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Hotel In-room Entertainment: Keeping pace in the ‘technetronic’ race

With the way we live, our habits and culture being driven by advances in technology, hotels are doing their best to keep their In-room Entertainment up to date with the technology curve, finds Nivesh Bhagtani

Thursday, November 19, 2015, 15:30 Hrs  [IST]

Samiksh AgarwalThough the ignition of the very spark of ‘Digital India’ within the hearts of Indians can be  appropriated to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent meet with Facebook czar, Mark Zukerberg,  the Indian hotel industry has already been brooding over the concept of ‘digitalized hospitality’, as its relentless endeavour to cater to the requirements of the modern day tech-savvy guest.

Technology becoming a prime staple for almost everyone in contemporary times, has taken over today’s traveller as well, irrespective of the purpose of one’s visit to a destination, compelling hoteliers to move ahead in terms of rendering ‘technological amenities’ during their stay. With consistent advancement, technology in hotels cannot be limited to conceptualizing check-in kiosks or merely offering high speed internet access.

“The hospitality segment has not remained untouched by evolving technologies. With the surge of smart devices like mobile phones, Smart TVs, tablets and cameras, guests visiting hotels with these smart devices need instant access to internet for in-room work and entertainment as well,” says  Samiksh Aggarwal, of Elite Core Concepts. “Apart from browsing and chatting, guests look forward to seamless internet connectivity for streaming videos, Mobile TV, video calling and video conferencing. Moreover, these facilities are expected not only in-room but also in other premises in the hotels like restaurants, pool or garden.”

Anand KhannaThe Technophile Guests
With leading global gizmo companies coming out with high-powered devices with the best of configurations, it has become the hour’s need for hotel rooms to reflect these advances since it hasn’t just remained about television and telephone anymore. “Gone are the days when the in-room entertainment options were merely limited to a television box. With technological advancement, it is not just the traditional options  that have evolved into equipped ones, but the hotels have gone beyond ‘that extra mile’ in rendering state -of-the-class and added entertainment options to the guest. This change is quite conspicuous throughout the prominent segments of the hospitality industry,” says Anand Khanna, Front Office Manager, Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon.

According to a study, a traveller is observed to be carrying an average of three Wi- Fi enabled devices. The number surely surges in the case of business travellers who not only expect more amenities in support of their devices’ functioning and connectivity but also look forward to some innovative entertaining concepts in-room to appease the boggled mind after a hectic day. The in- room entertainment demands in leisure hotels would be considerably less vis-à-vis their business counterparts since the guests usually are curious to explore the destination beyond the bricks and mortar of the hotel.

Today, . a guest’s stay in a hotel is not merely limited to the expectations of class-apart services, luxurious amenities and scrumptious food & beverage, guests’ feedback have revealed a significant shift in preferential trends. The otherwise common concerns from the guests’ perspective have been replaced with the latest ones related to their technological preferences.

Satrajit ChakrabortySatrajit Chakraborty, Regional Manager – North, MSR IT Solution Pvt. Ltd,says, “The technology in hotels should be simple keeping in mind the seamlessness a guest  looks forward to. It should be intuitive technology that would integrate all the services being offered in the entire establishment by being compatible with a user’s own smart devices”

The established hotels have not only sought to introduce the latest technology in their archaic infrastructure but have also started to install contemporary gadgets and gizmos a client might need in a room during the stay. “The hotels today are swift enough to anticipate and cater to the needs of the modern-day traveller having proclivity towards technology. The very concept of ‘being hospitable’ signifies an attempt to entertain our guests along with rendering a comfortable and sophisticated stay. Every hotel ought to be equipped with an advanced version of the gadgets and gizmos in an attempt to keep their guests seamlessly engaged with their tasks,” asserts Khanna.

amit menonMoving a Step Ahead
Technological upgradation in hotels is not just about the bandwidth number to facilitate high-speed connectivity for users. It  also includes the latest gadgets which could enhance the guest’s stay in terms of entertainment and work. Commenting upon the significance of technology in the hotel sector, Amit Menon, Front Office Manager, Courtyard by Marriott, Agra has a valid point to put forth. “In today’s day and age, technology aids communication and streamlines the entire guest experience,  right from the initial reservation process to final checkout. Digital connectivity is the current trend of in-room entertainment in most hotels these days.”

Lynn MurrayTelevisions now merely adorn the walls of  guest rooms, having  taken the backseat to laptops, tablets and mobile phones which tend to squeeze the hotel’s bandwidth, however high its capacity. Further, the falling trend of television use has also resulted in the decline of ‘pay-per-view’ concept which is being replaced by online streaming, consequently  leading  to the slump in hotel revenue from in -room entertainment facilities like ‘Channels on Demand’ and ‘Movie By Order’. “Guest’s now look at the hotel’s ability to provide them with a seamless internet connection which will allow them to stream online content on their in-room entertainment system through multiple devices while using Wi-Fi connectivity,” says Lynn Murray, Director of Rooms, Grand Hyatt Goa .

As per the Skift Trend Report, only 9% of hotel guests use TV in guest rooms today which is relatively a lower number. Nonetheless, the utility of the television has still not receded into oblivion. Though internet services can be availed at zero charges in almost every hotel company today, the speed issue has always been existing due to the surge in number of users browsing heavy data. In such cases, the hotels have also been offering a high-end package on extra payment which delivers a seamless experience which has not been a guest’s common choice owing to the charges it comes with. Thus, a television comes to the recue at least for entertainment purposes. Many hotels have come up with upgrading their traditional television’s signal receptive systems with the set top boxes, which offers a gamut of channels ranging from international ones to their HD versions.

M. SrinivasanThe Fast & Furious Pace of Evolution
Today, hotel owners seem prodigal in churning out money in equipping a room with almost every technology a guest might want to experience, and it continues to be a consistent challenge for management companies to think ahead of guest’s perception and ensure a tech savvy room.

 “Hotel technology will always lag behind consumer technology by 12 months or more due to considerations of investment layout, complexities of refreshing legacy systems. However, the pace of change will see a dramatic rise, opines Chakraborty.”

Consistent innovation and inventions in technology at a rapid pace is indeed a great sign which stamps our country’s mettle but the pace has equally been posing challenges to the hotels. Quite often technological refurbishment of rooms is not possible due to infrastructural and investment reasons to which a modern day guest is indifferent and expects the most trendy devices available. “It is quite challenging to constantly remain up to date with the way technology grows.  Hotels need to plan their hardware or applications well in advance so as to suit future requirements too,” says M. Srinivasan, Corporate IT Manager, The Leela Hotels, Palaces and Resorts.

“IPTV, Interactive TV, Mobile app solution, Room controls can be used together, individually or in any combination in hotel rooms”, says Chakraborty. “The hotels should adopt technology that is scalable and will last the ROI cycle,” he adds further

sujit singhSujit Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Microsense Private Limited has a similar stand to express, “The pace has surpassed in-room hotel technology to the point of no return. With annual upgrade cycles for consumer technology devices, it’s often a dire task for hotels to implement the technology of the day owing to the financial and structural feasibilities.”

Evolution being inevitable, should be addressed constructively rather than being taken as a necessity for a guest room every now and then. While it is not humanely possible to equip a room with every technological possibility, one should go for ensuring the availability of standardized in-room entertainment options. “When we talk about the rapid evolution of technology, there are several benefits and, at the same time, ill-effects of the same. With increasing popularity of wireless internet and smart devices, hotels need to have intelligent internet access network which only authenticated users are allowed to access,” says Aggarwal.

Towards a Standardized Techno Approach!
Undoubtedly,  the standard in- room entertainment options would be quite subjective given the variance of segments the hotel establishments operate on, but there could always be ‘basic amenities’ in this regard with which a hotel could embed, as a pre requisite for a saleable room. Murray says, “Technology will always evolve as developers look at ways to continuously raise the bar, hotels thereby need to accept this and evolve simultaneously to stay connected and competitive in the market.  A ‘standard’ intelligent in-room technology would be installation of WIFI enabled devices in the rooms which along with its own offerings should enable a guest to play its own content through wireless connectivity.”

lokesh raoAccording to Lokesh Rao, VP-Partnerships & Alliances, Blynk IT, “Standard intelligent in-room technology adoption in this connection is to adopt new technologies as per guest interest and provide guest with facility to access Internet at any touch points like TV / Mobile etc.”

Since both the scope and growth of in-room entertainment options are bound to increase in the coming times, the hotel industry already seems to be getting ready to further enhance the entertainment options in the rooms. According to  Singh of Microsense feels the television and telephone in a room need to be transformed immediately to ensure a sturdy move towards technological advancement. “The two Ts have to change dramatically. In most properties, how hotels provide these amenities is very dated. Televisions need to allow easy viewing of customized programming, including content that guests bring with them, while telephones need to accommodate text devices and messages.”

The Future Lies Ahead!
With the major part of the world getting proactive on applications, Aggarwal is confident of a similar trend in Indian hospitality too. “Hotels are coming up with instant messaging service and mobile applications by which guests can directly communicate with the hotel staff. These applications are integrated with the hotel portal and systems which offer 2-way communication. Incorporating such features will enhance the quality of guest services,” he says.

Even hoteliers are quite optimistic about future revelations of in-room entertainment. M. Srinivasan  from the Leela Group while talking about the probable areas of development, points out, “Hotel TV will hold the future. A key development in the project would be the creation of a dynamic, individualized guidebook apart from facilitating online concierge and assistance with day to day requirement. With this tool tourists can compile their own guidebook adapted to their needs and wishes. For example, including favourite destinations, events and the current weather. Via interactive TV the dynamic guidebook can be produced directly in the hotel room. Afterwards, guests receive a paperback version at the reception.”

Many hotel establishments have started to have their IT Departments outsourced in order to garner professional and wider insights for bolstering the technological upfront of the hospitality sector. “Such an app would be integrated with all major room controllers for lights and climate and features such as drapes, locks and cameras,” says Chakraborty.

Since much of the focus has been laid on providing seamless internet services, many upcoming properties are gearing up for E-Rooms. These are equipped with technology, right from having their rooms accessible through their mobile application to getting checked out virtually through the internal teleconferencing system installed within the hotel. This would enable a guest to interact live with representative of concerned operational department of the hotel, at a screen’s tap.

We live in a ‘technetronic’ era - that is, the way we live, our habits, and hence our very culture as it were,  is  being driven  by advances in technology, electronics, and communication. Hotels can scarce  afford to remain impervious to the challenges posed therein. In-room entertainment must keep pace, nay, stay proactive when it comes to the tech curve. It is certainly a  point that will way heavily in a hotel’s favour when guests opt for hotels.  

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