It used to be that one of the exciting things about staying in a in a hotel was experiencing a higher level of accommodations than what one has regularly - from the deluxe king sized bed, to the vast array of on-demand movies, the high speed Internet access, and the built-in game consoles for the kids. Somewhere along the way, however, the hotel industry fell behind with regards to the in-room technology. Even in high end luxury or resort level hotels, the average guest settles for an in-room technology package that was far less than what he or she had available at home.
At home technology on the rise
Today's average home features a large flat panel LCD or Plasma TV, with a content package that
includes high definition channels and an assortment of on-demand movies. It's not uncommon to find broadband Internet access, one or more high-definition gaming consoles and an entire home theater to heighten the overall experience. These average guests also have an iPod or other type of MP3 player, a digital camera/camcorder, multiple computers, and virtually unlimited free long distance via arrangements with Skype or Vonage.
When this average guest travels the challenge now becomes dealing with, as opposed to enjoying, the current in-room technology and trying to adapt it to a semblance of the home experience. This guest is no longer wowed with an in-room technology offering that exceeds what he and she has at home, but instead is left wanting at the choices of today's modern hotel offering.
Solutions that are sure to please
Fortunately, solutions are emerging that will once again give guests something to be excited about. The "triple-play" convergence of voice, video, and data over a single network is setting the stage as the next big thing in hotel technologies and the foundation on which many great guest experiences will be built. No longer will a hotel guest room consist of just a telephone and a TV. Instead, guest portals will be presented on an IP telephone display, on a flat panel IPTV screen, and even as the Internet launch page on a guest's notebook PC. In addition to providing dial tone, TV programming, and Internet access, these guest portals will customize each guest's experience. For example, using the portal of their choice, guests will be able to enter and confirm their own wake up calls, order their own room service, purchase theatre tickets, make dinner reservations, check their stock prices, look at street level maps and listen to virtually any radio station in the world.
Outlet managers can use these guest portals to increase revenues in their facilities. For example, it is 3:00pm and the Spa Director sees holes in the afternoon appointment line-up. To help fill them in, a message blast across the bottom of the TV screen or on the telephone display can be sent out to every guest room offering a significant discount for booking a last-minute appointment. Based on trends, in-room technology offerings can be yield managed in the same manner as room rates to increase take rates and maximize revenue streams.
Technology for the future?
Very soon, it will be the norm to offer in-room PVR (personal video recorder) capabilities or the ability to tune in local channels from one's home town. Imagine being at a hotel conference and interested in the day's keynote speaker, but really wanting to squeeze in another round of golf (knowing your boss will ask you about the speech). Or perhaps there are three different sessions you want to attend, but are all scheduled for the same time. Soon, that will not be a problem at all- a guest can play golf and catch missed sessions later from the privacy of the guest room when the hotel captures the presentation and offers it as a new kind of video-on-demand. The boundaries of these guest portals will only be limited by what the hotelier wants from them.
To really enhance the guest experience, hotel systems like PMS, CRM and others can be built on this triple-play converged foundation. Guest preferences can be tracked and pre-loaded to a guest's room in advance to create a truly unique guest experience. When a regular guest checks into a hotel room, the telephone system automatically assigns a personal DID number (the same one he or she had for previous stays); the TV favorites menu is set to favorites, language and other preferences are ready according to pre-established customizations. The room is ready with preferred lighting and temperature levels.
The hotel industry may have fallen behind the average guest's home with regards to in-room technology. However, the new competitive set will be defined by those that can once again raise the guest experience bar. As this new breed of guest, the Millennial Generation, becomes the target market, those that embrace these in-room technology trends now will be the ones that reap the rewards of higher occupancy rates, and much higher GSS scores in the future.