Not so very long ago, hotel technology was largely limited to a cable TV in guestrooms. Today, technology covers just about every facet of both the guest and operator experience, and businesses are racing to meet constantly shifting demands. David Goldstone, EVP and chief sales officer at World Cinema, detailed how his company is innovating, keeping up with the competition and preparing for the future.
World Cinema launched in 1974 when founder Chester Dickon, who had been working in the oil and gas business, became frustrated by the level of TV service in hotels when he traveled. On a whim, Dickon went to Los Angeles and arranged a meeting with the head of Paramount Studios, securing the rights to bring the company’s movies to hotel rooms. “And that's how the business started,” Goldstone said, noting that the process involved multiple VCRs in the back office of a hotel. “The front desk clerk would have to change out the videotapes of the movies for them to be watched at a set time,” he said.
The company is still owned by the same family, but has broadened its reach into a number of different verticals. As technology has evolved, the company has expanded its offerings to keep pace. And while World Cinema has a number of competitors in the hospitality tech space, Goldstone said the company has one key distinction: “Our competition, as far as I am concerned and my colleagues are concerned, are technology companies that try to service their customers. We are a service company that happens to do technology.”
Last year, World Cinema made what it considers its first major purchase when it acquired Ohio-based Hospitality WiFi, a provider of internet protocol-based wired and wireless networking services for hotels. “To quote their CEO and founder, it was time for him to become a small fish in a bigger pond rather than a big fish in a small pond,” Goldstone recalled. “And we were the vehicle to take them into a bigger pond.” The deal also benefited World Cinema by taking the company from North America to international markets.
The deal brought the number of guestrooms World Cinema supports to more than 900,000 in more than 7,000 hotels. The company, Goldstone added, is looking to supply entertainment and connectivity to a million guestrooms by the end of 2023.
Nearly 50 years after launching with VCRs in hotel back-offices, World Cinema now provides the WorldVue in-room entertainment platform, Wi-Fi and a “stack” of options that includes digital signage, surveillance equipment and cell-boosting capabilities to eliminate dead spots in hotels where mobile phones don’t work—a ”hazard and a security issue,” Goldstone noted. The company also has a dedicated in-house creative agency, CarrierWave, that provides graphic and web design for the Worldvue platform in approximately 400,000 guestrooms. “That's something that CarrierWave creates for the customer, completely customizable from a UX UI design point,” said Ella Steele, senior director of marketing at World Cinema. The agency also can handle copywriting and photography to help support independent and boutique hotels.
Leveraging the Portal
World Cinema’s WorldVue portal also helps the company stand apart, Goldstone said. The platform lets the hotel send messages to a guest’s TV or to a group of rooms that need information. “Let's assume that the rooms at the front of the hotel have a window cleaner coming in on Tuesday,” he said. “Through the portal, you can send a message just to the rooms that are affected.” Similarly, if a package arrives for a guest, the hotel team can alert the guest with a message on the TV. “And you have to click on [the message before you are] able to change channels,” he added.
Perhaps most significantly for hoteliers, Steele said, the portal provides usage data to the property’s team about what channels and apps are in highest demand, making it easier for the hotel’s management to customize their lineup and offerings. “They're also able to reboot any set-top box or any equipment in the room through the portal,” she added, eliminating the need to call World Cinema’s customer service center. “Just do it at the flick of a switch and reboot anything right there.”
Logic in Logistics
Goldstone said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, World Cinema not only did not cut staff or salaries or furlough any workers, it was able to hire 33 additional workers, 30 for the service department alone. The company also launched a client success group to maintain relationships with clients. “As soon as a sale is done, sales moves out, and [the project] moves to our client success and project management group,” Goldstone said. “When the installation is done, the project-management group moves out and the hotel has a client success manager for the life of the contract. That client success manager is the liaison between every single department in the company.” When clients have issues, he added, they can contact their client success manager for help.
Clicking with Clients
Customers on World Cinema’s WorldVue platform can access a portal to “check the health” of the set-top boxes and see if there are any issues. “It's little things like that that set us apart,” Goldstone said. “You can have the best technology in the world, but technology is not foolproof. So how do you win the customer and keep them loyal for life? We believe in what I term ‘like to love.’ We take the customer from liking us to loving us. If they love you they're going to be loyal. And how do you do that? By giving them the best possible service—and customer service—in the industry.”
Services: In-room entertainment, Wi-Fi, digital signage, surveillance equipment, cell boosting capabilities, creative design.