PaidContent.org points to a Wall Street Journal (sub only) article that announces a deal between Yahoo and Starwood Hotels, the owners of many hotel brands including Sherato, Westin and "W", to test Internet lounges in two Sheraton Hotels. The program is called Yahoo Link@Sheraton will offer free net access in the lobbies of the Sheraton Boston and the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina.
They will have desktop workstations and space for guests to plug in laptop computers. Internet access, including wireless capability, will be free, the companies said.
Reuters adds that wi-fi and broadband access in guests rooms will also be free.
Terms of the partnership weren't disclosed. Yahoo officials said there is no revenue-sharing component to the deal. Yahoo expects to reap marketing benefits through the use of branded lounges and exposure to hotel guests, whether they are current or potentially new Yahoo users.
In addition to the Yahoo Link@Sheraton test, Yahoo has started testing a customized home page at two Sheraton Hotels (where in room web access will also be free) in New York and Connecticut. The pages will appear on a users screen when they logon to the web from their room. Finally, guests will be offered a free 30-day trial of Yahoo's premium services at home.
The official announcement from Starwood and Yahoo is available here.
As someone who travels quite a bit this makes total sense to me as a way for a company, in this case Yahoo, to reinforce and build their brand. It will be interesting to see if it expands beyond test mode. I'll be honest, I'm surprised we haven't seen something like this before not only in hotels but in other locations like airports.
Come to think of it we have. Four years ago, Yahoo sponsored free Internet access on some Amtrak trains if you used Compaq iPaqs that were also provided at no charge for train travellers.
I've blogged from a moving train on trips between DC and New York several times by using PDANet on my Treo plugged into my laptop. It worked great. How about Yahoo or some other company sponsoring wi-fi for all Acela train users?
Finally, in 2005 Yahoo announced they will be the portal provider for wi-fi services aboard airplanes using the Connexion By Boeing service.