Vicki Williams connects with hoteliers to identify the trends in in in-room entertainment.
The clearest trend in in-room entertainment (IRE) is simply this: it is dependent on the property and its client base. There’s no real formula here This ranges from no in-room entertainment, unless requested, for guests looking for a complete digital detox, to properties targeting millennials who want one voice commanded device to control everything, to the mainstream, in which guests simply want a decent television with a good selection of channels.
Creating an “at home, but better” experience is however, an underlying thread that is common to the majority of hotels, and is perhaps a greater trend than the actual equipment provided.
According to one study almost 40 per cent of guests expect the hotel in-room entertainment experience to be better than at home. This expectation is, not surprisingly, lowest in the economy tier, progressively increasing inline with the quality of the hotel.
When it comes to the all-important television, it is more about picture clarity, channel variation and premium content over size. Although its size is important when it comes to personal device versus television. For example, one industry study showed that two-thirds of guests prefer to watch content on the television over their device, preferring to watch content on the biggest available screen with the best audio and picture quality.
An example of responding to and meeting the needs of their targeted guests is the newly opened Grand Mercure Foshan Country Garden, Foshan, China. Jessica Bu, general manager explained that a decision was made to include a large satellite television (49-inch), as the only IRE. “Our hotel is for business travellers on weekdays and for leisure travellers on weekends, so not too much IRE is necessary.” Adding, that guests currently care more about location, brand and price, than IRE.
According to Lifestyle Panel, a provider of hotel guest engagement systems, “While streaming services are popular, guests still like to watch TV like they do at home. Offering big, high resolution televisions with a wide range of channels is important for hotels to ensure their guests can enjoy at least the same entertainment services as they do at home.”
Guest engagement systems, which are already being used in some higher-end hotel chains, merge entertainment and technology. Through an IPTV guests can watch the telly, movies on demand, browse the web, check messages, discover more about the hotel and its services, and access personal device content.
Ideally, also according to Lifestyle Panel, “Along with mobile device integration, guests are wanting more channels, high picture quality, and premium content. Hotels need to recognise this demand and provide a variety of premium content displayed on high quality smart TVs.”
Of course, the holy grail for some guests is being able to watch personal device content via the in-room telly, which is an option being explored by some hotels.
Recognising this demand and responding to its guest needs is Cordis, Hong Kong, which attracts a tech savvy clientele. Standard rooms at the hotel include 40-inch Smart TV with mirroring function that allows device content to be displayed on the television. There is also a media hub with HDMI, VGA, Winless display and Bluetooth connection with television; and an iHome Player, which includes a radio and bluetooth music speaker. The technology even extends to beyond the room with the provision of a smartphone for the duration of the stay.
“Suites come with all of the above in-room entertainment options plus the addition of a 46-inch smart TV in the living room, also with mirroring function,” says director of housekeeping, Jimmy Lo.
Some hotels are naturally hesitant about what to purchase, especially when it comes to the television, due to technology quickly becoming obsolete and the need for continually replacement but it is necessary to stay competitive in mature markets. “Unfortunately this (replacement cycle) can’t be avoided, and neither can it be ignored.”
When it comes to the future of IRE experts say that like it or not, millennials are going to be the main influence in its direction. According to hospitality technology publication, Hospitality Upgrade, increasing evidence supports the theory that technology changes to IRE are not being driven by the demographic instead, “Millennials are simply early adopters of new technology that is coming no matter what.” Concluding, “Hotels that centre an IRE strategy around what millennials are doing will be in good stead in the future.”
In this regards, tech experts point to the growth of cloud-based systems as a potential solution that can meet and perhaps exceed guests’ IRE expectations in the future.
“To make IRE more intelligent and easier to operate is definitely a key growing trend,” says Bu.
Another item to watch for is smart speakers, a big trend in the US, and while the market is still in its infancy in Asia, analysts expect this to substantially change within the next 18 months.
Analysts also believe that not all technology innovations will be worth the investment for every hotel, but they are certainly worth considering.