Call for hotels to respond to tech demands


OUT of date and awkward to use – this is the opinion by many business travellers about the technology found in regional hotel rooms, from the television and audio systems to the supposed state-of-the-art business facilities.

“Advancements in technology for the hospitality industry is a core industry, aspects of which are highlighted at the Technology Pavilion,” said Maggie Moore, project director, The Hotel Show.
Ted Horner, founder of E Horner & Associates and guest speaker at a seminar on the future of hotel room technology at The Hotel Show Seven Star Conference is spearheading the need for hotels to adapt to modern business travellers’ lifestyles.
“It is not unusual for the average business traveller to walk into a hotel room armed with technology far in advance of what the hotel is offering. Most of us even have technology back home ahead of what hotel rooms offer. Travellers today now are on the move with all their information, from their own music on i-Pods, movies, to all their business data and communications on the Blackberry, for example. How does a guest connect this technology into his or her hotel room? This is the challenge that hotels must face up to,” Horner said.
The pace of technology is already being felt by hotels, he said. For example, most guests do not even use hotel room telephones for calls other than for hotel services, preferring instead to use personal mobiles because of ease of use and ability to track cost. “This is a major loss of revenue for a hotel, and since the majority of hotel chains tend to refurbish rooms every ten years, the chance to update systems is limited,” he said.
A number of hotel chains have woken up to the challenge. Marriott is investing heavily in its RJP (remote jak pack), a multimedia adaptor unit that allows one to plug in an i-Pod and play music through the room’s audio system, connect up a digital camera and project
images on to an LCD screen, or even link in your laptop and throw up the desktop contents on the LCD screen to assist with presentation reports and graphics displays. Jumeirah is rolling out several new initiatives at its Essex House property.
“Multimedia adaptor units are a great step forward as long as they work efficiently and are simple to use. If a guest is still struggling to figure it out after 90 seconds, then the hotel has lost the wow factor and the appreciation of the guest – the PR value has been lost,” said Horner.
The cost of installing new technology is always a stumbling block for many hotels, but it is short-sighted for operators to neglect this aspect of hotel marketing when the technology enjoyed by individuals today is already impacting they way we travel and what we expect when conducting business away from the office. The hotel room needs to become the business centre where IP-base networks are standard, offering Voice, Data and Digital Video On Demand all on one single converged network.
“I think we are now at the tipping point for hotels to adapt to the change in our daily business lifestyle, and we can expect to see some exciting developments ahead. Hotels need to wake up to the fact that the technology is already here, both in the business
travellers lifestyle and in the market for hotel upgrades and refurbishment. Delay is not an option,” he concluded.