The news is looking great for international travel. Over the last few weeks, reports from the Transportation Security Administration screened 15 million passengers, surpassing 2019 levels. The Dubai-based airline Emirates is already at 96% of its pre-pandemic levels in and out of the United States. And according to STR, global hotel demand continues to strengthen with the recovery index for the metric hitting a high at the end of the third quarter.
As hotels across the world plan for the new year, we decided to look at what travelers are asking for – what guests really want, starting with In-Room Entertainment and TV Casting. (Not to be confused with screen mirroring, which simply displays the same content that’s playing on the device; casting designed for hotels allows video or other content play on an in-room screen while also freeing up that device to multitask). I caught up with seasoned hospitality consultant, former hotel general manager (and frequent business traveler), Martin Soler, to learn more about his preferences and what he’s seeing across his clients and partners.
Where do you see in-room entertainment now for hotels across Europe?
Martin: We want to watch our own content. While it is a bit fun to see what the local channels and entertainment options are, this is more of a curiosity than a mode of entertainment. Plus commercials being tailored to the local market are even less relevant, thus even more annoying. And that’s when one can understand the language. So I don’t see a large future for local programming. Even in the family setting, kids are used to watching what they know. We’re (luckily) less and less tolerant of 2-3 minute ad-breaks.
What are your concerns about in-room entertainment, if any?
Martin: In hotels, there are complexities compared to at home or in a rental apartment. But this isn’t really the guests’ problem. The user doesn’t really care if WhatsApp, for example, is harder to build on iOS than on Android. They just want WhatsApp to work as expected. The same is for hotels. The experience in the room needs to be at least as good as at home, and the hotel needs to have managed the complexities before the guests use it to make sure it’s simple and an easy experience for them.
What makes a casting solution stand out to guests? To hoteliers?
Martin: Simplicity. The biggest difference is simplicity. Logging in to the TV isn’t hard with QR codes. Say we want to log in to numerous services like Netflix, Disney+, etc. for a 3-day business trip where we know we’ll be home late and out early; we just want to be able to cast something rapidly. When hotels allow the guest to eliminate typing in login credentials and passwords and just easily cast from their devices without complications, that makes or breaks the experience. Some hotels have a relatively good system with a code on the TV that does the work, or some have a half-baked system that works sometimes, which is worse than having no system at all.
If hotels can’t compete with the fast developing home technologies, do you expect hotels to provide access to your content in a ‘like my home’ style?
Martin: I think if hotels can’t rapidly solve this, the biggest risk is that people will choose rentals over hotels since it “just works” and guests will bring their own HDMI devices that work. On the other hand, for the moment there is a major competitive advantage for hotel groups to have a system that works really well and advertise that to guests. Just like Wi-Fi a few years ago when most hotels had slow and expensive connections, the hotels that offered a great Wi-Fi for a fee or for free had a better chance to capture additional guests and maybe even justify a slightly higher rate.
Would you return to a hotel if it was offering casting services? Would it really make a difference to you?
Martin: Yes! If I am going to that city again, I would definitely select that hotel again – both for work and leisure. Of course, other basic hospitality elements need to be in place. But bed, shower, service being good – TV Casting is definitely an element I am looking for. I don’t watch that much TV, so when I do, I’d like it to be easy.
What’s the best in-room technology you experienced? Do you have an example?
Martin: I love gadgets, so I’ll try just about anything, especially novelties. Even if it is just a novelty element such as some built-in bluetooth speaker in the bathroom, I will try it. Or some fancy coffee machine or wine pouring by the glass machine. Hard to say which one is the best – I probably love the exploration of the new gadgets, more than the gadget itself. But that’s where hotels have a chance to excel. They can cycle through new tech as a showcase much better than a guest can.
Thank you, Martin, for your enlightening comments.
When traveling across the world for leisure or work, feeling at home wherever you are is important, and having something as simple as content in your preferred language can make a big impact. Think about transit hotels outside of airports or anytime you travel to a country where you may not speak the language. Casting shouldn’t be an afterthought as it’s a simple way to allow guests to feel comfortable with entertainment content of their own. It’s interesting from our Q&A that the theme of “just works” came up again. Connecting and staying connected at hotels should just work for guests and associates alike, and it should really “just work” from their perspective. When it comes to hotel TV casting, we make it that simple.
Hauke Lenthe, Managing Director, EMEA & APAC brings more than 25 years of hospitality and international hotel technology experience, spanning from managed internet services to operational and guest-facing software. Previous roles include Vice President of Middle East and Africa in Dubai at iBAHN and Executive Vice President at Shiji Group supporting Hetras Cloud PMS. He also served as Partner and CCO for Neorcha, a Dubai-based hotel app startup.