Who doesn’t love a nice hotel room? An escape where you can ditch the chores and stress of daily life, enjoy much needed relaxation and indulge in the hotel amenities on offer.
The added bonus at many hotels these days? The growing diversity and sophistication of in-room entertainment options.
And lest you be confused, the days of pay-per-view in-room movies being the primary source of entertainment are old school. In 2023, in-room entertainment at hotels is evolving to include everything from virtual reality and augmented reality to customized content recommendations derived from AI and the use of mobile phones and iPads to provide your own entertainment.
“The world of in-room hotel entertainment is undergoing a technological revolution, driven by interactive experiences, personalized content delivery, and unique offerings,” says Sarah Lynch, assistant general manager of Hilton Garden Inn & Homewood Suites San Diego.
Lynch’s sentiments were echoed by numerous hotel industry insiders who say it’s an exciting time in the hotel space, especially with regard to the latest in-room entertainment. Hotels are investing millions of dollars to step up the guest experience and that includes an increasing array of intriguing in-room features.
Voice-Controlled Smart Rooms
Using voice controls to activate features around one’s home is hardly new. Alexa has been firmly entrenched in our lives for quite some time. What is somewhat newer, however, is voice controls making the leap to hotel rooms.
“Voice-controlled technologies have become increasingly popular, allowing guests to control various aspects of their rooms using voice commands,” explains Lynch. “Hotels are integrating voice assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, enabling guests to adjust room temperature, request room service, schedule wake-up calls, and explore local attractions with voice prompts.”
The Wynn Las Vegas was among the forerunners in this space, introducing voice-controlled rooms years ago that allow guests to control lighting, curtains, and other amenities by simply speaking commands.
Alexa for Hospitality, a special version of the Echo technology designed to improve the customer experience within hotels and serve as an in-room concierge, enabled such early adopters. Now a growing number of hotels are jumping on the bandwagon, says Lynch.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
An example of an even more high-tech advancement, some hotels are incorporating AR technology in guest room spaces. It is being utilized to enhance in-room experiences by overlaying digital content onto the physical environment.
What does that look like? Hotels are leveraging augmented reality to provide interactive maps, historical information, and even virtual concierge services through guests’ smartphones or dedicated AR devices. “The Ritz-Carlton, for instance, offers an AR app that provides virtual tours and immersive storytelling within their properties,” explains Lynch.
Entirely separate from augmented reality, some hotels are working to incorporate virtual reality entertainment. For those not entirely clear on the distinction, in AR, part of the surrounding environment is real and the AR technology just adds layers of virtual objects to your surroundings. In virtual reality meanwhile, the surrounding environment is entirely virtual and generated by technology.
“A few forward-thinking hotels are experimenting with VR, providing immersive experiences like virtual tours of local attractions or virtual wellness sessions,” explains Hans Mast, a travel expert and advisor with Golden Rule Travel.
If the VR development leaves you asking the question—why would you want to go to a hotel and not visit attractions in person, you’re not alone. Mast has an explanation.
“While it’s true that exploring in real life has its own charm, VR offers a unique, immersive experience that can’t be easily replicated,” he says. “Think of it as an added value—you can preview attractions, or enjoy a virtual beach vacation right from your room.”
Still, even Mast admits that this type of VR offering is not yet a widespread feature. Though he says it is indeed gaining more interest, particularly in the luxury sector.
“As VR technology becomes more accessible and affordable, I believe we’ll see broader adoption in the hotel industry,” adds Mast.
Personalized Content and Recommendations
In an effort to deliver increasingly tailored experiences, hotels are also leveraging data analytics and AI algorithms to offer personalized in-room content and recommendations for guests.
By analyzing guest preferences in advance, hotels can suggest movies or shows that align with individual interests. The Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts uses AI-powered technology to curate personalized recommendations based on guests’ previous stays and preferences, says Lynch.
Mast, of Golden Rule Travel, also sees this trend gaining steam.
“When I talk about personalization, I mean things like offering recommended shows, music playlists, or even video games based on guests’ preferences,” says Mast. “This could be as simple as knowing a guest’s favorite genre of music or movie, and having that readily available for them.”
In-Room Entertainment Driven by Mobile Devices
In a world where smartphones have practically morphed into an appendage of the human body, this next prediction should hardly come as a surprise: Mobile phones will become increasingly integral to hotel room entertainment features.
“Keep an eye on the growing role of mobile devices in in-room entertainment,” says Mast. “Guests increasingly prefer to control their room settings and entertainment using their smartphones, and we’ll likely see more integration of hotel services with guests’ devices in the future.”
The future is clearly here already however. One need look no further than the June 2023 announcement from IHG Hotels & Resorts.
The company has just launched AirPlay in hotel rooms in collaboration with Apple, an offering that gives guests the ability to seamlessly share content from their iPhone or iPad to their guest room TV. AirPlay is scheduled to begin rolling out in select IHG hotels around the world before the end of 2023.
Once AirPlay is available in an IHG hotel, guests will be able to scan a QR code unique to the TV in their room to enjoy a personalized entertainment experience on the TV.
“Our guests can now enjoy the convenience of streaming directly from their iPhone or iPad to our in-room technology, creating a home-away-from-home environment like never before,” said George Turner, chief commercial and technology officer for IHG Hotels & Resorts.
Some industry experts even foresee a future where televisions in hotel rooms are eliminated altogether, thanks to the emerging reliance on mobile phones and iPads to provide entertainment. As this approach to streaming entertainment becomes more widespread, hotels may decide to remove mounted flat screen televisions from guest rooms and replace them with….you guessed it, more high-tech offerings.
“Hotels may enable a virtual or digital wall display to project whatever content the guest wants to from their mobile device,” says Philip Ballard, travel expert and chief communications officer for HotelPlanner.
“Many travelers are now so plugged into their smartphones, tablets and laptops, that they don’t even turn their room TV on at all during their stay unless a game is on,” Ballard adds.
The future of in-room hotel entertainment promises even more exciting developments, say experts. And yes, that will likely include increased integration of the latest technology to assist and entertain guests, as well as the elimination of outdated forms of entertainment.
“Virtual reality is expected to evolve further, offering guests the ability to immerse themselves in lifelike simulations of destinations, historical periods, or events,” says Lynch, of Hilton Garden Inn & Homewood Suites.
Wearable technology is also on the horizon and may be used to enable guests to control in-room amenities and allow for accessing entertainment options even more seamlessly.
And while it may sound just a tad far-fetched—holographic displays may also be part of hotel rooms in the coming years, potentially being used to bring 3D visualizations and interactive experiences directly into one’s room.
“With continuous advancements on the horizon, hotels are poised to create unforgettable and immersive experiences for guests, elevating their stays to new heights of enjoyment and engagement,” says Lynch.
Many of these developments, however, will take at least a decade to fully materialize. It also remains to be seen just how widespread such offerings will ultimately be. In many cases, it will boil down to how much money a hotel has available to spend.
“Outfitting entire hotel chains globally with next-generation in-room technology is a very expensive proposition for hotels,” concludes Ballard.
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