Innovating a Historic Hotel: Everything Old is New Again

Outstanding guest experiences happen through a combination of many things: Excellent staff service, a great night’s rest and access to a range of amenities. Those amenities now include an ever-increasing set of technological assets, where things like high-speed Wi-Fi access are critical to success. Meeting and exceeding these demands can be difficult – especially in older properties that lack built-in, modern technological infrastructure – but doing so will pay dividends for years to come.

Hotel Phillips, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is consistently ranked as one of the best and most unique hotels in Kansas City. It was even named “Most Beautiful Hotel in Missouri” by Architectural Digest. The hotel combines gorgeous Art Deco design details with sleek, modern amenities. While the building’s architecture mixes old and new with stunning elegance, Mark Krtek, General Manager of Hotel Phillips, felt the hotel should invest in the future and bring its technology up to the front lines of innovation.

“When Hotel Phillips was built in 1931, it was the tallest building in Kansas City and the only commercial structure with a radio receiver in every room,” said Krtek. “Hotel Phillips has always been on the cutting edge of technology and we want to ensure that identity continues as we move into a new chapter of its history. Our partnership with Velociti is an important step in a longstanding tradition of excellence and focus on stellar guest experiences.”

Despite its historic charm, today’s guests expect a lot more than a radio. As their technology partner, Velociti’s mission was to help Hotel Phillips recommit to its legacy of innovation while preserving everything that makes it such a unique place to stay. Hotel Phillips now boasts a historic backbone with the technological infrastructure necessary to support its guests’ long-term needs throughout the hotel’s 216 rooms and 7,000-square-feet of meeting and event space. Prior to the upgrade, there were only five or six wireless access points across the entire hotel. Now there are 24 new access points just in the general public area. There’s also a small wireless access point installed in each room behind the TV.

The modern guest expects the same control, connectivity and personalization they have at home, and they want everything to be easy to access. Most business guests use their hotel room as a remote meeting space to conduct voice and video conferences. Families bring mobile devices so everyone can stay entertained at the same time. It’s crucial to anticipate how much speed and bandwidth you need to support all types of guests. If wireless access is restricted to one device, that can place a damper on the guest experience.

It’s important for any hotel manager contemplating a project like this to know what kind of bandwidth internal systems can actually support and plan accordingly. Hotel Philips had a larger network pipe put into the building to increase the bandwidth; an investment made worth it through increased guest satisfaction.

To deliver a seamless wireless experience, the cables behind the curtain need to be equipped to handle demands of these kinds. Going into properties as complex as hotels – especially older hotels – comes with a variety of logistical challenges. How is each room set up? What is the makeup of the walls? What structural challenges can be anticipated? When historic properties like Hotel Phillips were constructed, architects cobbled together many different building materials, from brick and concrete to wood and wires. In any building–but especially in older properties–it’s important to do a lot of testing to make sure there aren’t any dead zones during or after technology implementation.

With so many new access points, Velociti technicians had to test and certify over 200 new cables. But knowing where to run those new cables is another challenge entirely. Velociti had multiple meetings with the facilities maintenance department to find potential cable pathways. Old buildings often have abandoned heating tunnels that were repurposed for heating pipes or ductwork. These spaces can be hard to find, but at Hotel Phillips, they provided solutions. As Hotel Philips is property on the National Register of Historic Places, technicians had to be especially careful to ensure they creatively worked around any structural challenges during deployment.
“This building represents an important piece of history in Kansas City and we are honored to be outfitting Hotel Phillips with a range of technology upgrades and services,” said Deryk Powell, President of Velociti. “It’s a final touch that will finish off an impressive renovation of this historic hotel.”

As we move into a new decade, hotels must consider how to prepare their buildings to support future innovations, because guest satisfaction depends on keeping up to date with the latest technology. Behind the wall, wireless infrastructure plays a silent but important role in delivering an outstanding guest experience.

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