Guests expect at the very least, sophisticated entertainment facilities equal to what they enjoy at home when they relax in their hotel rooms – if not better.
Just when you thought all your guests’ in-room desires had been catered for, along comes Internet protocol television, easier remembered as ‘smart TVs’. Another technology to fund and grasp the intricacies of is the common reaction, yet in many ways, this new technological evolution actually simplifies in-room connectivity and entertainment. Guests can use their televisions to do virtually anything they want – browse the Internet quickly and securely; access social media to keep abreast of family and friends; use WebMail services; contact work or home through VoIP or Skype; and, of course, embrace a movie or two. And not just watch a movie but enjoy high definition viewing of movies-on-demand, free-to-air channels, subscriber TV and hotel specific content such as a compendium, promotion of on-site facilities and local information – no queuing or waiting for rotation of titles. And with full ‘trick play’ facilities. Guests can also access a wide variety of web based apps and multi-lingual functions are also available.
Especially important for corporate travellers, guests can use their own laptops or other devices without altering their own setups – the can use their own POP or SMPT settings or corporate VPNs.
All from one user-friendly remote.
For now the landscape of what guests want to consume and how they want to consume it changes rapidly and according to Jamie Hind, managing director of Tripleplay Australasia, “Properties must be able to keep up and must have the capability to manage the guest experience – get this and the network right and you have a platform and a solution that will serve you well now and allow you to add features and functionality as and when the need arises.”
This is good advice indeed but it is difficult for the accommodation managers to navigate the myriad of guest demands and product options that need to be considered.
When Mr Hind says, “One size does not fit all” he hits the nail on the head. Every accommodation is different and each guest’s needs and expectations are too. In addition each provider of in-room entertainment has a strong belief that they offer the solution.
In a society both obsessed and as reliant on its gadgets as ours is, we know that a large number of guests bring their own devices with them and like to watch their own movies and programs in the comfort of their room. We asked Jan Strijker from Brantas International Technology Ltd, why do guests want to use their own devices? His theory is, “Because they have installed music, movies and photo’s on their devices and want to play that content at home, in the office and during their travels, on planes and in hotel rooms.”
Mr Strijker points out that guests expect to be able to play that content on the hotel TV or docking stations just like they do at home.
“A media hub is a panel that is permanently connected to the TV and is generally mounted into the furniture,” he explains. “It allows guests to quickly and easily plug their device into the in room TV so that they can watch their own movies or play their own games or music on the in-room TV.”
This option has the benefit of easy connectivity, meaning that the guest doesn’t have to fiddle with wires behind the TV to connect their device that could impact the next guest or cause damage the TV. The “active” media hub option offers plug and play compatibility meaning that when the guest plugs in their device, it auto detects this and switches the TV to play the content automatically without the need for the guest to pick up the remote control or do anything further.
Another popular device is the iHomes offer the guest the ability to charge their gadgets as well as play music and serves as a bedside clock radio. The iHomes are the only devices of its sort which have hotel mode functionality, allowing hotel operators to lock them down and prevent guests from changing preset radio channels and time settings as well as have only one time alarm setting..
Likewise once the guest has finished playing their content they simply remove the cable and the media hub returns the TV to where it was before it took control of the TV.
Sales manager of Lifestylepanel P/L for NZ, Arvin Lawler, suggests that he can deliver all the key elements to meet the expectations of guests for quality information, communication and entertainment into one single easy to use appliance and interface.
The second generation of the Lifestlyepanel meets the challenge that accommodation providers often have – the frustration of guests who are unable to work or be informed/entertained by their in room entertainment. Movies-on-demand, free-to-air and cable TV, Internet and wifi can all be accessed by the remote control or wireless keyboard, along with hotel and local information. The Lifestylepanel television can be purchased outright or there are rent to own options. The system is complemented daily rate options allowing full flexibility for the hotel to manage all income streams the system generates.
Importantly, with IPTV accommodation managers can manage content. By selecting easy-to-use templates the accommodation provider can edit and impart text, images and video clips to compose promotional material on the property itself to inform guests in a very exciting and visual way what facilities your complex offers such as dining, bars, spas, gyms and children’s offerings. These have the facility of being able to be personalised with guest name and, if available, their photo. It can also allow you to promote other businesses in your locale (for a cost) such as restaurants, shops, salons, theatre and tourist attractions – flexibly: easily added to or deleted from.
This adds a new dimension to upselling guests rather than just tent cards on mini bars and ads in lifts.
You can simulcast movies to any number of rooms, allow your guests to select from a library of titles or the usual free-to-air and paid solutions.
Add to this the freedom to add a guest welcome message, account review facility, room maintenance notice and a lot more extras.
Couran Cove selects up-to-the-minute IPTV
Ramada Couran Cove Island Resort on South Stradbroke Island became part of the Ramada group in July after it was purchased late last year by Brisbane businessman Craig Dowling of Couran Cove Holdings.
The 350-room resort underwent a very major refurbishment to meet the exacting standards of its unique clientele and the rigorous performance levels set by Ramada.
The refurbishment included a complete installation of an up-to-the-minute IPTV system by Lifestylepanel P/L.
Keith Blott, director of sales & marketing for Ramada Couran Cove Island Resort told AMG, “The old system did not allow us to provide the level of service to our guests that we wanted to give.
“Utilising a smart TV with the Lifestylepanel system means that we are offering superior technology for our guests and giving them access to resort services that we could not previously provide. Examples are being able to book reservations at the restaurants or purchase food items from the general store from the TV browser. Also, the growing trend in homes is towards smart TVs to check Internet/social media which this system provides.”
Installation and set up for the resort was quite painless. “No disruption at all – very smooth and straightforward. And the reaction from staff is excellent – everyone is surprised at just how easy the system is to operate and understand. Guests have also commented very favourably about the system.”
Ross Coldwell, managing director of Lifestylepanel P/L, said that his company can deliver all the key elements to meet the expectations of guests for quality information, communication and entertainment into one single easy to use appliance and interface which is why it is perfectly suited to Ramada Couran Cove Island Resort.
“Wi-fi coverage was a major concern due to the spread out nature of the property; many guests now travel with multiple portable devices and require wi-fi access. The Lifestylepanel TV has full wi-fi access embedded into the TV and allows multiple device connectivity using one unique code on the TV – very simply for our guests and no staff intervention required, there was also an added benefit to the resort of no additional capital cost to setup an external wi-fi network”.
Mr Coldwell believes that the Lifestylepanel satisfies both guests and management expectations alike in an affordable package that delivers high quality and good service.