Cellphones give hotel guests the upper hand

Wed Mar 16, 2011 11:58am EDT
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By Helen Chernikoff

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Travel today, from luggage to laptop, is increasingly high-tech. Yet every hotel room hosts a costly anachronism: a traditional telephone.

In-room phones once produced profits for hoteliers. Today they eat into earnings as guests use cellphones instead.

"Phones used to be a revenue center," said Best Western Chief Executive Officer David Kong. "Now they're a cost center."

The dwindling utility of the hotel room phone is part of a wider trend that has land lines vanishing from homes and workers doing business on the BlackBerry.

AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc, the big local phone companies, are losing 10 percent to 12 percent of their lines every year to other providers, said independent telecom analyst Jeff Kagan. That rate will only increase, he said.

But hotels can't hang up on their phone systems. Guest safety and security demand them, said Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University's Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management.

"We're stuck with them," Kong said.

Guests use room phones if they need to call for help. In non-emergencies, they pick up the receiver to order room service and wake-up calls.   Continued...

<p>A pair of new smart phones called "Kin One" (L) and "Kin Two" are introduced at a Microsoft news conference in San Francisco, California April 12, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>