As guests bring and use more mobile devices during their stays, hoteliers are tasked with ensuring bandwidth is strong and connectivity is seamless.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.— In-room, on-demand video is a thing of the past now that travelers across all generations prefer streaming from their personal devices, according to hoteliers.
And the key way to cater to this demand, hoteliers said, is making connectivity as seamless as possible in the guestrooms to accommodate usage of multiple mobile devices per room as well as ensuring bandwidth is up to par.
John Rieman, GM at JW Marriott Essex House New York, said he continues to see his guests become more technologically savvy and they want access to the streaming services they use at home—like Netflix, Hulu and Pandora—at a hotel too.
He said a few years back, his hotel was one of the first adopters of streaming services in guestrooms, and people were migrating away from pay-per-view services. The hotel no longer offers the pay-per-view service, he said.
“Netflix is actually our second most-watched channel in the past year,” he said. “We’ve been monitoring it, and it’s certainly something our guests have definitely migrated to beyond the streaming services over the regular broadcast networks.”
On average, only about 1% of occupied guestrooms orders paid on-demand video, Gavin Philipp, VP of operations at Charlestowne Hotels, said via email, and 90% of the profits from those transactions are for adult entertainment. And the rise in demand for streaming services have many hotels turning to Netflix, he added.
“Unlike other amenities that are requested but not necessarily used, streaming services are used on average by 40% of rooms—and they’re used longer than their cable counterparts,” he said.
Philipp said Charlestowne is responding to this shift in demand, but only where appropriate.
“In-room entertainment in general is important and of high-value to guests, but expectations for a superior in-room-entertainment experience trend up as you climb the luxury ladder,” he said. “One of our most luxurious properties, The Spectator Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, will soon be replacing all guestroom TVs (which are only two years old) with ones that can accommodate streaming devices like the Amazon Fire Stick or Chromecast.”
Determine how much bandwidth is needed
Jonathan Knudsen, managing director at the Merrion Row Hotel and Public House, which is a boutique hotel set to open this November in New York, said his team had the luxury of renovating the property and redesigning the technology portion from start to finish.
Knudsen said the wireless access points that hotels are implementing today are so much stronger than what they were two to three years ago.
“It really depends on the size of the hotel in terms of what we’re getting into for bandwidth, but we made sure to build out, at least here at this property, 250 megabytes that was going to allow for multiple guestroom streaming,” he said.
The basic calculation, he said, to figure out how much bandwidth is needed is based on how many guestrooms are in the hotel, how much square footage of meeting space there is and what is expected from a typical guest in terms “of the bandwidth that they will require to be able to stream devices or connect to the services that we offer.”
The Merrion Row Hotel and Public House has 28 guestrooms, he said, and 250 megabytes is more than sufficient to support guests’ needs.
“What I’m seeing in other projects and throughout the city in new-builds, your typical 100- to 400-room hotel will probably deploy a 500-megabyte system, and any property that’s 500 rooms and up it (needs) a full gigabyte in terms of bandwidth to make sure they’re supporting the streaming devices,” he added.
Rieman said bandwidth needs have been increasing over the years as guests bring and use more devices. He said the JW Marriott Essex House New York has 500 megabytes of bandwidth with an additional 100 megabytes to support peak demand periods, which he said is often between 7 and 9 p.m.
“Also, our TVs are hardwired into the internet, so when people are streaming Netflix and Hulu, they’re not actually taking any bandwidth from the Wi-Fi, so it’s an extra service that we have here that we’re not pulling that Wi-Fi (and) bandwidth away from the customers,” he said.
Though there is a cost for owners and operators to increase bandwidth within the hotel as well as adding access points to ensure there is smooth coverage throughout, he realizes it’s the cost of doing business.
He said his team is working to deploy one access point per guestroom. The expectation is to not have any dead spots within the guestrooms, he added.
Philipp said Charlestowne is pushing for most of its properties to move to fiber optic internet. And a key thing to consider when estimating bandwidth is employee use of property Wi-Fi.
“Some of our hotels opt for a separate network for employees to ensure that employee usage doesn’t interfere with guests’ connection,” he said.
Help guests seamlessly connect
Aside from proper Wi-Fi and bandwidth, Knudsen said one of the other main things to consider is providing ways for guests to keep their devices charged and continuously connected, such as offering charging cords in the guestrooms. That way guests can conveniently plug in and recharge devices while still streaming, he said.
“We all know how battery life on our mobile devices or our smart devices is eaten up so quickly,” he said.
He said when the hotel was being renovated, they made sure there were plenty of outlets with specific USB charging ports in some of the most-used areas of the guestroom—from the bedside tables to the desk and into the sitting area.
Knudsen said his property allows guests to hook up their devices through a hardwire plug, too, in case the guest isn’t as tech savvy and has trouble connecting wirelessly.
Rieman said his hotel also completed a renovation, and it was important to make sure during the project that all necessary technology was put in place and there were no shortcuts taken when deciding where outlets should be.
The guestroom TV is still an extremely important piece, too, he said, and guests are looking to have at least the same comfort and quality as they have in their own homes.
“It’s a must in a full-service hotel environment,” he said.
Philipp said millennials expect to have “their pixel-perfect cake and eat it, too: they want to watch their preferred content on a guestroom TV—provided that the hotel’s TV can adequately compete with what they have at home.”
He said good picture clarity and sound quality are expected.
Looking ahead, Rieman said a hotel also needs to future proof and constantly add the latest and greatest cabling as well as adding more access points for future needs.
“It’s is going to continue to be more prevalent as we go,” he said.