Self-directing the hotel room experience

The guest experience is evolving. New expectations, new travel styles, and with that, new innovations—especially in the hotel room.

To talk about the ever-changing guestroom experience, Glenn Haussman, founder/host, No Vacancy Live podcast, moderated the latest Hotel Business Hot Topics session, “Home Suite Home: Self-directing the hotel room experience,” in partnership with DIRECTV Hospitality.

The panel of experts included Anna Scozzafava, VP/general manager, extended stay brands, strategy & operations, Choice Hotels International; Ron Pohl, president, international operations, BWH Hotels and president, WorldHotels; Kristen Hanich, director, research, Parks Associates, Matt Schwartz, CTO, Sage Hospitality Group; Peter Palli, SVP, property, owner and stay experience products & platforms, IHG Hotels & Resorts; and Kimberly Twiggs, associate VP, DIRECTV Hospitality.

Pohl kicked it off with insight about the in-room hospitality experience.

“It’s about, in my opinion, making [the guestroom] most similar to the home experience,” he said. “The key focus for us right now is streaming, casting and accessibility to their TV by using their mobile device. So, as we continue to evolve the ability to do that, it’s complicated and I’m glad we have DIRECTV on there to help us with that, that’s where we’re seeing the most usage.”

Scozzafava on the other hand, is most focused on extended-stay, a segment that’s hot right now and where guests are staying on-property and in their rooms for longer periods of time.

“One of the things we do we build out an innovation center where we have guestrooms that are set up so that we’re able to bring through guests and conduct different research and make sure that we are thinking about every touchpoint in the room it’s not just about one aspect of the room,” she shared.

In Everhome Suites, in particular, Choice is focused on casting capabilities as guests love to be able to bring their own content into the room.

IHG is offering a new way for guests to consume content with its recent announcement to launch Apple Play.

“We are working on that in conjunction with us continuing to expand our in-house IHG studio product,” Palli said. “The ultimate goal is to make it as easy as possible for the consumer to consume content.”

It’s these types of conveniences guests are looking for that make a hotel stay feel like an at-home experience.

On the management side, Schwartz is focused on a few points that he himself looks for in a guestroom.

“What I’m thinking about is simple things: connectivity, amazing WiFi and cell connectivity; the TV size, you can have all the content in the world but if you don’t have the right screen to put it on it makes a huge difference; and having an ‘Alexa’ type vehicle,” Schwartz said.

Haussman noted that the TV size, for him, is symbolic of the effort the hotel is putting in to make the guest feel good about their stay.

Parks Associates performs a handful of consumer surveys, and in the first quarter of this year—in partnership with DIRECTV—they asked 5,000 households about their most recent hotel stays, how they consume video at the hotel and what they’re looking for in this arena.

“Around 80% reported watching video on the hotel TV in their most recent stay,” Hanich noted. “What we also found is that while there is a meaningfully large percentage currently connecting their phone to the hotel TV, most consumers are still watching live TV channels, so there isn’t necessarily a lot of access to that mobile connection. It’s certainly a point of differentiation for a lot of folks.”

Guests are looking for the path of least resistance, but getting guests’ desired content onto the screen isn’t always easy, as Hanich’s numbers pointed to.

“It is true the path of least resistance in the hotel is still live TV,” Twiggs said. “The other statistic that’s coming up as well is 70% of guests are actually interested in logging into their streaming subscriptions in the room. I think the opportunity for providers like DIRECTV is to make that a reality.”

For more insights on this Hot Topics session, make sure to check out the August issue of Hotel Business.

Watch the session