The advent of digital media technology and the emergence of Internet-based content are raising the bar in terms of what consumers expect from in-room hotel technology. On one hand, the latest technology gives hotels an opportunity to provide new products and services to guests, but it also brings challenges.
The biggest difficulty is the speed at which technology is evolving, which makes it impossible for hotels to keep up with the latest developments, says Ted Horner, an Australia-based hospitality technology consultant who recently chaired the Hotel Technology Middle East conference in Dubai.
For example, in recent years many hotels took a big step forward and replaced their old TVs with high-definition models, but now 3DTV has emerged as the latest trend to capture the public’s attention, Horner told AMEInfo.com.
‘The problem is we have a gap between the picture quality that we have in our home entertainment systems compared to what we have in hotels,’ he noted.
‘Back in the old days, people went to a hotel to experience technology and see things in a hotel room that they didn’t have at home. Now the boot is on the other foot. Typically at most hotels the experience is somewhat disappointing.’
Despite the challenges of keeping pace with technology, many hotels are embracing the latest advancements to offer new levels of convenience for guests. At the MGM Mirage Aria hotel in Las Vegas, which opened in December of last year, guests using a single remote can use the TV to set the systems in their rooms to their personal preferences, including lighting levels, room temperature, television/video systems, music, drapes and guest services, Horner said.
Hotels are also harnessing the latest mobile phone technology to offer new services and provide a platform for people to access their own content.
US-based LodgeNet is developing an application that will turn a guest’s smartphone into the remote control for the television. The platform will allow for interactive channel guides to appear on the handheld and can store guest preferences that travellers can take from one hotel to another.
The LodgeNet smartphone application also will allow guests to purchase pay-per-view content from their television and then take it with them to watch on their mobile phone. For instance, if a guest starts watching a movie in his or her room and then wants to finish watching the movie in the taxi on the way to their airport, the content can be transferred.
Meanwhile, Hilton Worldwide has launched mobile applications for iPhone and iTouch devices which let guests check in remotely up to 48 hours before arrival as well as make advance room service order through the software’s “Request Upon Arrival” feature.
Not to be outdone, Langham Hotels has rolled out Langham Touch, an iPhone application that offers voice-enabled instructions to help guests get around a city where there is a Langham property. This application allows users to search and view all vital location information without going online, saving on costly international roaming charges.
iPads in every room
Fairmont’s flagship property, The Plaza, goes one step further by providing iPads in every guest room. The tablet PC devices are loaded with Fairmont’s proprietary program, the ‘”virtual concierge application,” which allows guests to access a multimedia video welcome and control such in-hotel experiences as ordering room service, making restaurant reservations, checking airline schedules, and printing boarding passes.
The device also comes preloaded with digital copies of newspapers and magazines. Other hotels offering iPads are the Royalton in New York and The Berkeley hotel in London.