RealTime IT News

Yahoo Puts Stamp on Sheraton

Since the dawn of the dot-com era, Yahoo has had a billboard near the entrance to the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Patterned after motel signs of the 1950s, it says, "Yahoo: A nice place to stay on the Internet."

Thanks to a deal with Sheraton Hotels announced on Monday, Yahoo is making a nice place to stay in hotel lobbies.

In what the companies said was an industry first, the hotelier and the online media company have teamed to create a co-branded Web portal and branded Internet lounges in Sheraton hotels.

Yahoo Link @ Sheraton was based on insights about the behavior of hotel guests, according to Murray Gaylord, Yahoo vice president of brand marketing.

"Sheraton was seeing more and more of their users spending time in the lobby on their computers," Gaylord said. "People just don't always want to hang out in their rooms, they want some kind of social interaction." Meanwhile, the Sheraton's business centers weren't open around the clock, while guests wanted to work at all hours.

There was significant overlap between Sheraton guests and Yahoo Internet users, as well. "Our target audiences are virtually the same, the business and leisure traveler, younger to middle-aged groups of people," he said. While Yahoo is a consumer brand, it also has offerings for retailers and Yahoo Small Business, and Gaylord pointed out that business people are consumers, too.

"This was an opportunity for us to go beyond just being in the office or at home," Gaylord said.

Yahoo Link @ Sheraton, initially available in four locations, provides full Internet access to hotel guests, along with a locally tailored portal that shows them local information such as attractions, restaurants with reviews and maps, weather conditions and local driving directions. Guests and hotel associates can add their personal favorites and reviews to the Web site. No advertising will be sold on the portal.

At the Sheraton Boston and the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, the companies opened lounges decorated in Yahoo's signature purple. Yahoo worked with the Sheraton's architecture and interior design firm, Gensler, to create environments that weren't what Gaylord called "Alice in Wonderland," but still had a Yahoo flavor. In the lounges, guests will find a plasma television and refreshments, along with individual Internet-enabled workstations.

The co-branded portal without the physical lounge is available to guests who access the Internet from their rooms or the lobby at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers and Sheraton Stamford in Connecticut.

Yahoo Link @ Sheraton includes a 30-day free trial of several of Yahoo's premium services, including Yahoo Music, Yahoo Mail Plus, Yahoo All Star Games, Yahoo Finance Tracker and Yahoo Briefcase. Gaylord hopes the free trials will expose still more people to Yahoo's offerings.

Yahoo and Sheraton will spend six months testing both the lobby lounges and the Web portal, doing qualitative and quantitative research. While the companies haven't committed to extending the initiative, Gaylord said, "The agreement is to pursue this aggressively."

The Yahoo Link agreement is exclusive to Sheraton. Gaylord said Yahoo would welcome relationships with other hotels, but they would not use the same model.