Addressing Noise in Guestrooms: A Q&A with Matt Carter

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How serious is the noise problem for hotels?

According to surveys conducted by J.D. Power, noise regularly tops the list of complaints, ranking either first or second across all property types. However, research also shows that nearly 60 per cent of guests don’t complain to staff at the time they experience this problem; instead, they simply decide not to return and tend to post negative comments online. From there, the problem can escalate, as nearly the same percentage of potential guests actively seek positive reviews about sleep quality before making a reservation. The property’s reputation and financial health suffer. And, of course, if the hotelier attempts to solve this problem using the wrong solutions, they can end up spending a great deal of money with little to no return on their investment.

What are the main sources of noise disturbance?

Guests can feel as though noise is coming at them from all directions. Exterior sources include road, rail and air traffic, nearby bars and construction projects, as well as general city noise. Noises are also generated inside hotels — in neighbouring rooms, corridors and other floors. Slamming doors, elevators, phone calls, TVs, radios, alarm clocks and children playing are just a few examples. While properties tend to focus on the most persistent problems, the reality is that they never know what two guests will end up sharing a wall on a given night.

What types of noise control solutions have hotels tried? Are they effective?

For years, hotels have tried various construction, policy and amenity-based tactics; however, noise complaints persist. Many properties have pursued structural fixes — adding more isolation and absorption—and purchased quieter equipment, which can cost thousands per room but doesn’t address the root of the problem. Clearly, walls, windows and doors need to provide a suitable level of isolation, equipment should be designed to produce as little noise as possible, and ideally, one should locate noise-producing areas away from guest rooms. But to a large extent, most hotels already perform fairly well on these fronts. A new approach is needed that tackles the problem from a different angle.

We’ve studied guestrooms around the world and found that most actually suffer from the same issue we’ve successfully addressed in offices over the last 40 years: background sound levels that are far too low. In these ‘library-like’ or ‘pin-drop’ conditions, all kinds of sounds are audible and even low-volume noises are sufficient to irritate or awaken occupants. Simply using higher spec walls, windows, doors and absorptive materials can’t address this issue and, in fact, can make it worse by further reducing the room’s ambient level.

How does MODIO Guestroom Acoustic Control address noise?

MODIO raises the background sound level using a consistent, comfortable sound that’s similar to softly blowing air. It covers up many noises and reduces the disruptive impact of others by decreasing the amount of change between baseline and peak volumes in the room. In the past, guests have tried to achieve a similar effect by turning on the fan or a ‘white noise’ app, but mechanical systems aren’t designed for this purpose and mobile phones fall considerably short of what a commercial-grade sound masking product can achieve. With MODIO, guests benefit from the same world-leading technology used by our corporate, healthcare and military clients. Guests can adjust the masking level to their liking, allowing them to control their room’s ambience the same way they would temperature and lighting.

Why did you develop MODIO?

Prior to MODIO’s launch, we successfully implemented our commercial sound-masking system, LogiSon Acoustic Network, in properties for Hilton, Marriott, Fairmont, The Ritz Carlton and Dream Hotel, as well as in the Tribeca Grand Hotel and Fogo Island Inn. Although feedback from both hotel guests and managers who experienced the technology was overwhelmingly positive, we decided to go back to the drawing board to integrate what we’d learned into a new product specifically designed for hotel guestrooms. Hundreds of unsolicited online comments indicate that guests see MODIO as a high-end amenity that prevents the annoyance and poor sleep they might have otherwise experienced during their stay.

For more information, visit modio.audio

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