The Widening Gap Between a Guest's Experience at Home and in the Hotel Bedroom
By Bryan W. Steele Managing Director, Jireh-Tek Limited | July 10, 2011
The last five to ten years have seen an unprecedented rate of technology change which has enabled and stimulated new behaviours which hotel guests expect hoteliers to support. Major trends include the growth of social media, the pervasive use of mobile devices, the need to provide Wi-Fi Internet access, the growth in demand for and availability of Internet bandwidth and the availability of online content.
Broadcast TV remains a low cost method of distributing programming at a set time - the infrastructure already exists. However, through Personal Video Recording (PVR) technology people are used to recording programmes to watch at a more convenient time. Also, many programmes are available to stream across the Internet as an On Demand service allowing someone to watch it not only when they want but potentially where they want too (subject to rights restrictions). NetFlix streaming video has been reported to account for 20% of peak Internet traffic.
Amazon recently took full ownership of LoveFilm, a comparable service in the UK. This would appear to signal that Amazon recognises the future importance of streamed media and the potential for it to replace CD's, DVD's and Blu-ray discs. The recent Royal Wedding in the UK resulted in a 26% increase in Internet traffic. YouTube delivered 72 million live streams in 188 countries and 29 million on demand streams for later viewing.
The growth in social media has been phenomenal. Facebook was founded in 2004, reached 400 million members in February 2010, 500 million actively using it in July 2010 and 600 million by year end! 35 million people update their statuses at least once a day and the average user spends 55 minutes per day on Facebook and has 130 friends . This is important because it is an example of a platform that people use to share news, ideas, photos and links to content such as music and videos. The number of hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute has grown from 8 hours in 2007 to 48 hours in 2011 . This is equivalent to over 200,000 full-length Hollywood releases every week.
Smartphones and tablet devices are popular with the consumer. These devices are typically capable of using the carrier data networks as well as connecting to a Wi-Fi network. They have been so popular that few carriers will now offer unlimited data because of the toll it has on their networks. Indeed, carriers in a number of countries have partnerships with Wi-Fi providers so that their subscribers hop off the cellular network and onto the partners W-Fi network to offload data traffic. This offers hoteliers the opportunity to allow guests to have better connectivity for their mobile devices; but at the same time creates a requirement for more bandwidth to the hotel.
Many of the televisions, tuners, Blu-ray players and games consoles which are now being purchased have the ability to connect to the Internet via a cable or even have Wi-Fi built into them. The range of applications or widgets and the choice of content which can be accessed are improving as digital rights issues are resolved. The challenge for many hotels, including most major chains, is that they only recently completed rolling out flat screen LCD, LED or plasma TV's as a brand standard but most of these do not have the ability to connect to the Internet and owners are not likely to agree to a replacement programme any time soon.
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