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Hotels go high-tech

Hotels, in a constant battle to draw travelers, are planning to up the ante in 1997 by luring guests with the Internet.

Hotels, in a constant battle to draw travelers, are planning to use the Internet to lure guests in 1997.

This holiday season, guests who wanted to log on the Net from their hotel rooms probably had to do it the old fashioned way--with laptops and modems.

Next year, certain hotels will allow them to pick up the remote control and log on through their televisions or use speedy Internet connections provided by the hotel.

For instance, at least two hotels in the tech-heavy San Francisco Bay Area plan to offer customers Web access from the convenience of their rooms.

The Hilton will be conducting a beta test of in-room Web access through interactive television at its San Francisco Hilton and Towers hotel in downtown San Francisco, according to Kendra Walker, a spokeswoman for Hilton.

Hilton recently had tested a "smart desk" setup, complete with computer, fax, copier, and printer in 40 rooms spread out over 10 hotels throughout the nation, Walker said. "A lot of guests told us that they traveled with their laptops and the full computer setup isn't necessary."

So instead, the hotel is looking at the ultimate communicator--television--to provide more access.

"We see the television as a great communication vehicle in the future for guests in the room," Walker said.

Details on the service were not available as the plan is still in its preliminary stages, Walker said.

Not to be outdone, the Claremont Resort across the Bay in Oakland, California, also is going high-tech. But instead of piping access through televisions, the Claremont will be offering its guests speedy access through T1 lines.

The lines already are available in 42 of the resort's 240 guest rooms, and by April, the hotel plans to have access piped into 100 guest rooms.

Each room will be equipped with a WYSE Winterm 2500 Internet terminal connected to the Claremont's in-house file server, according to the Claremont. Guests will be given a personal fax number and email account when they check in.

However, use will not be free. Only the first 10 minutes are complimentary. After that, the user is charged 33 cents a minute or $20 an hour.

In another example, guests at the Garden City Hotel in New York are provided with a T1 connection allowing dial-up or internal network connections.