The expectations of hotel guests has changed radically in recent years. Having a comfortable place to stay is no longer enough. Today, the digitally-connected traveller wants a hotel room that lets them stay connected from the moment they arrive, while also enjoying the same technology they use at home.
Even if your guests are just using your hotel room as a base to lay their head, the time they spend relaxing will invariably involve watching TV, listening to music, or browsing the net.
This reliance on personal technology and a surge in the popularity of on-demand entertainment are both transforming what guests want and expect from a hotel room.
With that in mind, let’s explore where in-room hotel technology is going, and how it needs to evolve to meet changing expectations.
The Boom in On-demand Entertainment
A lot of guests arrive at a hotel with their own entertainment, often bringing multiple devices with them. These days, they’re more likely to watch a Netflix show on their tablet than pay to watch a movie on the hotel TV.
This trend is simply a sign of the times. A recent report by Nielsen found that nearly two-thirds of people around the globe watch some form of on-demand content. On-demand content allows you to watch what you like, when you like over the internet. It’s worth stating that people are still watching traditional TV and cable services, but there’s a clear shift towards on-demand content and streaming services.
This means that today’s hotel guest has more content than ever at their fingertips.
So while a large flat screen TV is still a nice perk, it isn’t the be-all and end-all of in-room entertainment. Just as crucial, hotels need to provide support to allow guests to use the devices they bring with them.
Easy Access to Personal Devices
Seamless connectivity and a frictionless online experience are key to guest satisfaction. The modern day traveller wants to stay connected at all times, and most now expect a hotel to offer free, high-speed Wi-Fi.
Equally, guests don’t want the hassle of complicated log-in procedures, or have their internet sessions time-out. These seemingly minor frustrations are a sure-fire way to aggravate your guests and send them straight to TripAdvisor to air their grievances.
Beyond free and fast internet access, it’s crucial that your hotel rooms have plenty of easy-to-access power outlets – especially since most people bring multiple devices with them. Even better, equip your hotel rooms with USB ports. This will also save your overseas guests the inconvenience of needing a travel adaptor.
Personal Content and Streaming Services
In the survey by Nielson, over two-thirds of respondents said that watching video-on-demand on an online or mobile device is not as good as watching on a bigger screen.
Moving forward, it seems in-room entertainment is almost certainly going to revolve around the hotel TV. As internet-enabled Smart TVs become prevalent in the home, guests will arrive expecting to stream their favourite Netflix, Stan or Amazon Prime show on the hotel room TV.
The way people listen to music has changed radically too. The boom in internet-based music platforms like Spotify mean that guests will appreciate the ability to play their music via Bluetooth thru the in-room TV speakers or clock with Bluetooth and speaker.
As discussed in a previous article, casting services are set to play a leading role in this development. Services such as Roomcast (powered by Google’s Chromecast) now enable guests to easily and securely ‘cast’ their own content on the in-room TV.
Of course, personal devices aren’t just used for entertainment. Travellers rely on them for a host of reasons, from checking the latest weather and researching trips, to checking out the local dining scene and uploading holiday photos to Facebook.
Again, this is where streaming services can offer huge value. Rather than being restricted to a small screen, giving guests the ability to cast content from a personal device to the in-room TV makes for a far less restricted and much more enjoyable online experience.
Yet despite these benefits, the current generation of streaming services still have some limitations. Namely, the lack of a universal system that works across all platforms.
Limitations of Streaming
At present, consumers can stream and mirror content on Android devices, such as Samsung and LG. Apple TV offers streaming and mirroring for iOS and Mac OS. But neither solution works with the other.
Chromecast bridges the gap (because it works on both Android and iOS), but you can’t play content from iTunes via Chromecast.
As a possible solution, the future might involve a next-generation solution that combines streaming with app-based technology.
How Streaming Services could Evolve
So what might a new generation of app-based solution look like? Having the apps on the TV itself wouldn’t be ideal. Guests would have to use the hotel remote to enter their login details which is fiddly. Also, many guests would worry about entering their personal details into the TV to access these apps because the TV will store them unless it is able to be reset or wiped once the guest checks-out.
But here’s how it could work. Imagine a device (like an Apple TV) that lets you upload your own apps (such as Netflix, Stan or Amazon Prime, etc.) and profile to it at the push of a button via your smartphone. The apps then displayed on the TV would be yours with your credentials, reflecting the same kind of experience you have at home.
Voice control technology would make this interaction even easier. Products like Apple TV already have voice control built in. So this next-generation experience would allow guests to navigate and play personal content without touching a button. Instead, they would simply ‘ask’ the TV to play (say) the latest Stranger Things episode.
What about security concerns? The device would automatically clear itself of personal credentials, settings, content and any downloaded apps when a guest checks out. That is the device would be restored to a standardised per-property configuration – ready and waiting for the next guest to make it their own.
Redefining the In-room Experience
As access and dependence on personal devices grows, the future of in-room entertainment will be defined by what your guests bring with them – and how well you can enhance the experience of them using these devices whilst staying with you.
Super-fast Wi-Fi, casting services, and voice-activated devices will no longer be an appreciated luxury. They’ll become a hardwired expectation. This isn’t far off, either. These technologies are already here – moving into the domestic setting and becoming seamlessly integrated into everyday life.
Entertainment autonomy and an office-away-from-the-office are what your future guests are going to be looking for. Understanding these changing expectations and investing in the right technology is going to be crucial to remain relevant and gain a competitive edge in the coming years.