By Tim Butterworth, independent hotel technology professional and advisory board member of Hospitality Technology Europe (HTE)
As a road warrior accustomed to going from hotel to hotel, you’d probably think I could list TV channels everywhere from Botswana to Belarus. The fact is, having spent more time on the road these past couple of years than I have in my entire life, I honestly can’t think of the last time I turned on a hotel TV.
Despite being so ubiquitous, in-room TV’s are the last bastion of hotel technology that has failed to keep pace with the rest of the wider guest experience and one area where hotels can be accused of failing to invest. As a result, guests ignore the in-room TV in favour of downloaded content on their own devices.
This wasn’t always the case. Hotel guests used to revel in the fact that they could view more channels than they could at home. But consumer device technologies and television viewing habits have changed immeasurably since the days of ‘I Love Lucy’, and the hotel TV market now needs to keep up.
With the exception of sport, breaking news or the odd awards ceremony, nowadays the viewing of live TV is a dwindling activity. Staying at a hotel, guests lack the freedom to time-shift and watch what they want, when they want. Instead guests are commonly relegated to whatever channels the hotel provides and the on-demand pay-per-view movies.
With housekeeping staff finding themselves spending increasing amounts of time feather-dusting TV’s, savvy hoteliers ought to take action before this guest experience feature fades into obscurity.
The opportunity lies with integration; successfully connecting individual devices to in-room TV’s, thereby allowing guests to watch whatever they want on a flat screen as opposed to an iPad. Technology integrators are working hard to make this ‘switch’ as easy as possible and convince GMs of its benefits, both from a guest and hotelier point of view.
For the guest, it couldn’t be more clear cut. With seamless integration between their own individual device and a hotel’s in-room TV, they can watch downloaded content, stream movies, surf online or even Skype with friends and family back home.
For the hoteliers, the advantages are less tangible. Let’s face it – this costs money and facilitating connection has no direct revenue benefit. While less a game-changing technology than free Wi-Fi – now de rigueur for the industry – the fact is, hoteliers need to look to the long term and ensure their services match modern lifestyles.
One of the hotels leading by example in this arena is the recently opened Palais Hansen Kempinski in Vienna which has installed ‘personal media network solutions’ in each of their rooms. Guests can control their in-room TV from their iPad and enjoy a seamless, unified technology experience from arrival to departure.
Next year’s Hospitality Technology Europe, where Europe’s leading hospitality technology professionals come to update their knowledge, network with peers and most importantly, source new technologies, provides the perfect place for general managers looking to keep pace with what hotels like Kempinski are doing.
Taking place on the 4th and 5th of February 2014 at Earl’s Court in London, the event is focused on providing the industry with a forum in which to share best practice, enhance guest experiences and improve business efficiency and revenues. For anyone working in the hospitality industry and wanting to revolutionise their in-room entertainment it is an unmissable event and one which industry professionals should make an absolute priority to attend.