In some ways, the in-room hotel experience has remained the same for a very long time. Mini bar, TV and movies on-demand are pretty much standard in most properties.
In the last few years, however, advances in consumer technology have left in-room entertainment in the dust.
Notebooks, Netbooks, eBook readers, iPhones and iPads are giving guests the ability to entertain themselves and putting pressure on standard “pay-per-view” model hotel’s hold so dear.
Most devices can be preloaded with games, books and movies, making the hotel’s offerings both expensive and pointless.
Marriot’s one hotel chain that has seen declining in-room entertainment purchases and decided to do something about it.
The chain has made the decision to remove all adult films from their hotels, worldwide. The move to pull the porn is getting a lot of media coverage in the US, with some commenters confusing morality and political correctness with simple economics.
The average spend on in-room entertainment dropped 26% in 2009, according to Smith Travel Research, and is expected to continue plummeting.
The big question now: What will take the place of over-priced pay-per-view entertainment?
If you can’t beat em’, join em’
Most hotel rooms are simply not iPad friendly, but this will not force guests in to buying over-priced movies, it’ll just annoy them.
Give your iPad-loving guests what they want: wifi, preferably free. It’s great that you offer a connection in the room, but if it’s not wireless it’s pretty much useless for non-notebook users.
Second, consider how people are going to use your network. The browser based sign-on that most hotels use to connect to the internet is painful on mobile devices.
Give them a reason to pay
Now that your guests are on your wifi network, it’s possible to get their attention back to your content, but it’s going to have to have some quality.
Pushing paid movies may work if they’re cheap enough, but unique content is the way to go. Interactive city guides, maps and local information are a quick win, but tech savvy hotels can use the channel to replace the "brochure rack" and concierge to add ancillary revenue through commissions.
It's not all doom and gloom. Some hotels have already shown their commitment to tablets. The Plaza Hotel in New York has put an iPad in every room, equipped with Intelity’s ICE Touch system.
The iPad gives guests the ability to control room temperature, order room service, make restaurant reservations, request wake up calls, communicate with the concierge, and even print boarding passes.
Earlier in the year, Intercontinental Hotels dipped their toes in the in the tablet waters when they equipped their concierge team with iPads, one of the first hotels to do so.
But with mass adoption of tablet devices predicted to skyrocket in 2011, (eMarketer predicts 127% growth in iPad sales alone) we can expect to see even more consumers bringing their own entertainment on holidays.
It’s now up to hotels to either take advantage of this opportunity or continue to push a dying revenue stream... at their peril.