From trying to navigate foreign city streets in the hopes of finding a place to eat or a nearby shop to pick up some forgotten items, to finding Internet access to do last-minute work on a business proposal or simply catch an out-of-network game, travelers whether for business or pleasure encounter some unique obstacles during their short stay in a city.
With the help of a hospitality media and entertainment solutions company, Sleep Inn at Dakota Square Mall is hoping to spare guests many of those inconveniences while also building up the hotel's customer service and marketing clout.
Created by Roomlinx, the high-definition, Internet-based in-room entertainment system enables guests to access national and international music, movies, TV, news and publication sites as well as local information on restaurants, events and shopping the system even has a business center where a guest can work on a Power Point presentation or proposal using Microsoft Open Office.
A couple coming to Minot to attend Norsk Hstfest from Sweden could still watch their local news or read their local paper while a business traveler from Omaha, Neb., could listen to a favorite hometown radio station while working on tomorrow's product presentation.
"We saw across the nation hotel chains doing rate cutting because of the economic situation, but we didn't feel it was a good business practice," said Terry Alexander, general manager for Sleep Inn. "We wanted to have something that would have build-in value for our rooms and we literally stumbled upon the system while we were at the Choice Hotels annual convention in 2008."
Because of the cost of the system Alexander wouldn't say how much the company initially installed the system in only 80 of its 176 rooms in February 2009.
"We did the pilot program to make sure it was going to work and be something the guests wanted," he said.
For several months throughout last spring hotel guests were given a complimentary upgraded room and asked to try out the product.
"In just a short time we had people calling in to make reservations who were specifically requesting a room with the system. The whole process has been glitch-free and we've had a phenomenal response from our guests," he said. "People say they spend more time on the Roomlinx than with regular cable."
In December 2009 the company decided to incorporate the system into the remaining hotel rooms, giving Sleep Inn a unique distinction.
"We're the only hotel between Chicago and Denver to have a system like this and the only Choice Hotels property to have it," Alexander said. "But I'm guessing within the next five years it will become an industry standard."
With the initial success, he said the company is already looking to install the system in its newest property, Mainstay, scheduled to be completed by July 1. Although the system is still relatively new to the hotel industry, Roomlinx is already in the process of creating expansion packages for the system.
Still 18 to 24 months away, Alexander said Roomlinx is currently designing a program that would pinpoint the location of a hotel keyholder on a digital map of the hotel using a roomkey bracelet. According to the company's Web site, Roomlinx is also researching expansion possibilities such as incorporating temperature control and lighting mechanics, using touch screen capabilities and the use of integrated sound systems.
Not only has the system provided an entertaining escape for hotel guests, but it has also added a new marketing dimension for local advertisers, which in turn has created another revenue stream for Sleep Inn.
"We held a luncheon for 40 potential advertisers and showed them a demo and answered questions," Alexander said. "Before the presentation was over we had three companies filling out paperwork to advertise on the system."
Several local businesses, ranging from restaurants and specialty shops to big-event organizers, have already signed up to advertise with the company.
"Guests can get a direct link to the business' Web site or a link to a pdf of their specials or menu and then map it and print it at the front desk using a personal pin for privacy," he said. "We get weekly reports which can tell advertisers how many hits their Web site got from Roomlinx. So far, we've had very positive feedback and actually, no negatives at all."