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Cyber-
Spacious Rooms for Road Warriors

By SHIRLEY BRADY

Business travelers in Asia are getting spoiled for choice when it comes to high-tech hotels that double as their office on the road. It's not enough these days to have a comfortable room in a great location. Corporate customers want to pick up e-mail or fire off a fax within minutes of checking in. The Westin group, for one, began introducing in-room "guest offices" in 1995. Pay an additional $20 on top of the standard rate at the Westin Banyan Tree in Bangkok, for instance, and you get such amenities as a laser-printer, a fax/copier, a speakerphone, a coffee maker, an ergonomically correct desk chair and even a supply of paper clips.

I-Quest, a Hong Kong tech firm, has been winning raves for its WorldRoom system, an in-room workstation with a flat-screen computer and a fax/printer/scanner unit. The company recently introduced WorldRoom Connect, a high-speed Internet access service for laptop users. With no dial-up required (and no long-distance phone charges to pay), WorldRoom users are whisked onto the Web at speeds of up to 768K--more than 10 times faster than the quickest conventional modem connection. Guests are given a diskette to install the speedy online-access software onto their computer (find out more at www.i-quest.com). Staying in a WorldRoom at Hong Kong's Ritz-Carlton adds only $13 to the regular rate, and the hotel throws in complimentary daily breakfast, free local calls and faxes and 20% off international phone and fax use. Other hotels offering the service include the Hyatt Regency and Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong; the Grand Hyatt, Hilton International and Sheraton Towers in Singapore; and the Hyatt Regency, Makati Shangri-La, Mandarin Oriental and The Peninsula in Manila. (Taipei's Grand Formosa Regent and Shanghai's Portman Ritz-Carlton are next.) Other Asian properties, like the Regents in Bangkok and Hong Kong, use the Maginet system to give guestrooms a high-speed ramp onto the Net, via either laptop or cyber-station.

At least one hotel is providing more than mere online access. At the Ritz-Carlton in Kuala Lumpur, general manager James McBride noticed that the most frequent inquiries his staff receives involve tech troubles--such as figuring out data-port connections or logging onto local Internet service providers. In response, he added a new job category three months ago--a technology butler. The position is filled from a pool of staffers who were already helping untangle techno-woes, from the business center team to the overnight manager. On call around the clock, the butler arrives at your room armed with adapters and the ability to troubleshoot common computer crises. "We're bringing the best old-world values of hotel service to the high-tech world of the modern traveler," says McBride. And these user-friendly techno-bots don't stop at laptops--they will gladly fix your palmtop, help set up a global conference call or sort out your mobile phone. A little like Jeeves--with a pocket protector.




Daily

November 30, 1998

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SHORT CUTS
In honor of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, China's Ministry of Health will be hosting an exhibition in Beijing on HIV/AIDS awareness

DETOURS
Church bells at dawn, strawberry wine, waterfalls, cozy cafes and chilly nights--no wonder Dalat is Vietnam's Romance Central

HOT TIP
Tipping is a confusing business. It could get you arrested in North Korea, it's outlawed in China, discouraged on some cruise ships and expected in the Vatican City

MAIN FEATURE
Business travelers in Asia are getting spoiled for choice when it comes to high-tech hotels that double as their office on the road



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