I was recently made aware of a new service being offered by several of themajor international hotel chains. Previously, I had used various butler servicessuch as shining shoes or pressing suits wrinkled by too many hours packed in ahigh-humidity environment inside a suitcase. But now there is a new wrinkle insome hotels' reach for more and better services to their travel-weary guests.These farsighted hotels have merged the concept of technical support andconcierge into one helpful entity, which they refer to as a special type ofbutler/concierge service. For example, at the Ritz-Carlton you would callthe Technology Butler. The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain initiated its new TechnologyButler service in one of its Asian hotels. By early June of last year, theRitz-Carlton had rolled out the service at all of its properties.

The Technology Butler at a Ritz-Carlton hotel is a designated staff membertrained to handle a variety of technical problems related to notebook/laptopcomputers and telecommunications. But Technology Butlers aren't limited tocomputers. They are equipped to cope with any office communication/computertechnology-related problem. One of the most common problems is voltageconversion. Guests sometimes forget to bring the necessary power converters andpower adapters. Some travelers may not realize they are necessary because theyassume that all phone jacks and power plugs are the same all over the world. Mostof the hotels now have data ports in all their rooms to accommodate roadwarriors as well as the casual traveler with a laptop computer.

Most requests for help have to do with reconfiguring laptops to ignore the localdial tone so that the people can pick up their e-mail from thousands of miles away. Internet connection assistance, such as identifying a local ISP or helping aguest find a local dial-up number for one of the larger hosts suchas CompuServe and America Online, is all in a day's work for these new cyberbutlers. They also help with setting the proper modem speed, assisting ingetting e-mail access, voltage conversion, faxing, palmtop or electroniccalendar setup, resolving hardware and software compatibility, and morerecently, dealing with the nuances of international roaming cellulartelephones.

To keep up with the times (and the competition), the Inter-ContinentalHotels and Resorts launched its CyberAssist program. Its 24-hourtechnology support service was developed at the company's Asia Pacificproperties and went brandwide in June. This was spawned by the hotel'sresearch that indicated that more than 80% of its business guests travelwith a laptop/notebook computer.

Each Inter-Continental Hotel and Resort has a CyberAssist Coordinator trainedto handle the technical needs of their guests. The Management InformationSystems manager is usually the coordinator who can set up a computer, connectit to the hotel's power and telephone systems, and provide support for varioussoftware and hardware products. With laptop computer use on rise, it is notalways possible to distinguish between business travelers and recreationaltravelers.

On a recent trip to New Zealand, I was surprised to find that the front desk of amajor hotel had phone adapters and power adapters available for the use of theirguests for a modest fee. In checking with several airline pilots staying at thehotel, I discovered that they had stayed at other hotels where the adapters werefree to their paying guests.

These modern-day cyberbutlers/concierges have one thing in common: Theyspend much of their time configuring laptops and lending adapter kits.

The next time you pop into a Ritz or an Inter-Continental, give these servicesa try if you run into difficulties. Keep an eye out for the emergence of otherhotels' cyberservices in the future as they try to keep up with the competition.

You can check out their facilities and/or make reservations through theselinks:

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