Red Lion Hotels Corp., of Spokane, is piloting a mobile interpretation device at its Anaheim, Calif., property to help bridge the communication gap between hotel staff and international travelers.
“They’ve been using it for a couple of weeks,” says Red Lion spokeswoman Pam Scott.
The device, called the Enabling Language Service Anywhere, or ELSA, is intended to enable hotel employees to communicate more easily with international guests and to help guests feel more comfortable, Scott says. It’s made by Minnesota-based RTT Mobile Interpretation. RTT Mobile contracts with translation service companies to provide the interpreters, Scott says.
“When the company contacted us with the details of the device and how easy it is to use, we saw an opportunity, especially at our hotels where we have a lot of international travelers,” she says.
The device can be either handheld or attached to clothing, Scott says. The user presses a button once for Spanish and twice for any of the other 180 languages available. The device works on cell-phone technology; after pressing the button, the user is connected to an operator. The user then tells the operator what language they need, and the operator connects the user to an interpreter.
The device costs about $400, Scott says, and then has a monthly, minutes-based plan attached. For $19.99 a month, a user gets 15 minutes. The highest-priced plan is $79.99 a month for 60 minutes of user time, she says. The hotel incurs the costs for the device’s use, she says, and doesn’t charge guests a fee for it.
It’s important to note, Scott says, that the interpreter translates both sides of the conversation.
“Both parties can hear both sides of the conversation,” she says.
The company has reached out to the managers of its 55 owned and franchised hotels across the U.S. and Canada, Scott says, to talk to them about using the device. Many have already contacted the corporation’s purchasing department to inquire about getting the ELSA, she says.
“We’ve even had a few of our human resources people express interest,” she says. “Sometimes different languages are spoken amongst our associates.”
The company’s purchasing department is working directly with RTT Mobile to supply its hotels with the ELSA. Red Lion isn’t sure yet where exactly the device will be used most, but it could have applications across different departments, she says.
“Our initial thought is the front desk,” she says. “That’s where most travelers will come if they have an additional need. I think in terms of human resources needs, it could be used in some of those behind-the-scenes departments, where someone doesn’t necessarily speak English as a first language.”
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