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2/24/2010
10:17 AM
Bob Evans
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Global CIO Quick Take: Cisco TelePresence Shaping Next-Gen Hotels

TelePresence suites help Starwood Hotels innovate today and be relevant to the tech-immersed business travelers of tomorrow.

Anyone who doubts IT's ability to dramatically alter, disrupt, and enhance well-entrenched business models, take note: Starwood Hotels has opened the first of 10 Cisco TelePresence suites in its properties around the world, further redefining what "meeting" means in our tech-driven world.

From a Cisco press release touting the opening on Tuesday of TelePresence facilities at Starwood hotels in Chicago and Sydney:

"The launch of the new Cisco TelePresence meeting suites at the W Chicago and Sheraton on the Park Sydney is another example of Starwood's commitment to innovation by offering our clients an exciting, new meetings solution that facilitates a 'face-to-face' meeting in the same room regardless of global location," said Christie Hicks, Senior Vice President of Global Sales for Starwood.

Wait a minute: do TelePresence meetings really qualify as "face-to-face" meetings? Well, Starwood and Cisco hedge their bets in the comment above by putting single quotation marks around 'face-to-face,' meaning, I guess, that it's kinda/sorta 'face-to-face' but not really face-to-face.

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Linguistics aside, however, the real point is that Starwood has taken a huge leap in recognizing that the mission of its business hotels is to facilitate and enhance the flow of business, and not necessarily to limit that scope to having physical bodies inside its properties. This is a terrific bit of courageous and innovative thinking from Starwood, which clearly acknowledged that if new technologies and evolving customer preferences are going to have an impact on its revenue, better to go the cannibal route than have some outsider jump in and sweep up the new business while Starwood is left in the past.

In addition, this move by Starwood shows a very appropriate level of foresight as it begins to build out an extended range of tech-driven business services that the next generation of business travelers will surely want:

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