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In-room Entertainment - Getting Back to the Basics

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November 01, 2009
Guestroom | Technology
Cheryl McGinty

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When choosing the right in-room entertainment technology, it’s easy to lose sight of the basics. Should you add a DVD player to every room? Does a satellite radio make sense for your guests? Do I still need to offer pay-per-view movies?

Your decisions on some novelties may make for a first-rate, high-tech property today, but what about three, five or even 10 years from now?

Entertainment technology is, by definition, dynamic. The best way to navigate through your options is to make sure your entertainment technology is made for today, but scalable for the future.  In other words, look for the common denominators in the entertainment habits of your guests now to find out what they will continue to need tomorrow.

Categories Have Become Misnomers
Baby Boomers, NextGen, business traveler, leisure traveler–they’re all misnomers when it comes to entertainment these days. When you try to define your guests you will see their behaviors are pretty much the same. Even when evaluating the two basic categories–the business traveler versus the leisure traveler–it’s difficult to find the differences. How can you define a business traveler when so many vacationers do business while traveling? Sheraton’s work-life study confirmed that we’re never truly off the clock, with 87 percent of professionals admitting they bring their PDA into the bedroom.

If you’re looking to separate their entertainment habits by generation, recent studies also show a blurring of lines. PhoCusWright, a research firm specializing in travel technology, officially debunked the notion that NextGen travelers are the tech-savvy 20-somethings we see as the next generation of hotel guests. NextGen travelers actually represent one in four guests visiting your hotel. They are active users of the latest entertainment technology and, interestingly, they are equally as likely to be 25, 35 or 65 years old.

So What are They Doing?
Instead of focusing on who your guests are, identify what they are doing. Current technology trends have to be taken into consideration when determining the crucial components of your entertainment system, according to Andrew Huzyk, director of technology for The Peninsula Beverly Hills. He said, “The in-room entertainment system has to, at the very least, match or provide for similar functionality with their personal home entertainment system.”

HD Multimedia
Wi-Fi has become a standard in the home and thus, a deciding factor in choosing a hotel. High-definition content is on its way to becoming a factor as well. Research and markets reported this year that the number of worldwide HDTV households (those with an HDTV plus HD programming) hit 36 million. That number is expected to increase as much as 30 percent by year’s end. Couple that with the fact that most major networks, gaming systems, satellite radio stations, movie rental companies and video download sites are making high-definition content available online and you have a standard in image quality being established.
“Our guests have confirmed over and over that their highest priority is high-definition free-to-guest programming,” said Andriychenko, guestroom technology consultant for Hilton Hotels. With more guests consuming their own HD content online, a combination of new media content with options for both linear and on-demand content makes sense.

Huzyk said, “With the abundance of readily available content now online for guests, the hotel does best to provide a simple and easily accessible portal for the guest, both through universal connectivity and intuitive controls, to be able to maximize their in-room multimedia experience regardless of where and how the content originates.”
Portable Electronics
Accor recently published a study reporting the top five portable devices guests bring into the hotel: a laptop, USB key, digital camera/camcorder, portable music player and smart phone. With more and more portable electronics entering the guestroom, readily accessible power is a necessity, regardless of how or if the guest will use them in the room.

“How many of us sleep with our cell phones charging at our bedsides at night,” said Huzyk. “We’ve designed our new rooms to have more power, with many desks having AC and USB power dedicated solely for guest use.”
Access to the Web
The Internet is leading the way for new entertainment technology. Smart phones, gaming consoles, laptops and media players are all doubling as online entertainment devices whether it’s to download games, movies, music, photos or access social media sites. So use what guests are doing with their portables as a guide for determining what makes sense for your property.

This article introduces concepts that can maximize your digital realities. This is the first in a series of articles aimed to align your digital plans and strategies with your business objectives.

“Guests are utilizing the Internet for everything from general surfing to streaming media to high end gaming,” said Kevin Morgan, Hilton’s senior manager of hotel broadband technology. “Cost of bandwidth will always be a big concern.”

Huzyk said, “Hotels commonly provide a maximum of 512KB, or possibly even 1MB of bandwidth per guest, as a fraction of the overall bandwidth available in the hotel. A readily available high-definition video stream on Hulu, for instance, requires 3.5MB of bandwidth. This is more bandwidth required for one video stream than many hotels have available for all of their guestrooms combined.”

Not only is it crucial to offer Wi-Fi to the guest but a robust online infrastructure also will undoubtedly make an impact on guest in-room entertainment satisfaction. While he admits The Peninsula Beverly Hills recently increased the bandwidth available to its guests by 1,000 percent, Huzyk foresees another significant increase will still be necessary in the next 12 to18 months.

Determine the Basics
There’s no one right answer for what an in-room entertainment system should consist of or look like.  Your guest-facing technology is part of what makes your property unique. Yet, there are common denominators that will stand the test of time like the need to charge, the need for bandwidth and the need for high-definition multimedia.
The hotel guest demands much more autonomy in his or her entertainment than ever before and they have a high level of quality as a standard. Your guests are checking in with their own technologies, their own entertainment options and they want to consume them in the room as they please.

Regardless of age, purpose of travel, whether traveling solo or with their families, having the base technology that caters to the entertainment habits of every individual checking in will make your property attractive to any and all demographics. Investing in the must-haves for a highly personalized experience is something guests will appreciate and pay more for. Now that’s how you leave a lasting impression.

Cheryl McGinty is a partner marketing manager for TeleAdapt, Inc.

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