Hotels channel size, security into television choices

There was a time when hoteliers who advertised “Free TV!”—or better yet, “Free COLOR TV!”—felt very assured guests would be coming through the doors. Nowadays, such a blatant lure is non-existent, but it doesn’t mean contemporary owners and operators aren’t focused on the big picture of what needs to be on-premises in order to attract guests.

Most understand leisure and business travelers expect to find the equivalent of what they have at home, many with the anticipation the guestroom, meeting or public space will provide an upgraded experience beyond that.

“We find that what our travelers today are craving the most is simplicity and connectivity,” said Matthew Woodruff, EVP of guest excellence and chief brand partner officer for Atlanta-based Hospitality Ventures Management Group. He noted ensuring the television is easy to operate, navigate and also allows the guest to be able to connect and stream with the apps they use the most is key. “A critical component of this connectivity is security. The guest must be able to connect securely and disconnect completely, and be aware that both of those components are taking place,” he said.

Woodruff said HVMG, which owns and/or operates 54 hotels and resorts (49 branded, 5 independent) and a convention center, applies the same quality standards across the range of segments its portfolio encompasses, largely working in tandem with its brand partners.

“Our brand partners do stringent vetting of all the major television providers in order to recommend to us the best, most-trusted solutions at competitive pricing. These solutions will often ‘check’ the key boxes that we would look for if searching for a provider on our own, namely reliability, design/technological advancement and price,” Woodruff said.

He added HVMG does not differentiate in its quality/performance levels for televisions between branded and independent hotels nor among different hotel price tiers.

Brand Standards

Like HVMG, Great Neck, N.Y.-based M&R Hotel Management relies on input from its brand partners to assess the best fits TV-wise for its portfolio of hotels, which has 34 branded hotels operating in the economy, upper-midscale, upscale and upper-upscale segments, plus one independent property.

According to Jigs Gandhi, VP of procurement, IT and corporate services for M&R, the brands dictate the specifications for televisions, but not the manufacturer.

“Based on our experience, our first preference is LG, followed by Samsung. LG TVs have the best lifespan, quality, reliability, resolution and features,” asserted Gandhi, submitting  televisions typically last anywhere from five to 10 years. “If we can get 10 years from a TV, then we have gotten our money’s worth,” he said. “Most of the time we bypass distributors and purchase TVs directly from the manufacturers as they offer better pricing and service.”

In the past, encased TVs often were changed out as hotel décor and furniture styles evolved. With the ubiquitous flat-screen, there’s no longer much of a concern by hoteliers that it will look outdated except, perhaps, for its size, which has grown over the past decade to where a 55-inch screen in a guestroom is becoming more common.

“At HVMG, we have set our minimum-size standard to be 55 inches across all of our hotels, with very minor instances where room size/configuration would require us to utilize a 49-inch model. We have found the 55-inch to be our ‘sweet-spot’ when it comes to meeting our key requirements of reliability, design/technological advancement and price,” Woodruff said.

“Most brands now require 55-inch-plus screens,” Gandhi concurred, citing interactive content management systems that interface with the hotel PMS also are a component in the mix. “These systems can display a personalized welcome message for loyalty program members and enable guests to stream content from their smartphones [as well as] play games,” he said.

Gandhi added M&R goes even bigger when it comes to some of its hotels’ public spaces. “We install TVs with 65- to 75-inch screens in restaurants and bars,” he said.

Public-space televisions are a popular feature at many of HVMG’s hotels, which include full-service resorts, all-suites, extended stay, premium select and focused service, lifestyle, boutique and soft-brand properties.

“These can be located in various nooks and hideaway-seating areas throughout the public-area zones or as more visual points in our sports-styled bars,” Woodruff said.

In addition to televisions, HVMG utilizes LED displays in several hotels as wayfinding or information-providing centers, e.g., airline schedule boards or meeting boards. The executive stressed it is important to properly define the zones where such televisions and displays are so the design direction of the space isn’t disrupted.

With almost four decades in the industry, Woodruff has perspective on what might or mighty not wind up as part of an FF&E budget when it comes to televisions.

“We have made an effort to not jump on trends until we can better understand and correlate the trend to intent to return and return on investment,” he said. “This approach, along with guidance from our brand partners, who oftentimes follow the same path, has allowed us to focus our limited capital on the projects that have the greatest return.”