As a well-travelled child, I remember kicking back in my hotel room, gleefully channel-flicking while my parents ate in the restaurant downstairs. At home, there were four channels, and generally only one was screening anything I wanted to watch. The entertainment gluttony was as much cause for excitement as the permission to take one item from the mini-bar… and only one.
Times have changed. When children and teens arrive at your hotel with several devices in tow, they may have left behind a far more entertainment-rich environment, a plethoric selection of cable channels, and YouTube and Netflix on demand. Faced with the tyranny of this inverted contrast, perhaps the only course of action is to make sure your TV experience measures up.
Your first step is the hardware decision, and selecting the ‘face’ of your entertainment system should be a well-researched endeavour. Some people are quite brand-aware and while it’s not necessary (or possible) to purchase the most expensive TV on the market, choosing a solid brand with a reputation for quality and reliability speaks volumes.
Size does matter and while there’s no need to compete with purpose-built ‘media rooms’, most guests will expect to see a screen equal to, or bigger than, the one in their bedroom.
Look around the room: make sure your TV is proportional and that the picture can clearly be seen from the bed. A good test is can I read the subtitles from the bed?
This is where the topic departs from ‘general’ and enters ‘expert knowledge’ territory. How to access in-room content? How to enhance the audio-visual experience in the guestroom? What else can your integrated TV system do for your business? AMG tuned into some industry experts for a clearer picture on hospitality TV.
Regan Baynes of LifestylePanel says hoteliers must move with trends: “As the consumer becomes more tech-savvy, hotels need to evolve to meet the higher expectations from their guests.”
He said: “Technology has gone from being a static analogue platform to a fully interactive and integrated digital offering.
“The platform is fully customised for hotel brand and marketing. This can now encompass interactive TV, wifi, advertising, media streaming, as well as digital signage for hotel promotions.”
According to Mr Baynes, smart hoteliers are enhancing or creating new revenue streams, by offering digital space on guest TV to local business or hotel partners, or using the digital real estate for in-house promotional content: “This digital advertising hits 100 percent of guestrooms, 365 days a year and hotel management can provide real-time updates via the staff console.
“The in-room TV is the best advertising space you have, and you don’t necessarily need to buy new TVs or re-cable your property to provide premium services to your guests, while generating extra revenue.”
Guests ordering breakfast or booking in dry-cleaning through the TV? “These interactive features require integration with hotel PMS and POS systems, but it can all be done.
“These days, hospitality TV is very much about guest engagement, communication and connectivity.”
Guests love their own content, and BYOD connectivity allows them to use their own subscriptions. Ask your provider about screen casting functionality to allow guests with their Android or iOS devices.
“BYOD negates the need for the hoteliers to upgrade to the smart TVs and maximises security, by not having any personal data stored directly on the hotel TV,” Mr Baynes advised.
He says standard hospitality TV and MATV networks are solid starting points and the highly-developed software does the rest. Providers continue to tailor industry-specific products and services, and Mr Baynes says that within an ever-shifting market, the platform needs to be seamless, reliable, and flexible to boot: “We constantly discuss interactions and requirements with our hotel partners to ensure our software is fresh, and able to adapt quickly with new trends.
“Within this fluid market, hotel technology needs to have a stable but flexible platform, so new developments can be launched with minimal disruption.”
Functionality the decider
Michael Carvosso from Westan says functionality is key: “The system should provide an in- room digital compendium that can be updated and managed remotely, allows for streamed content and offers marketing opportunities.”
Mr Carvosso says people want to access what they have at home when they travel but without due diligence, a shared network can compromise guest privacy. He says guest security can be ensured: “In-built security measures ensure that information such as personal passwords and streaming account login details are protected.”
He says servicing the BYOD consumer base is simple with Android connectivity, though working with IOS or Apple will require the deployment of Apple TV. As the modern consumer’s technical expectations sky-rocket, he recommends adopting a system that supports 4K resolution, also known as Ultra High Definition (UHD) to offer that crystal-clear cinematic experience they probably have at home.
“For enhancing your guests’ sound experience, consider installing a forward-firing integrated sound bar, which can deliver sound force superior to surround sound.”
So, what about content?
Mr Carvosso says on-board IPTV integration allows access to movies, and other approved (and legal) streaming services offering sport, music and news: “It’s also possible to ‘side load’ local apps if hotels require it for local content provision.
“An on-board digital compendium allows hotels to build information pages around anything they want, including in-room dining, loyalty programs, a spa treatment menu, or an overview of the recreational facilities they have on offer.”
Mr Carvosso also suggested accommodation managers ensure guests realise what they have at the push of a button: “There’s no point paying for smart TVs and then expecting guests to just figure that they can stream news bulletins.” He suggests loading an introductory information page for viewing when the TV is switched on.
While you’re making life easy for guests, remember that not all are the children of the tech revolution: “If the least tech-savvy person you know can’t figure something out, don’t offer it in your guestrooms. It will end up unused, or causing unwelcome service issues for your staff.”
Regarding hardware? “Reliability is vital, and busy hoteliers don’t have time to take TVs to service centres, nor can they afford to have rooms out of action while repairs are completed. So, make sure your provider offers an onsite warranty.”