Guests Shift Focus to In-Room Entertainment During COVID-19

Robert Grosz, executive vice president of World Cinema, Inc.—provider of technology and video, data, and connectivity services to hotels and multifamily properties—said that guests have always looked to hotels to establish a home away from home, and that sense of safety and security matters even more today. “Everything that impacts the in-room experience has taken a heightened level of importance,” Grosz explained. “This includes the need for great television as part of the in-room entertainment experience.”

Across the country, local restrictions have limited guests’ options for dining and entertainment—restaurants, bars, event venues, museums, and other attractions are closed or operating at limited capacities. Instead of hitting the town or going out to eat, guests are settling into their rooms with takeout to stream their favorite movies and series, and more frequently tuning into live television to keep up with current events and pandemic developments.

“Television is a portal to the world,” Grosz explained. “When it’s less safe to travel outside of your guestroom, the television provides the ability to entertain, inform, and educate in a consistent and quality way.”

Vanessa Ogle, founder and CEO of Enseo—a technology company whose platform encompasses in-room entertainment, high-speed internet, energy management and IoT room control, and the MadeSafe employee safety system—added that today’s travelers are looking for both an escape and to be keyed into the world around them. “Guests want to take their minds off the turmoil of their daily life. They also want to stay informed about what is happening in this world with such a fast-paced news cycle,” she explained.

During COVID-19, TV watching has spiked significantly, Ogle noted. “There has been a 15 percent increase in news programming and streaming content is at an all-time high,” she said. Along with this heightened activity, guests are paying more attention to their in-room entertainment and are more discriminating. Ogle shared that when Enseo switched a few channels from HD to SD to cut costs for hoteliers, “the guests noticed and demanded HD as their minimum accepted experience. It was a very short experiment that showed us that high-quality streaming and live HD coverage is still critical for happy guests.”

Whether guests are first responders, individuals looking to get out of their homes and work remotely in a new environment, or families taking a road trip, they all expect to enjoy the same type of entertainment features that they have at home, including the ability to login to their personal streaming accounts, cast their own content from their mobile devices, and access apps from their in-room TV. By integrating in-room TVs with travelers’ personal devices, hotels are putting control back into guests’ hands during a time when guests yearn for control and familiarity, explained Grosz. “This helps improve the guest experience during their stay, it helps define the brand experience, and it ultimately helps build trust that the guest will be happy to return.”

“The technology needs to work seamlessly every time for guests; it shouldn’t burden hotel staff, who right now need to focus on providing a safe and healthy stay and elevated service.”

As travelers prepare to hit the road again, now is the time for operators to update their in-room experience to differentiate from the competition and better position themselves to attract bookings when travel eventually rebounds. What’s more, technology upgrades are becoming increasingly affordable, even for properties whose revenues are down and budgets limited. Hotel operators should consider solutions that are compatible with their existing infrastructure to avoid the costly expense of investing in commercial-grade televisions and network upgrades. Flexible, open platforms allow operators to integrate their hotel’s PMS and customize in-room entertainment offerings with branding and apps. In addition, operators should also consider how upgrades will enable them to offer contactless services, like remote checkout, guest and staff communications, and room service.

Amir Ahmed, senior vice president of sales at DISH, said that advances in technology have made upgrading in-room entertainment offerings more accessible. “Guests want to be able to access their favorite apps and cast movies, music, shows, and more from any device to in-room TVs, but that doesn’t mean hoteliers have to break the bank,” Ahmed said. “We’ve designed platforms like SMARTBOX and EVOLVE to work with any existing hotel network or HD TV so that hotel operators can provide the experience guests want without making a huge investment in new TVs or extensive upgrades to the property’s infrastructure. Especially in today’s challenging environment, operators need to be focused on technology that delivers a strong return on investment and positions them for the future.”

Ahmed added that it’s important for upgrades to minimize disturbance to the property while delivering a reliable and consistent experience for guests. “The technology needs to work seamlessly every time for guests; it shouldn’t burden hotel staff, who right now need to focus on providing a safe and healthy stay and elevated service.”

To that end, Ahmed stressed that reliable technology partners are more critical now than ever. “Technology and guest expectations are constantly evolving. Hoteliers need long-term partners they can depend on to consistently deliver the experience guests are looking for and help solve the problems their businesses face,” Ahmed said. “DISH is focused on powering the best entertainment experiences in the industry from leading providers like World Cinema, Enseo, and others. We are working together to ensure that hoteliers are positioned for recovery and success in the future.”


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