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March 01, 2013
Guestroom Entertainment
Dan Phillips

These could be the two newest strategies for implementing technology into the hotel guestroom.

Who would have thought that after years of HITEC and CES, we come down to two philosophical sides of a coin: do it yourself (DIY) or bring your own device (BYOD).

Competition between hoteliers for more than their fair share of the traveling public has been going on since Mary and Joseph were looking for a room over 2,000 years ago.  In the last couple of decades, technology and what can be put into a guestroom has played a major role in differentiating one hotel from another.  Some guestroom technology choices have included display phones, RFID door locks, iPad® or touch pads that control lighting and drapes, minibars, all-in-one alarm clock/iPad® music playing/device charging bedside companions, and of course, bigger and badder and more HD’er TVs.  Today it seems, the hottest trend has to do with the guestroom television.

As an industry, we’ve pretty much agreed (indicated by what most guestrooms have) that the TV needs to be flat, needs to be HD and needs to be as big as the room, or budget, will allow.  The real argument, or challenge, now has to do with what the TV will show. VOD is pretty much dead; so is the TV then only going to show free-to-guest channels?  I don’t think so!  We can’t let that major investment sit idle as guests, fed up with network TV showing commercials about 30 percent of the time, watching their own content on their own, tiny screens.

There are many companies that can help a hotelier provide a graphical user interface (GUI) that offers new, hotel/location-specific, relevant and interesting content. These would fall into the DIY category for hoteliers.  And, there are several TV manufacturers coming out with hospitality-grade TVs that enable guests to wirelessly connect their devices to the TV and play their own content as they wish. This would fall under the BYOD category.

There are several pros in choosing the DIY route. There are many vendors providing this solution, so you have multiple choices. The investment is much less than new TVs which offers some flexibility in the future if a need arises to change providers. Also, what is shown on the TV is just software, which can be updated easily and rapidly.  The hotel retains control of the content creation and display, which allows for branding and managing new revenue opportunities. All of this could easily fit into an overall solution design in which a hotel leverages multiple digital touchpoints throughout the hotel and guestroom.

Some of the negatives about DIY could start with the question of what revenue opportunities. Ever since phones were put into guestrooms, vendors have been preaching about advertising revenue that has yet to make any significant impact.  Providing new technology in a guestroom requires the guest to learn how to use it. Many developers state that their user interfaces are intuitive. Yes, but to what demographic? My generation was used to on/off switches. The next generation was brought up using buttons. Today, it is touchscreens and sliding a finger. If a guest can’t figure out how to use a gadget in a guestroom in 6 seconds, that solution is useless at best, and at worst, a guest complaint. And, the content that a guest is provided access to is somewhat limited.

BYOD has its own set of pros and cons. On the positive side, one can start with guest satisfaction. For a guest using his own device to display his own content on an HD screen 50 to 100 times bigger than what he is used to, he has to be impressed. A hotel that chooses this route needs not worry about constant content development or refreshment, nor worry about downloading new updates in the middle of the night.
For the cons we could start with the fact that the number of TV manufacturers supporting this is relatively small. After spending a significant amount for TVs, changing solutions in the future will be much less attractive. There will be no branding opportunities for the hotel, no way to show hotel amenities or local attractions, and no revenue opportunities.  This leads to the always present ROI discussion, which in this case will only be able to measure soft dollars.  The last con has to do with trusting the manufacturer to stay in the hospitality vertical. If one adds up all of the guestrooms in the United States, that number is still about 25 percent less than the number of people who live in Manhattan. The market in hotels is small, and historically many vendors and manufacturers have entered this space and only stayed in it for a matter of a few years.

Think hard about how you want to provide TV content in your hotel.  Is it DIY or BYOD?  Of course, there is a third option, the hybrid alternative.

Dan Phillips is a partner at Dare to Imagine and can be reached at dphillips@dare2i.com.

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