Hershey, Sonifi partner to upgrade in-room offering

HERSHEY, PA—Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) recently partnered with Sonifi Solutions Inc. on in-room entertainment and guest internet upgrades for two of its properties: The Hotel Hershey and Hershey Lodge. These new features launch HE&R’s hotels into the future, after nearly a decade without any updates to the hospitality group’s in-room entertainment offering, without compromising structural integrity.

“HE&R was looking for a solution to meet the growing needs of its guests while increasing the in-room technology offerings available to them,” said Ahmad Ouri, CEO of Sonifi Solutions, a Sioux Falls, SD-based interactive content and connectivity solutions provider. “Both The Hotel Hershey and Hershey Lodge resort properties had challenging infrastructure constraints. HE&R chose the proven Sonifi solution to meet that need.”

The last time HE&R updated its in-room entertainment offering was in 2007. “Thus, there was a pressing need to upgrade the in-room technology, including entertainment and internet access,” said Greg Klopp, managing director of IT at HE&R, an entertainment and hospitality company. HE&R and Sonifi began discussing plans to work together again—they’d partnered on projects previously in the mid-2000s—in late 2016.

“Sonifi Solutions can be found in a wide variety of hospitality and healthcare settings, from boutique and independent hotels, to international brands like Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Marriott International,” Ouri said.

As with many of its projects, Sonifi did its due diligence ahead of time. “The project went smoothly due to multiple site visits prior to the actual deployment,” he said.

The two properties offered some logistical challenges. For instance, The Hotel Hershey was originally built during The Great Depression. “Since The Hotel Hershey was built in the 1930s, there were challenging infrastructure constraints,” Ouri said. “Sonifi went to great lengths to preserve the historical integrity of the property while upgrading to bring its in-room guest experience into the 21st century.” The goal was to maintain the property’s historic charm without ignoring the modern and innovative. HE&R also made upgrades to Hershey Lodge, which opened as the Hershey Motor Lodge back in 1967.

Deployment and installation took just over two months for both properties. “Sonifi was mindful to get the new technology installed and deployed before spring 2018,” Klopp said. “These iconic historic properties required extra care to ensure the wiring work was smooth and completed on time. In-room work included adding access points and Staycast devices.” Sonifi also conducted work prior to the property’s opening to ensure customization was ready and worked for the teams before launch.

To tackle its in-room technology challenges, HE&R had Sonifi install several technology solutions at both properties. The first, Stay Interactive—an in-room entertainment television solution designed to allow the company to communicate what’s happening at its properties to guests—extends the Hershey brand and messaging to the in-room television. For example, this entertainment offering enables both properties to promote their brands, hotel features, amenities and services.

“With the upgrade, HE&R now has access to a cloud-based customer portal through which they are able to locally make real-time updates and conveniently manage their branding via a simple drag-and-drop interface,” Ouri said.

Sonifi’s Stay Interactive attempts to offer properties the following benefits: increased revenue potential, mobile app support and expanded entertainment options for guests—including movies still in theaters and a variety of video-on-demand selections.

“We continue to see healthy consumption of first-run Hollywood movies, over-the-top (OTT) content, which is primarily original episodic series, complemented with linear channels, which is primarily live events and broadcast network driven,” he said.

HE&R also wanted to make it possible for its guests to stream their favorite apps and shows from their mobile devices to guestroom televisions, so it added Sonifi’s Staycast solution, which enables guests to do just that through their iOS or Android devices.

“Travelers are increasingly bringing with them their own content subscriptions, such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, etc.,” Ouri said. “They expect to be able to consume their content that same way they do in their homes—on the big screen. As such, there is an increasing expectation by hotel guests for their ability to access their content on their in-room TV.”

Lastly, Sonifi provided the hardware for guest internet access (GIA) upgrades. “The GIA upgrade not only meets the demanding needs of your guests today but also positions the system for easy upgrades and expandability as guest usage evolves,” he said. The company also installed the required hardware at both properties.

“HE&R selected Sonifi’s internet access technology since it allows for the use of existing coax cable in guestrooms to provide more bandwidth to guests by installing in-room wireless access points, thereby eliminating the need for costly Ethernet rewiring,” Klopp said.

Sonifi’s cost to property owners is dependent on numerous factors. “Sonifi approaches each project as a custom solution and follows a consultative approach to deliver the desired outcomes, while being mindful of budgets,” Ouri said. “Our sales team goes to great lengths and works with the property to deliver the best solution that delivers on their needs and stays within their budgets. Our clients typically work with ROI investment models, and we support their efforts by delivering guest experiences and amenities that delight their guests and position them favorably from a competitive perspective.”

These upgrades assisted HE&R with bringing the group up to its standards. “HE&R continues to be a world-class destination delivering memories to millions of guests annually,” Klopp said. “Sonifi’s solution will enable guests to have the same digital experience in the comfort of their hotel room as they do their own room. HE&R will continue to expand on the capabilities of the Sonifi solution to promote in-room entertainment, drive destination awareness and provide transactional capabilities for our guests.” HB