Suppliers Roundtable: In-room technology

Hotels need to stand out in a crowded market with exceptional guest experiences

Guest experiences, Hotel, Technology

In the competitive hospitality sector, in-room technology has emerged as a key differentiator. Hotels need to stand out in a crowded market, so the race is on to deliver exceptional guest experiences. Technology is more important than ever, but where is investment best placed?

Meet the experts

Surjit Potsangbam regional sales manager, TeleAdapt
Potsangbam oversees sales in the UAE, Bahrain, Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius, and has more than 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry.

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Santhosh Nair IT manager, Radisson Royal Hotel, Dubai
Nair has previously worked with Starwood Hotels in Kuwait as a complex IT manager, and was a member of the pre-opening team at Swiss-Belhotel International, Qatar. He has also worked with Kerzner International’s One and Only Kanuhura, Maldives, as an assistant IT manager.

David Adelson CEO and president, Intelity
Intelity offers integrated guest services software for the hospitality industry. Since the company began, Intelity has installed its ICE platform on multiple devices (TVs, smartphones, tablets and PCs) at more than 500 hotels on six continents. It was the first company to allow hotels to offer guest services on tablet.

Stefan Viard general manager, Vida Hotels and Resorts
German-French born Viard brings a wealth of experience to his role, especially in the F&B sector, having previously worked for leading international hotel and resort properties in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Martin Chevally CEO, InnSpire
With a 10-year background starting up, creating and launching home electronics and software-oriented brands, products and companies, Chevally co-founded the software company Zebor Technology, which delivers software to Intel and other key players, and was later part the world’s first Android TV launch in 2009.

Andreas Bellof general manager, KOMTECH
Bellof has more than 20 years of industry experience, having studied mechanical and precision engineering. He joined manufacturer of innovative and customer-oriented connector panels, Komtech in 2006.

Prem Kumar senior vice president and managing director, Quadriga Middle East
Quadriga offers guest-facing technology for the hospitality and healthcare sector. Kumar has been working in hospitality-related technology businesses for the past 15 years across the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.

Q: WHAT ARE THE KEY FACTORS A HOTELIER SHOULD CONSIDER WHEN REVIEWING IN-ROOM TECHNOLOGY?

David Adelson: The main consideration for any hotelier should be whether the technology enhances the guest experience. In-room technology investments should not be led by what is “flashy”, but rather by what is practical and useful to the guest.

Stefan Viard: A prime consideration is to ensure that the software and hardware provided both offer seamless connectivity and ease-of-use. At Vida Downtown Dubai guests can bring their own devices, connect to our smart system, and take advantage of all the technological services provided by our network without the hassle of downloading an app.

Prem Kumar: Hoteliers should aim to give guests the same experience that they get at home: a wide selection of good TV channels and technology that will help the guest use the hotel facilities. I think hoteliers should also consider placing more features under guest control from a single device.

Martin Chevalley: Don’t complicate things with specific hotel-owner devices or downloads that guests have to use; they don’t want this! Rather, guests should be able to use their own device, regardless of platform.

Q: DO HOTELIERS MAKE COMMON MISTAKES WHEN DEALING WITH IN-ROOM TECHNOLOGY?

Andreas Bellof: I find that many hoteliers think in economic values but the guest will be thinking differently. If you miss those little things in the tech experience, then this can lead to great resentment.

Surjit Potsangbam: It is common for hoteliers to decide on a purchase based on price — the lowest price. Others are swayed by the hype of the latest technology instead of considering what the guests actually need. The normal three quotes requirement would work well only if done alongside good research.

Ask yourself if the majority of guests need this product? Does the product comply with existing standards? And is the product certified by a recognised institution? Is it compatible with most, if not all devices? How user-friendly is the device? Is there an after-sales service? Will it support future innovations? These are the things that should be looked into very seriously before investing.

Santhosh Nair: You should never overload a hotel room with technology. Sure, there are thousands of products available on the market, but the key is to sift through these and implement only those that are most suitable for that specific property, that specific location and those specific needs and trends.

David: A lot of hotels don’t follow the “KISS” principle: this means ‘keep it sweet and simple!’ Guests don’t want to learn how to use a foreign gadget during their stay. In-room technology has to be intuitive and familiar to guests, or it will be a turn off and end up being ignored. That results in a wasted expense for the hotel, and harms guest experience.

Q: WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF IN-ROOM TECHNOLOGY HOTELIERS SHOULD BE INVESTING IN TODAY?

Prem: Uninterrupted wi-fi and internet access throughout the hotel premises ranks as the most important amenity that a guest looks for in a hotel. We live in a world where 24/7 connectivity is expected.

David: Based on current trends and guest preferences, I would say automated guest services technology is top of the agenda. It can both enhance the guest experience and improve the operational efficiency of the hotel. Both the guest-facing and the back-of-house components of in-room technology should work together to benefit both guests and staff.

Martin: I think it’s difficult to name just one piece of technology that all hotels should invest in because, when used right, in-room technology can be a huge boost in multiple ways.

Depending on whether a hotel wants to focus on increasing revenue and in-room spend, or offer a more consistent and easily accessible brand experience, or if it is top-of-the-line in-room entertainment that they are after, a great hotel technology solution can solve it! You simply can’t pick one element as more important than the others because hotel technology operates like an ecosystem these days.

The phone talks to the TV in order to stream the guests’ own photos, movies and music; guests can order food and drinks directly from their TV or handheld device and the hotel can communicate effectively with all guests at all times. Focus on getting the ecosystem consistent and easy-to-use.

Stefan: An important advancement is Hotel Interactive Television (HITV) and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend for e-concierge services. HITV allows the guest to watch television, order room service, check their bill, stream their devices over a wireless network, connect to social media channels, surf the web and so much more! These features are available on guest devices through an app once they are connected to the hotel network.

Surjit: We supply connectivity panels to help guests enjoy their personal content. They can connect to most gadgets on the market. When travelling, guests often carry multiple devices — a smartphone, laptop and camera, for example. Our MediaHub product provides a single solution to charge their devices and play their own media content on the in-room TV screen.

Q: WHAT SHOULD HOTELIERS DO TO ENSURE GUESTS’ PERSONAL DETAILS ARE NOT COMPROMISED VIA THEIR USE OF IN-ROOM TECHNOLOGY?

Andreas: Hoteliers should focus on installing state-of-the-art technology because it is more compliant in terms of security, but the level of investment required can be higher. This is the reason we have special products for hotels — not just what you can pick up at the supermarket.

Santhosh: The key here is to ensure that experienced IT staff are involved in planning, designing and implementing hotel IT systems. It’s always useful for hotels to have technical advisers and there is requirement to conduct IT security auditing by approved vendors.

Stefan: It is important to reduce the possibility of external security breaches. To ensure maximum security, I always think that all servers should be hosted on-site rather than using a public cloud-based solution. They must also interface with other systems (such as PMS, service delivery system) using secured encrypted communication.

Martin: In our case, we encrypt all information and we keep PMS and guest data on-site in an encrypted format. We also limit guest media streaming by password so guests can only stream to the TV in their own room. Most importantly, we automatically remove all digital traces of the guest at check-out. For added confidence, guests have the option of clicking a “trash can” to remove all personal data at any time.

Q: HOW CAN IN-ROOM TECHNOLOGY HELP INCREASE REVENUE OR OPEN NEW REVENUE STREAMS FOR HOTELS?

David: In-room technology allows hotels to connect to guests in a more personal way, which in many cases can make it easier to market and upsell. Providing guests with the ability to access digital stores through in-room technology gives them a convenient method to gather information, view menus and place orders among other things.

Items can be purchased from retail or food outlets located throughout the hotel or even off-site. In-room technology can also be used for targeted marketing to specific rooms or groups. It is possible now to use geography as a filter for more targeted marketing.

Prem: The region’s hotel sector should strive to offer customers the ultimate experience by better understanding emerging value drivers and the decision-making behaviour of their guests. With this knowledge, operators can position and market their products more effectively.

And this is where the role of technology kicks in: by connecting in-room technology to the main database to personalise their systems, they can develop a closer understanding of guest requirements and use this knowledge to develop better tools to personalise the product even more.

Martin: The three keywords here are ease, availability and non-intrusiveness. Guests will spend more if it is easy to purchase extra spa bookings, meals, beverages, gifts, airport transfers, tours, excursions, and so on; if it is available to browse and buy at any time and if it is easy to find without intruding on the overall guest experience.

We see this clearly in the statistics from our hotels where we have automated upselling! We’ve seen RevPAR increase with very little staff involvement.

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