Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, announced that Grand America Hotels and Resorts which include seven properties in Utah, Wyoming and Arizona, are upgrading their wireless infrastructure using Aruba’s 802.11ac solution. Two of the flagship hotels, the Grand America, a AAA Diamond Award-winning, Forbes Star property, and the Little America, a popular, 30-year old local landmark, are the first to complete the upgrade to Gigabit Wi-Fi.
While all seven of the Grand America Hotels and Resorts use Arubawireless infrastructure, the hotel chain implemented 802.11ac at its Salt Lake City Grand America and Little America properties first due to the significant event revenue they generate. According to Matt Ballif, Director of Event Technology for the Grand and Little America Hotels, the approximately 650,000 hotel guests who visit the two hotels and another 750,000 to one million annually who attend hotel events such as meetings, conferences, banquets and weddings, demand faster, more reliable Wi-Fi.
“For our event attendees, the wireless network is often mission critical,” said Ballif. “From the beginning, our focus was on our 100,000 square feet of event and meeting space in the two flagship hotels and upgrading our infrastructure to provide high-speed, dependable connectivity in these frequently dense environments. That led us to taking on the entire property to upgrade the guest rooms, as well.”
Ballif noted that density had been a struggle in the past and was a key driver for the upgrade. He and his team managed a recent event at the Grand America Hotel where they saw an average daily use of 800 devices in a 150 x 150 square foot meeting space.
“When you’re talking 800 people or devices within a footprint area this size, it’s very difficult to ensure a good connectivity experience for all of those users, but with the new Aruba 802.11ac infrastructure, we were able to accomplish this. The customer was intent from the beginning on delivering a top-notch experience for meeting attendees and we delivered.”
The upgraded infrastructure in the Grand America and Little America hotels includes Aruba 802.11ac 220 Series APs deployed in hotel meeting spaces and the smaller, Aruba 200 Series APs in their 1,500 guest rooms. The Aruba ClientMatch technology is key to allowing guests to roam through the hotel and meeting spaces while enabling the infrastructure to support the high density of devices required. The hotels are also using Aruba 7240 Mobility Controllers and AirWavenetwork management. Ballif is particularly pleased with AirWave’s ability to provide meaningful reporting that his event guests appreciate.
Said Ballif, “I can produce a report either during or after the event to help our event managers plan for the following year. Information such as how many devices connected to the network, the type of traffic the devices were sending and receiving and even which devices consumed the most bandwidth, is immensely useful for our clients. In the past, groups would ask me for data on their bandwidth consumption and I couldn’t provide it, but now I can give them very detailed information to assist with their planning and ensure they come back next year.”
For the future, Ballif plans to evaluate Aruba’s ClearPass Policy Manager, as this would allow the hotels to define guest access policies based on user roles to offer tiered services to event attendees easily. In addition, the Grand America Hotels and Resorts are testing Aruba Beacons and the Meridian Mobile App platform at their Sun Valley, Idaho resort as they’re interested in the potential marketing and promotional services associated with a mobile app and beacons deployment, as well as allowing guests to use capabilities such as wayfinding to navigate around the resort.
According to Ballif, the new Aruba infrastructure has been an overwhelming success, allowing the hotels to achieve a return on investment in just a year and a half. Perhaps, more importantly, the hotels’ customers have come to view the Grand America and Little America hotels as preferred destinations, and the technology is part of this positive outlook.
“We’ve been told by many of our guests that we can provide amenities on a technology level that most properties can’t,” he stated. “These are technology-savvy groups and they view our properties as unique. Thewireless infrastructure is critical to enabling our team to continue providing this high level of service to our customers.”