Travelers' Needs Warrant Full-Property Approach to Guest Facing Technologies

By Richard Senechal, AIA, Senior Vice President, Facilities, Loews Hotels | September 28, 2010

Hotel guests are increasingly accustomed to having the latest and best consumer technologies at their fingertips, thus putting the pressure on hoteliers to deliver on those expectations. Loews Hotels, operator of 19 luxury hotels and resorts across North America, believes that an effective guest technology strategy should anticipate travelers' needs throughout the property and across multiple media. With this in mind, the management team has identified and responded to the following technology trends:

In-room television: HD and interactivity
In the past, hotel rooms featured media and communications technologies more advanced than those found in travelers' own living rooms. "On demand" movies and wireless high-speed Internet access (HSIA) were common in guest rooms long before gaining traction in the consumer market. However, the transition to HDTV in guests' own homes has presented hoteliers with the unique challenge of 'keeping up with the Joneses,' so to speak. As guests turn on flat panel TVs only to be disappointed by sub-standard content, they will turn to their social networking sites to communicate their dissatisfaction, implying that some hoteliers have lost touch with travelers' expectations and are failing in a crucial component of the guest experience.

What's more, this issue is compounded by the growing use of laptops, personal media players and smart phones that are the constant companions of many travelers. In questioning whether the guest room television is still relevant, Loews Hotels found that:

  • On average, viewers watched more than two hours of TV more per week the first quarter of this year than they did in the same period last year.
  • Virtually all guests turn on the television in their rooms -- many within minutes of checking in.
  • When an interactive TV (iTV) experience is available (i.e., on demand entertainment or interactive guest services), more than one out of every three guests will take part in it.

Another key consideration is that the TV is the one in-room amenity that not only significantly impacts a guest's first impression, but also enables an organization to can control and leverage it for branding and marketing at both the brand and property levels.

Mindful of the aforementioned, Loews has accompanied its brand-wide conversion to flat panel TVs with an increasing variety of high-definition (HD) content. Specifically, when the Loews Atlanta Hotel opened in April 2010, a comprehensive HDTV solution that combines an iTV platform (delivering on demand entertainment, hotel promotional programming and exclusive short-form content on the Loews TV Network) with a lineup of popular HD free-to-guest (FTG) channels was among the hotel's key amenities.

HSIA: fast and dependable
Twenty-four-seven business demands and the melding of guests' professional and personal lives have long since moved HSIA from a luxury to the most requested guest amenity. High speed is expected; but since speed is only as useful as it is reliable, it is important for hotels to excel in both dimensions. The Loews Atlanta Hotel's HSIA solution is backed by a system that monitors the property's IP network and all connected devices around the clock. It pro-actively remedies any issues that can be addressed remotely (before guest service is affected), or otherwise alerts a network operations center for human intervention. Best-in-class system components and a robust bandwidth management tool further contribute to delivering wired and wireless service that is both fast and dependable.
 
Meeting rooms: easy IP management
Corporate meeting business has rebounded from the "AIG effect" to be as vibrant as ever. The Loews Atlanta has more than 25,000 square feet of meeting space and counts on group event revenues to contribute significantly to the bottom line. As such, the property's meeting room IP solution must be reliable, flexible and configurable by non-technical staff. The meeting room solution includes a back-end IP management appliance controlled through a simple, Web-based interface. This resource, also installed in other Loews properties, automates highly complex network solutions for meeting room customers including custom SSIDs, dedicated bandwidth, access codes, advanced port configuration and static IP addressing. It also allows the property to deliver custom reports to their groups along with full traffic analysis.
 
Integration: pulling it all together
An important, but largely transparent, aspect of guest technologies at the Loews Atlanta is the complete integration of media and connectivity. Contracting with LodgeNet Interactive Corporation for all of the above solutions has streamlined operations while enabling a more unified "look and feel" across TV and Internet platforms in the hotel's guest rooms, meeting rooms and public areas.

In his role as senior vice president of facilities for Loews Hotels, Richard Senechal, AIA directs the design, construction and facilities management activities for the chain's 19 properties in the US and Canada. Since joining Loews in February of 2005, Senechal has been instrumental in the growth of the hotel company. He is currently overseeing capital spending at all Loews properties; he just completed major guestroom renovations at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel and the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego. Additionally, Mr. Senechal supervised construction and design of the new 414-room Loews Atlanta Hotel which opened on April 1, 2010.

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