As social distancing increasingly limits how many hotel guests can be in public spaces at once, travelers are spending more time in their guestrooms—and more time taking advantage of in-room entertainment options. New technology has made it easier for guests to have more control over what they see on their hotel room TVs.
“Compared to prepandemic data, guests are casting more than double the amount of time during their stay,” said Kara Heermans, VP of user experience & product management at Sonifi, estimating in-room video on demand viewings are about 10 percent higher than they were before the pandemic, and traditional TV consumption has remained virtually the same.
Gary Patrick, CEO at Hotel Internet Services, said his company has seen demand for streaming capabilities more than double over the last year.
Using the company’s GuestCast platform, guests can scan a QR code on the TV with their phone to connect the device to the display. “They don't have to go through a bunch of different actions to get connected,” Patrick said. “They can immediately begin streaming, or they have the choice of the regular TV channels.” Perhaps more importantly in a pandemic, the company’s My Remote platform can be accessed with a QR code (again, no app to download), eliminating the need to touch the in-room remote.
Guest use of other in-room technology is shifting as well, said Heermans. “Bandwidth consumption typically follows occupancy trends. But looking at the data over the past year, a fewer number of devices are using more bandwidth.”
The total number of users is still only about half of what it was pre-COVID, Heermans said, but the total download traffic has climbed back close to what it was before the pandemic. “This suggests that guests are increasingly using Wi-Fi for streaming and video calls rather than just for routine tasks that require less bandwidth, like sending emails and accessing documents,” she said.
Additional in-room technology features that are more popular than ever include mobile TV controls and using the interactive TV for requests (like ordering roomservice or declining housekeeping), hotel directories, account review and checking out. "These usage trends correlate to the higher adoption of contactless technology we've seen since COVID-19," Heermans said.
The pandemic fast-tracked some shifts in hotel technology, Heermans said, including the priority of guest internet, “smarter” in-room experiences, the “surge” of mobile preferences and the need to communicate “openly and frequently” with guests. “Right now, guests are eager for more choice—choice in how they interact with staff, what in-room technology and services are available, and what alternatives there may be for on-site amenities like restaurants or gyms that may be closed or limited,” she said.
Heermans expects that as guests become more comfortable with controlling the TV through their phone and using smart, contactless features, these methods will become a baseline expectation going forward.
For now, Patrick does not expect hotels to cut the proverbial cord in favor of pure streaming. “There [are] lots of brand standards on what kind of channels you have to have,” he said.