannot get to, due to travel cutbacks (or even due to plain old schedule conflicts). Having a telepresence facility at each hotel will help meet this critical need — and will no doubt make the Marriott chain even more of a favorite destination among business executives.

And who knows, maybe the economy will bounce back and business travel will come back in vogue.

The chain will be using AT&T's fully managed Telepresence Solution, which is powered by Cisco technology. Initially, Marriott plans to install telepresence "meeting suites" in hotels 25 global gateway cities, including New York, San Francisco, Washington, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Frankfurt and London. This includes its Marriott Hotels & Resorts, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts brands. The first telepresence meeting suites are expected to be completed in October of this year.

"Marriott is leading the lodging industry in using advanced technology to help extend the reach of meetings for participants in disparate locations," said Ronald E. Spears, president and CEO of AT&T (News - Alert) Business Solutions, in the release. "Working closely with Marriott, we are focused on delivering to Marriott hotels throughout the world the premier telepresence experience through the AT&T Telepresence (News - Alert) Solution."

Earlier this month AT&T announced new enhancements to its managed telepresence solution. Specifically, the company announced that users of the service can now have their telepresence meetings fully encrypted for business and security reasons. What's more, users can now share videos and control who joins a call, thanks to a suite of new features added to the platform. End of article.


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