When Jean O'Meara, customer relations manager with Xerox Document University in Leesburg, needs to find a place for visiting employees to stay when they come for training, she turns to her list of selected area hotels. These hotels have one major thing in common: They are wired.
Xerox employees can stay in "campus housing" during training, but sometimes all the rooms are booked. So O'Meara needs to find a space where the employees can have several phone lines each, voice mail and, most important, computer modems.
"We ask the hotels if they have hookups and what kind, because it is important to the satisfaction of our students," she said. "They need the capability of getting online at night to get their mail."
Hotels in Washington's outer suburbs, many of them near technology companies such as America Online Inc., Xerox Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp., know the importance of providing a comfortable home away from home. But that no longer just means a good bed and an iron. People want access to the Internet. They need their e-mail. Voice mail is imperative.
So hotels are getting the message and using their hookup capabilities as marketing tools.
O'Meara said one of the hotels that makes the Xerox list for their trainees is the eight-month-old Sumner Suites in Sterling. The 135-suite hotel has rooms with a work desk with phone and data port, and the "MRB Suites"--More Room for Business suites, which have dual-line speakerphones with modem hookups. The hotel also has a conference room and audiovisual equipment.
The Leesburg-based Lansdowne Resort, with 305 rooms and conference center, has dual phone lines, computer connection jacks and large work areas. Lansdowne, which opened in 1990, can accommodate many business visitors to the Loudoun area, where technology companies are rampant.
Dianne Murphy, a spokeswoman for Lansdowne, said computer hookups are a necessity in the guest rooms.
"So many people are traveling these days and need to communicate with their offices. And companies . . . are giving their employees [computer] notebooks" to use on trips, she said. "They can book a room here and know they have the freedom" to log on.
Near the site of the new AOL data center in Prince William County, two hotels have popped up next to each other in the last few months: the Manassas Fairfield Inn by Marriott, which opened in September, and the Manassas Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, which will have its grand opening this week.
Both are touting themselves as the perfect place for business travelers.
"I bet at least 50 percent of the folks that walk into these rooms have laptops," said Andrew Stephenson, general manager at the 80-room Fairfield Inn. And although the customers are a mix of travelers, technology employees seem to make up the majority, he said. "We have a tremendous amount of technology in the Manassas area, with Lockheed, IBM and AOL coming in."
Stephenson said people generally assume that a Marriott-owned hotel will have computer hookups, but most who call ahead ask.
Eric Lund, senior vice president of sales and marketing with the Madison, Wis.-based Great Lakes Companies Inc., developers of both the Fairfield and the Country Inn & Suites, said data ports--for voice mail, modems and several phone lines--are a necessity.
"We have found . . . that it certainly helps. Our business travelers ask for it. We try to make sure we have the right number of phone lines so there aren't busy signals getting onto the Internet," Lund said. "That stuff changes so quickly, you have to be on top of it and have the latest technology."
Even the quaint country inns of old are adding hookups, in-room phone lines and conference rooms. "The inns have Internet connections out here," said Vicki Bendure, spokeswoman for the Loudoun County Tourism Council. "Various people won't stay at B&Bs and inns because people need Internet hookups."
Debra Sandlin, general manager of the Days Inn at Potomac Mills, said the 176-room hotel in Woodbridge has had modem hookups in each room since it opened in 1988.
Requests for Internet capabilities come in every day, she said. "I think it's a necessity now. With modern technology, everyone who travels--especially business travelers, but even families--need it. That is their way of communicating."
CAPTION: Floor plans for Sumner Suites in Sterling show communications capabilities in standard suites and, below, "More Room for Business" suites.