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.

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