nymphe strandhotel and apartments. The Multimedia Hotel.

In the 21st century, the use of Internet services like email, forums and social networking has become a permanent feature of everyday life - not least when going on holiday. The laptop computer is an indispensable part of any packing list, as crucial as the swimming trunks and suntan lotion. When you're not checking emails, for example, you're processing and uploading your holiday photos and videos to the web.

This was the key observation made by Stefanie Schmidt of SGS HOTEL | CONSULTING. She travels regularly as a consultant for hotel management projects, and she noticed that even the higher quality hotels do not always offer Internet access as standard. They make it an additional, chargeable service, and even using this is conditional on guests having their own mobile devices to hand. Free use of the hotel’s own IT technology is a rare privilege – against payment of an extra fee.

Schmidt, along with Herbert Dzial of hotel developers HD Projektentwicklungs GmbH in Berlin, saw the demands of technology-savvy holiday-makers as a new and exciting opportunity for the luxury hotel segment. She was contracted to manage the pre-opening of the nymphe strandhotel & apartments, located in the Baltic Sea resort of Binz on the island of Rügen, just off Germany’s north-eastern coast. Besides broadband Internet access, guests needed to be able to use the TV, radio and guest information system simply and quickly. And in addition, computers were required for staff to manage the central booking and administration software, which ran only on Microsoft Windows.

After casting around for a variety of technical solutions, the Mac platform easily outshone the competition. Taken as a whole, its myriad benefits included a combination of modern, high-performance technology, a wide range of pre-installed multimedia packages, and award-winning industrial design. Finally, the ability to install and operate the Windows-based booking and administration software on Intel-based Macs settled any doubts abouts its suitability.

As experts with the appropriate experience, HSD Consult GmbH in Berlin were employed for the design, implementation and everyday management of the installed solution. They decided to use 24-inch iMacs for the guest area because of their elegant design, high performance, and wealth of pre-installed multimedia software. Low-cost, third-party products from Elgato also allowed the iMac to be used as a TV or radio – with a remote control to easily change programmes. In addition, two Mac minis with 20-inch LED Cinema Displays were installed in Reception, from where guests can borrow a MacBook to surf the Internet or check emails whilst on the beach terrace.

The resort of Binz has the highest density of four- and five-star hotels on the German coast, which means high standards are very much the norm. This also means that the levels of performance and innovation in this Mac solution, currently unique in the German hotel industry, would be heavily scrutinised by the local tourism sector. The nymphe strandhotel & apartments is seen as a successful example of merging traditional resort architecture with modern design with first-class facilities – and the technology behind many of these benefits is the Mac.

“The option of keeping in touch with business contacts and relatives whilst on holiday is attractive to weekend travellers, families and senior citizens alike. Feedback from guests shows that 26 per cent of bookings are made explicitly on account of the Apple technology we employ”, says Karin Brockmeier, director of the hotel. “We plan on making considerable extensions to the general service offer and, in particular, the technical sector – our guests have a lot to look forward to”.

The management of the technical infrastructure by HSD Consult contributes to the smooth running and continued success of the hotel. To build on this success, HSD contracted Omnilab GmbH, also in Berlin, to develop software images with a desktop interface that grants access to TV channels and web-based radio. The necessary files are located on a central server and, when the guests move out, are copied over to the guest computers using NetInstall. As soon as new software versions are available, Omnilab delivers a newly created disk image to the hotel via an ADSL line, so there is no need for on-site technicians – the devices are maintained remotely from Berlin.

The solution is so well-planned that the hotel staff can reset guests’ computers with a simple key combination. Some introductory training was provided but, since the Mac has always been simple to operate, staff are even able to provide guests who have no previous Mac experience with direct support on how to use the Macs. And in the event of a hardware failure, the staff can switch to pre-configured spare machines that are primed for use at a moment’s notice.

High-powered computers, broadband ADSL, technical support – this all sounds expensive to set up and operate, and some decision-makers in the hotel industry may ask themselves whether such a solution is economical. The experiences of the nymphe strandhotel & apartments should allay these fears: besides the increased bookings the Mac has brought, the startup costs were kept to a minimum thanks to a financing solution tailor-made by Apple Financial Services (AFS).

Holger Forstbach, Programme Manager of AFS leasing for business customers and educational facilities in Germany and Austria, knew how to turn the flexibility of his product range into a benefit to his customer. “We presented a range of financing and leasing models to the decision-makers”, he says. “In the end, the decision was made to go with a hire-purchase plan with seasonally adjusted payments, which perfectly matches the hotel’s economic situation”. This means that when bookings are up, payments are made faster through larger installments, and during periods with traditionally lower bookings, the installments are smaller. This allowed considerable minimisation of the investment risk, and the financing costs have been paid off thanks to increased demand for bookings.

The hotel’s vision – combined with cutting-edge technology, a high level of consultancy competence and professional implementation – turned Stefanie Schmidt’s idea into a model of success, so much so that Herbert Dzial has already been able to win over additional investors for a second Mac-based project at another hotel, due to open in 2012. Apple is simply the best choice for projects like this in high-class hotels, where a priority is placed on equipment and design.