In the dark days following the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, many businesses suffered major revenue losses. Many didn’t recover, and lots that did found new niches for their services.
Locally, Old Town Guesthouse in Old Colorado City was among the survivors, but not by doing business as usual.
“The terrorist attacks hurt our business in a big way,” said Kaye Caster, who with her husband David operate the four-diamond business at 115 26th Street. Caster declined to say how much it cost to build the eight suite upscale facility in the heart of the city, but no expense was spared to recreate the inn, built on the site of the 1892 city hall, fire station and jail which was surrounded by saloons, gambling parlors and brothels.
The three-story red brick building was built in 1997 as a bed and breakfast, and the Caster’s spent a sizeable sum attracting executives to the inn during the business week. Following the attacks airline travel was severely crippled and did not start to pick up for weeks.
“We had to find a way to generate income,” Kaye Kaster said, providing a tour of the facility. “No one was flying.”
The pair studied options and decided if people couldn’t fly in or out of Colorado Springs, the best they could do was take Colorado Springs to them — in the virtual reality sense.
“Video conferencing seemed to be the best way to bring back some of the lost revenue,” Caster said.
That’s what they did. For about $10,000, the Caster’s turned the inn’s basement into a video conferencing center, complete with a high-definition camera, twin 32-inch television monitors, and high-speed communications lines to provide real-time video.
The move is paying off, Caster said. In the past few weeks the conferencing center has been a stage for job interviews, court depositions, and even a screen test for an aspiring actor.
Video conferencing isn’t that new, but locally, relatively few centers are available to the public. It isn’t necessary to be a guest to use the video conferencing facility, Caster said.
“It’s very easy to see how much money you can save videoconferencing,” she added.
Obviously, when you don’t have to physically transport a person from one city to another, you don’t pay for airline tickets, hotels, meals, rental cars, and other expenses, Caster said. “Additionally, you also don’t have to lose the services of the person for a day or more,” added Caster.
Rates for use of the video conference facility run $150 per hour, and the 500-square-foot center can accommodate more than two dozen people at a time. The facility has tables, audiovisual equipment, a fax, copier, and every other business amenity, and offers catering services and 24-hour availability. Additionally, the site room coordinator remains in the facility throughout the conference.