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Hawaii's Hotel Technology Gap
Could Hurt Us, Part 1

By Rob Kay and Jeff Bloom

Back in 1960, when John F. Kennedy campaigned against Richard Nixon for the presidency of the United States, he coined the term "missile gap". It was meant to be a damning indictment linking Nixon to a supposed breach in the nation’s defenses. Kennedy claimed that America was vulnerable and that we’d better play catch up with the Soviets or suffer the consequences.

We’re not running for office but we are concerned about the Aloha State’s standing as an international travel destination. We think that there is a real technology gap between Hawaii’s hotels and more modern properties in Asia and on the Mainland. We submit that Hawaii’s hotels—even the best properties are technology-challenged. What this means is that currently it’s either difficult or impossible for business travelers at many hotels to log onto the Internet or to get a fast, clean connection.

We strongly believe that this technology gap could hurt the tourism industry—especially in wooing the business traveler--in the long and short term. From our conversations with hotel industry experts, tourism marketing executives and technology industry visitors there seems no doubt that currently our hotels do not provide the kind of Internet access that business travelers need to get their email and to connect to the web. This is especially a problem for high tech "conventioneers" and other business travelers who need to download or upload large computer files. These inadequacies are especially glaring when compared to upscale hotels on the Mainland or other world class destinations such as Hong Kong, Singapore and even Las Vegas--where catering to high technology clientele is a way of life.

From our research, most properties in Hawaii are simply not providing easy Internet access in every hotel room much less high speed (broadband) connectivity in the form of DSL or cable modems. In many of the hotels, modern business centers are also lacking. Without these amenities we believe it will be difficult, if not impossible, to attract high tech conventioneers in large numbers.

Not Just a Capitalist Tool
Nowadays it’s apparent to anyone who picks up a newspaper that the Internet is not simply just a tool for business travelers. Leisure travelers (many of whom are business people) carry laptops and habitually check their email, follow their investments or attend to any number of other tasks that the Internet allows. Richard Moody, the founder of Aloha Conferencing and frequent traveler told us, "These days everyone seems to be wired. Laptops are an extension of people’s offices and their personal lives. When they get to a hotel travelers demand a decent Internet connection—whether it’s for day trading, checking back with the office or keeping tabs with friends. Our hotels need to be wired and if we don’t get moving on this, it’s going to hurt us".

Richard Moody’s comments were echoed by visiting executives from Microsoft. We canvassed a number of individuals all who stayed at top properties in town and all of them we spoke to were visibly frustrated by the lack of connectivity or poor bandwidth. The comments of Lance Horne, a Microsoft technology specialist from Washington, DC, were typical. He told us, "the connections I've experienced in Hawaii's hotels are terrible. The best I can get is 16 to 18kps which is really slow. When I travel I usually get connected at least 33.3, and some of the more modern hotels have Ethernet access so that you can get a broadband connection for about $10 per day. As nice a place as Hawaii is, the lack of connectivity here represents an impediment for visitors doing high tech business."

David Mozdren, a Hawaii-based technology consultant who specializes in working with hotels told us business travelers needed modern phone systems that can accommodate data communications and high-speed connectivity in the form of DSL or cable modems. "Right now," said the consultant, "local hotels are trying to go after the convention market. If a hotel is after this type of business market they will have to consider the fact that business travelers carry laptops and need connectivity and bandwidth. If this isn’t provided they will have problems attracting the business traveler." Mr. Mozdren reckoned that Hawaii’s hotel plant is as much as two years behind the mainland in installing the broadband connections that business travelers demand.

Next Column:
Why local hotels have an outdated telecommunications infrastructure and what some of the better properties in Hawaii are doing about it.

Jeff Bloom is the founder of Computer Training Academy/Network Resource Center, a computer education/consulting firm based in Honolulu. His contact is jeffb@cta.net or 839- 1200. Rob Kay is a Honolulu-based public relations practitioner who specializes in technology. He can be reached at rkay@pactechcom.com or 539-3627. Suggestions for column topics are welcomed.

Pacific Business News - Friday December 31, 1999

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