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Author:LEWERS, CHRISTINE
 
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Indiana hotels compete with technology service.

When Jerald Good started in the hotel business 30 years ago, offering a free breakfast with an overnight stay was the latest way to keep ahead of the competition.

"It was a simple business," says Good, president and owner of Valparaiso-based Focus Enterprises, which owns and operates 20 hotels in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. His properties include the independent Auburn Inn and franchises of Carlton Lodge, Holiday Inn Express and Super 8. "Today, because of technology, our guests expect more and it doesn't matter if you're a limited-service hotel or a place where you're spending $300 a night."

Good and other Indiana hotel operators are rethinking their services and marketing strategies, not only to keep up with technology but with increased competition. Indiana Business Magazine's 2000 Indiana Hotel & Meeting Directory listed some 3,500 new hotel rooms.

Managers are realizing that guests want the same high-tech gadgets in their hotel rooms as they have in their homes and offices. At the same time, no hotel can let its guard down in the areas of service, cleanliness and property maintenance.

"The bar has really been raised as far as what a hotel has to have and what it has to look like to attract guests," says Jeffrey Brown, vice president of Schahet Hotels, which owns and manages four Hampton Inns and a Courtyard by Marriott in Indianapolis.

What's doing the most to raise that bar? Brown says it's technology. Schahet hotels are being wired for high-speed Internet access, as are many of the state's hotel and conference rooms. There is usually an extra charge for using it, but for business travelers pressed for time or conference presenters who need the Internet to deliver their presentations, it's well worth the time saved.

Like Brown, Good realizes how important technology is for hotels to stay competitive. The 20 limited-service hotels he owns and operates, as well as the two currently under construction, are all wired for high-speed Internet access.

But high-speed Internet isn't all. Rooms with two telephone lines, cordless phones and large-screen televisions with 40-plus channels are becoming as standard in hotel rooms as they are in American living rooms, says Brown. Even video games in rooms are gaining popularity.

While hotels are upgrading technology, they aren't forgetting about who is most likely to use it: business travelers, many of whom are working at Internet speed while on the...

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