The Hotel Readiness Test: Mega Events and the Connected Guest

By Jon Davis Vice President, Business Development, Indoor Networks, ExteNet Systems Inc. | October 21, 2012

2012 has been the year of the mega events--from the Summer Olympics to the G8, the NATO Summit and multiple political conventions. For hotels, these mega events have directly collided with expectations of the new "connected guest". This guest has dramatically changing expectations and needs for wireless services in and around hotel properties and hospitality venues.

In many ways, 2012 has been an incubation test for countless hotels located in areas where mega events took place. It's no doubt that when these events occur, drawing potentially thousands of "connected guests" to hotel properties in the vicinity, hotel executives are left to wonder: will the wireless infrastructure in place meet the changing needs and expectations of these connected guests? Equally important is the future impact. Would the guest experience, relative to their wireless needs, affect their decision to stay at the property in the future? Additionally, were the wireless needs of mega event organizers-and their ability to draw crowds - affected in any way that might influence their destination, location, venue choices for future mega events?

Big Stakes Rest on Changing Perceptions

Not surprisingly, the technology profile of hotel guests has been changing rapidly for years. No longer can hotels simply provide wireless services to support laptop connections and mobile phone use. Today hotel guests expect a seamless wireless experience-no dropped mobile calls or data connectivity - from the moment they leave the taxi, through the hotel lobby, up the elevator and into a private room. These expectations exist because guests are experiencing changing wireless environments wherever they go.

For example, countless sports and entertainment facilities have stepped up their commercial wireless solutions. Fans are using their mobile devices to talk, text, download, view the game wirelessly while watching it live, and even ordering snacks and merchandise while they sit in the stands. Likewise, the consumer's wireless experience is changing in similar ways in commercial office buildings, shopping facilities, universities and even healthcare facilities, which have all aggressively pursued significant wireless upgrades. Even some high-end hotel properties are doing their part to change consumer wireless expectations. Some are presenting their guests with a media rich experience from the moment they enter their room. This might include everything from a device such as tablet available for guests to use and to order media rich applications, or to interact with concierge services and to place orders from room service.

Clearly, the environment is changing and this is affecting guest expectations. For hotels to capitalize on future business-including being in the running for future mega events, the hotel wireless infrastructure must be primed and ready. Given the mega events that took place in 2012, we wondered: is there anything hotel executives can learn or take away from hotels that experienced the connected guest and mega events in 2012? The answer is yes.

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Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.