Hotel guestroom entertainment isn’t about the latest video-game console, iPod dock or movie selection anymore — in fact, it’s not even a hotel amenity, since it travels to the guestroom in a customer’s pocket. Indeed, smartphones and tablets have inspired a whirlwind of innovation in hospitality, since the adoption of mobile check-in, keyless entry and in-room ordering, which offers guests the option to summon room service or housekeeping with a swipe of the finger. It’s the influence of value-conscious and tech-savvy millennials, who reject pay-per-view in favour of watching Youtube or Netflix on their device, that is sending hoteliers on the prowl for new revenue streams and technology that keeps guests engaged with their brand.
“The fundamental part of guestroom entertainment is the ability to take thecontent that exists on whatever device you have and project it on the TV screen,” explains Warren Markwart, principal at the Toronto-based MK2 Hospitality consultancy. “Most millennials don’t need any entertainment delivered to them in a guestroom on a television, because everything they have is on their device. All they need is solid Wi-Fi.”
So, the use of devices, such as tablets, to control in-room entertainment is on the rise. There is scant Canadian data on the topic, but the Randolph, N.J.-based Hospitality Technology’s “Customer Engagement Technology Study 2014” reported a 29-per-cent increase in the use of devices in the U.S. The study, released by the aforementioned news source, predicts 44-per-cent adoption in 2015.
Delta Hotels & Resorts is responding to theguest’s evolving need for connectivity. In 2011, the Toronto-based company embarked on a mission to create a guestroom inspired by the comforts of home, rolling out its ModeRoom design at the Mississauga, Ont.-based Delta Meadowvale Hotel and Conference Centre. It features a SmartDesk workstation with connectivity docks and a 37-inch flat-screen TV with input/output for audio, video and data capabilities.
Last month, it forged on, equipping its newly opened Delta Waterloo in Ontario, and its Delta Toronto flagship location, with Samsung Smart TVs, offering screen-mirroring technology, which allows guests to share content between a smartphone and the TV. “The customer expectation is they want what they have at home. That’s the bottom line…. As an industry we’ve been really trying to play catch-up,” says Paul Gardian, executive director, Brand Operations at Delta Hotels & Resorts.
The upgrades are part of an increased focus on offering value. “Not many customers buy a movie from the TV provider; they bring their own content to the hotels. So, we [didn’t] put video-on-demand solutions in the guestrooms. That saved us a significant capital investment,” says Yu Jin, VP and CIO of Information Technology at Delta Hotels & Resorts.
At The Grand Winnipeg Airport Hotel by Lake-view, which opened last September, each of the 101 guestrooms comes equipped with an iPad and a Smart TV. “We are targeting the corporate, technology-loving traveller,” says Danielle Streilein, assistant GM, The Grand Winnipeg Airport Hotel by Lakeview. IPads come loaded with Calgary-based Guest-Tek’s MyAway app, which lets guests use the tablet like a remote control. “By doing so you see all of your room charges, control the TV from the iPad and use our PVR. By using the PVR with this app, you are able to take the in-room iPad anywhere in the hotel and watch TV shows you have recorded, or you can stream them to your guestroom TV,” she adds.
At Calgary’s 185-room boutique Hotel Arts, investing in substantial upgrades to the guestroom
experience is keeping the independently owned property relevant to its business traveller demo-graphic. Its suite bathrooms were recently equipped with mirror LED TV screens. In May, hotel management turned to Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sonifi Solutions (formerly LodgeNet Interactive) to implement pay-per-view, paid music-on-demand and complimentary TV services. The guest simply downloads an app by scanning a barcode on the TV screen. “The program allows you to use your mobile phone as a remote to flip through channels, watch movies, choose music as well as navigate through all of the hotel information we provide on the TV instead of using the hotel remote control,” explains Katie Mayer, marketing and media-relations manager for Hotel Arts Group.
While the entertainment experience is being elevated at hotels, MK2 Hospitality’s Markwart cautions that having enough bandwidth to support the solid stream of data remains a challenge. According to Hospitality Technology’s “Lodging Technology Study 2014,” 63 per cent of operators surveyed said they plan to increase their bandwidth this year. “With guests bringing their own devices into the hotel, the focus has largely shifted away from in-room technology and onto the infrastructure needed to support those devices,” the report reads.
To ensure customers are getting the fast speed they desire, the Delta Waterloo offers a tiered Wi-Fi package. Its free basic Wi-Fi is suited for checking email and browsing the Internet, while its premium $9.99 option affords guests the bandwidth to stream videos and play online games.
But, as the need for bandwidth increases, so too does the need for rich content. “Feeding content one way is not going to be good enough in the future,” predicts James Politeski, enterprise business leader and COO at Samsung Canada, based in Mississauga, Ont. “It’s going to be a combination of content; it’s also going to be interactive and a more immersive experience in the room, so not only does it create revenue streams for the hotel, but the guest experience goes up.”