Staying Ahead of Your Guests

Lodging is trying to stay competitive and keep up with customers who have poured money into their homes to upgrade features they also expect in a hotel. The most common technology question HVS Technology Strategies fields is, “Now that high-speed Internet access has been installed, what's the next must-have?” Compare the amenities in your guestrooms to what the typical guest has at home. Most travelers enjoy a guestroom more modern and plush than their own bedroom. Most hotels deliver designer bedding, five-fixture bathrooms and high thread count linens. But in technological capability, the vast majority of hotels fall far short of the home and office the traveler comes from.

One reason high-speed Internet access (HSIA) took so long to get a hospitality grip was the mistaken assumption that business guests had Internet access at work and leisure guests didn't need it. To avoid falling into this trap, look at these technologies:

  • Radios/audio systems — Units developed specifically for hotels now provide automatic reset and allow travelers to plug in their iPod or other portable audio device and listen through a high-quality, volume controlled sound system.

  • Television — Flat screens, high-definition television and other digital standards are becoming increasingly popular in the home. Now that Wal-Mart offers relatively inexpensive HDTVs, it's time to consider upgrades during the next set replacement cycle.

  • TV content — Along with better picture and sound, guests expect more selections, both free and for-pay. Travelers with 100-plus channels at home, an “on demand” capability for movies and TV shows, and more premium channels than children have been known to question a property's star rating when flipping through only 14 channels and a choice of a dozen movies. It's not just about expanding content, however. It's about customizing it to the location and guest profile of the property.

  • Energy management — Knowing whether a room is occupied or not is “greener,” saves money and provides a better guest experience. It made sense even before the 75-percent rise in energy costs.

  • Telephone — Few guests use dial-up Internet today, but they have come to expect two lines and a cordless handset in business properties. Businesses and homes are gradually moving to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones. There are currently few advantages to VoIP phones, but as software is developed for them, they will become “mini-computers” as well as phones. Guest-specific phone directories, roomservice menus, hotel services, even basic information services will be facilitated with VoIP.

While such technologies may not be as important as a clean room or a comfortable bed, they are clearly becoming more critical to customer-buying behavior. As they improve and converge to digital platforms, it is important to consider the big picture of technology and avoid a piecemeal approach. For hotels to prosper, they must continue to lead the consumer, not follow. That leadership must extend beyond bed and bath to entertainment and amenities that not only allow business and leisure travelers to be highly productive during their stay but also indulge themselves.

Chris Hartmann is Managing Director, HVS Technology Strategies, 420 Boulevard ,Suite 203, Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046. Call him at 973-335-0871 or e-mail chartmann@hvsit.

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