Now that WiFi has gone from amenity to basic necessity, what type of guestroom technology impresses travelers these days? “One of the most significant technology upgrades of the decade is putting computers in hotel rooms,” says Kevin Bidner, CEO of Hotel Communication Network (HCN).
As the Lodging staff gears up for HITEC next week in Baltimore, Md., hospitality technology is on the brain. Of course, one of the biggest obstacles to implementing a new technology like guestroom computers is cost. To offset the expenditure of these devices, technology companies are offering a platform for local businesses to advertise to travelers.
During the event, at which more than 300 companies will showcase their latest industry products and services, Bidner will introduce attendees to HCN’s Navigator. The self-serve digital concierge has been deployed at the Chicago Hilton and Intercontinental Chicago, with a third Chicago property being announced before HITEC. HCN has developed a monetization strategy that allows the company to install its computers free to hotels, with the help of advertising revenue generated from local businesses that find value in the system in attracting customers.
As HCN expands to more hotels across the U.S., it plans to continue using this model of advertisers subsidizing the cost of the deployment and maintenance of the systems so that guests and advertisers can benefit. “I believe this is a very significant achievement for the industry in one of the biggest convention cities,” Bidner says. “We intend to duplicate this business model coast-to-coast.” A secondary pay model also exists for cities where HCN does not have a sales force set up yet, he adds.
The Navigator is a large touch screen that gives guests access to hotel services, such as room service, housekeeping, and valet, and features city guides, built-in business center, Internet and email access, entertainment, ticket purchasing, reservations, and more. It’s also a platform for meeting and conventions to communicate to attendees. In addition to the touch screen, it comes with a keyboard to support the business and Internet features, a fully integrated dual VoIP/Analog phone center, and speakers for the phone and entertainment features.
We’re curious to see what other cool tech products and services will be showcased at this year’s HITEC. We'll report back with the highlights.