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Home Sweet Hotel: Today’s Traveler Expects a Better Connected Experience (by Chris Ruff)

It was 1992 - just 20 years ago.

A business traveler was attending a conference and called the hotel to make a reservation. They talked to a staff member to book a room. Upon arrival, they checked in and registered at the front desk. They opened the hotel room door with a metal key. To check in with their office, they picked up the hotel phone, dialed a seemingly endless string of numbers on the back of a plastic card, and called their assistant to see if any issues had come up since they left the office the night before.   

Let’s jump ahead to 2012.

The same business traveler needs to go to a seminar, so they pull out their mobile phone and book a room on-line. They enter the room with a keyless room card. As the hotel room door opens, so do the curtains. Their favorite music plays from the smart TV and the lights automatically turn on. The guest checks in with the office by turning on a laptop, tablet, iPod and mobile phone. All are quickly put to use.  

Years ago travel, even business travel, often meant a chance to get away from everything and experience something new and different. Today people want to bring the comforts of home wherever they go. They want to listen to their music, watch their movies, they want their TV shows to be available when they want; not when someone else wants to provide them. Guests routinely bring multiple (two, three and even more) mobile devices into the hotel.

Happy guest, right?  But what if the hotel gets everything right with the physical experience - the reservation is there, the room was perfect, the dinner was great - but not the digital experience? What if our traveler above couldn’t get a signal when trying to finish an important proposal? Or a very weak one that . . . slowed . . . everything . . . way . . . down?  The guest might quickly head to a nearby Starbucks and vow never again to stay at the hotel again.

Beyond just network issues impacting guest experiences, the impact of technology on a hotel’s bottom line has been significant: their customers aren’t renting movies or video games or even making calls from the hotel. Instead they make calls from their cell phone and use Netflix to download movies on their device or they buy books on Kindle. These revenue streams are shrinking or gone completely from a hotel’s income statement.

What to do?

The best hotels are changing and adapting to this new traveler. The smart hotels are the ones who don’t take each of these as a tactical problem to solve, but look at it strategically: how can I make it easy for my guests to enjoy their stay?

They understand their guests expect a seamless technology experience that delivers the information they want, when they want it, in a format that is easy to use. Technology exists to merge all these streams of information together and the best hotels are taking advantage to drive repeat sales – and even get people out of their rooms and into revenue-generating activities.

Some interesting statistics Connected TV Marketing Association:
  • 90% of travelers carry a mobile device
  • 60% of hotel guests download movies on their laptop
  • 67% of business travelers download music on their computers
  • 54% of hotel guests want to view images from their computer on the in-room television
  • 65% of business travelers had a poor internet experience over the last year and would not return to a hotel where that happened

What do this mean for the hospitality industry?   

  • The need for providing enough bandwidth is key.  Guests demand it; whether it is free or an additional cost.  While the investment to upgrade networks and bandwidth is costly, it is also a necessity.  To help with costs associated with bandwidth, hotels are looking into many options:
    1. Offering a tiered pay system, where basic internet for surfing the web and checking email is free but more involved internet activities like streaming a movie or extensive downloading requires some payment. 
    2. Distributed antenna system (DAS) solutions to allow multiple wireless communications technologies to coexist on one network in the hotel. 
    3. Providing wired and wireless solutions in-room.    
  •  The need to invest in a “connected experience” for guests is key.  Once again, guests are demanding it, and tailoring the guest environment is critical to retention.  To achieve the ultimate guest experience, hotels are partnering with established, forward-thinking companies to provide this.  Examples of a connected experience include: in-room temperature preference, type of music played upon entrance, mobile and SmartTV applications for guests to reserve a future stay, schedule a spa appointment or get room service or a dinner reservation in the hotel. 

      The time is right to rethink digital hospitality services and invest in the future.  It is not enough to just meet the physical expectations like a pillow on the bed, a desk in the room and mini bars of soap in the bathroom.  Connected experiences and strong internet connections are expected.  Access to hotel information and services though SmartTV, mobile apps and mobile websites are required.  Come up short, and so will your bottom line, as guests will choose another hotel on their next visit.

      Chris Ruff
      CEO and President of UIEvolution

      Chris Ruff is the President and CEO of UIEvolution, a global leader in connected devices in the mobile, tablet, Smart TV and automotive applications.  Chris joined UIEvolution in 2000 and is recognized as one of the most experienced individuals in the mobile market. 

      UIEvolution’s software solution breaks through the complexity of connected services by delivering native and HTML5 apps managed from a cloud-based platform, ensuring a great consumer engagement experience.  With offices in the United States and Japan, UIEvolution has a proven track record with clients like Disney, ESPN, Toyota, AT&T, Microsoft, Samsung, Hikari-TV and other Fortune 500 companies.

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