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18 June 2012

In-room Technology Changing Hotel Landscape

By Terence Ronson - Hospitality Professional, Technology Consultant, Public Speaker and Inventor

We live in a world full of change. It's one of the constants we can be certain of, and a catalyst to that change rests with technology. Considering this in the context of hotels, one of the significant changes taking place right now is how a guest interacts with the hotel.

The Internet was once seen as a key piece to this, and that has now shifted to the device used to access the Internet. We first experienced the Internet through the computer, and today, the smartphone and tablet have come to the forefront.

These devices are all over the place. Not only the personal instruments of guests but also-on an increasingly regular basis-as part of the in-room technology, either augmenting and consolidating, or replacing certain traditional items.

For example, hotels are using these devices to replace or supplement:

  • Guest Directories
  • Photo albums
  • Currency exchange boards
  • Room service menus with ordering functions
  • TV remotes with electronic program guides
  • Blu-ray and DVD remotes
  • Music portals
  • Thermostats /climate controllers
  • Lighting controllers with mood and dimming function
  • Curtains and blinds controller
  • Telephones
  • Room keys that emit music tones or use near field communication technology
  • Guest feedback/questionnaire
  • Alarm clocks
  • Message delivery
  • Video on demand movie previews
  • Guest requests such as housekeeping and maintenance services
  • Remote viewing stations for door cameras
  • Internet browsing stations
  • Spa, fitness and leisure facilities menu with booking function
  • Golf information and tee time booking function
  • Wine Lists
  • Restaurant menus
  • Offers and promotions
  • Ordering transportation
  • Shopping guide including gift shop items and local stores
  • Handheld ordering devices in food-and-beverage outlets
  • Concierge services and information repository
  • Meetings and conference information
  • Audio-visual controllers in meeting and function rooms
  • Registration cards with eRegistration forms
  • Folio preview at check-out
  • City and tour guides with interactive maps
  • Weather information
  • Flight information
  • Train information
  • Electronic newspapers, magazines and books

And the list goes on...

In-room technology benefits
One function that is interesting is making the device (usually a tablet) a second screen to the in-room TV, allowing the guest to watch TV anywhere in the hotel, if connected to the Wi-Fi as though they were in the room.

With these relatively inexpensive devices, gone are the days when you would find outdated, dog-eared or dirty folders in the desk drawer. These devices make it quick, easy and relatively hassle free to update the content and will give the user a richer experience versus its printed version counterpart.

Imagine a wine list. On a device, the wine list could include tasting notes from a variety of sources, more detailed background of the wine's origin such as the vineyard and production process, along with some form of artificial intelligence for pairing the wine with a specific menu item. This can be particularly useful for the guest who may feel insecure about asking for assistance, and may just make a selection based on price or what they are familiar with instead of trying something different.

One of the key benefits of in-room technology I see is the ability to remove all the clutter guests find on a desk and brush it away before getting down to business. Other benefits include the options to create time-sensitive promotions and customize content according to the guest demographic-language, cultural nuances, etc.

Devices are fun to use, cost effective to implement and easy to maintain-and there is a big trade off with printing and printed materials replacement costs.

Going forward, this technology will likely evolve into an in-house created app. The guest will be able to download it on his or her own device and use its functions to make their stay easier. This reduces capital expenditure for the hotel, but even more importantly, guests will have greater familiarity and attachment with their devices over yours. Furthermore, if they load the app pre-arrival and keep it there post-departure, you have gained some valuable loyalty points, and one you need to work hard on to max out the customer-relationship management value.

Realistically, we are only scratching the surface with this new technology, and the benefits to the hotel industry will only be limited by our imagination.

© Terence Ronson
Reprinted with permission from where it first appeared.
This is the first in a three-part series of articles from the International Society of Hospitality Consultants regarding the ever-evolving technological landscape.

Terence Ronson

Terence Ronson is the Managing Director of Pertlink Limited. Now residing in Manila after almost two decades in Hong Kong, Terence launched his diversified hospitality career as a chef, later holding various general management positions with well-known hotels in the UK and Asia. In the mid-80s he developed his penchant for technology, and in 2000 started Pertlink Ltd., (Hong Kong) a hospitality technology consultancy, becoming as well the Technology Editor for HOTELS Asia Pacific and authoring since then numerous industry-related articles. In 2001, CNN's eBizasia program featured him for his innovative work at Rosedale on the Park Hong Kong, the first cyber boutique Hotel. It was at that point he originated the first hotel app – HOTELINMYHAND. Terence also helped Langham Place Hong Kong win many accolades for its technology deployment as well as various other well-known hotels across Southeast Asia. In China, Terence was heavily involved in establishing and delivering the IT strategy for Jumeirah Himalayas (Shanghai), Puli (Shanghai), Sofitel Wanda (Beijing), and Guoman (Shanghai). He also participated in the development of the technology vision for Disney Shanghai and Tangula Luxury Train. Terence often chairs and speaks at global industry events and sits on various advisory boards, in addition to holding a Visiting Lecturer position at Hong Kong Polytechnic. He is a CHTP (Certified Hospitality Technology Professional) and runs an active hotel technology blog.


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