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Executive Insight Q&A with Robert Grosz, EVP and Chief Commercial Officer, World Cinema

Insights on networks and connectivity, in-room entertainment and its potential to drive revenue, and thoughts on tech implementations in the coming years.
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Robert Grosz, EVP and Chief Commercial Officer, World Cinema

HT: How does robust networking and connectivity support in-room entertainment?

Robert Grosz: Networking and connectivity support in-room entertainment by providing faster speeds, greater coverage, increased reliability, low latencies. With the evolution of 5G, hotels and guests can expect:

• Enhanced mobile broadband for high bandwidth

• Massive machine communication

• Ultra-reliable low latency communication

For hotels, connectivity is also a necessity for optimizing operating efficiency and service delivery, which leads to higher levels of guest satisfaction; a Wi-Fi’s reliability can make or break a customer’s loyalty. 

Managed Wi-Fi allows an outside party to ensure the system operates flawlessly around an entire property, encompassing infrastructure, equipment, software integration, and system security and stability – from smart room technology and alert systems to wireless and cellular back-up. 

The term “robust WiFi” must be better defined. Robust WiFi used to mean “fast” or “available”, but in the networking world speed is really one of the least important key performance indicators (KPI), and availability is simply table stakes.   

Technology, especially wireless networking technology, is constantly improving both from a features and value standpoint.    Hotel stakeholders should have a roadmap as to what kind of guest or associate technology experience they wish to deliver over the next 10 years.  This roadmap should be re-evaluated yearly.  Capital plans for frequent upgrades and maintenance should be part of the annual hotel budgeting process.  Hotels need a trusted partner with networking and technology expertise who has the best interest of the hotel and their guests in mind.  How guests authenticate to a network is very important both to the guest experience and the security and management of all types of connected devices.  Much of this magic is software driven using Software Defined Networking (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV), and improving authentication for both user and device management with tools like Passpoint.  It’s also important to consider the impact of licensed Carrier networks which can deliver highly manageable reliability down to the device and application level.   

HT: How are communications with guests expanding opportunities for sales, new amenities, and revenue?

RG: Hotels are looking for any way to stay in contact with their guests and retain customer loyalty. Most recently, properties are putting more efforts in room service, shop local attractions which ultimately is bringing in more revenue as they partner with local restaurants, events, and stadiums. The industry is seeing how niche boutique hotels are increasingly in demand as they are offering a more customized stay for their guests. Including amenities such as health and wellness experiences enjoyed at the privacy of their hotel rooms, will position them as leaders in the industry.  

Many brands are introducing more apps that allow guests access to a variety of the hotel services from their own personal devices. Guests have the option to check in online, use their phone as their hotel room key, make restaurant reservations, order room service to just name a few. All local dining options can be pursued on the app or QR code on the TV screen. Sending direct messages through personal devices to hotel staff has also been adapted as a contact hotel extension experience. 

HT: Connectivity is essential to hotel operations. How are guest and on-property needs evolving and how can hotels better meet them?

RG: Travelers today are more connected than ever before. Extended stay market is becoming more popular as well with new brands such as StayAPT coming into play. With this comes WFA, work from anywhere which requires ability for mobile networks. Technology has moved outside an amenity to a necessity.  

Deploying technology solutions to help address these challenges are highly effective, more predictable/manageable, and less expensive than hiring more people or fork-lift replacing major systems like HVAC, plumbing or electrical. For example, arming on-site engineers and centralized building monitoring teams with smartphones and retrofitting buildings with temperate, humidity, motion and leak sensors saves time and pinpoints the root cause of common building system issues.  Payback on these investments can occur by diverting a single major issue related to the case of a major water leak.  Using two-way video kiosks throughout the property could improve guest service levels and create a differentiated experience without the need to hire additional staff. And deploying more sophisticated video monitoring systems can protect both guests and associates while providing actionable intelligence to the hotel owner and operator.

An additional big factor in hotel operations is guest safety. Ensuring guests feel safe and secure during their stay is a huge aspect in repeat stays. Take into consideration AI video surveillance, and how your engineering team, front desk and management can all promote safety through video intelligence. Parking lots, elevators and off limit areas.

HT: What challenges will network and connectivity providers face as new technologies such as voice, facial recognition, 5G, SD-WAN, and Edge become more widely adopted?

RG: I would say the challenge providers face is a lot of properties still have very outdated technology and cabling, making it more difficult to bring in new hardware that provides a functional interface and organizational flexibility. It would be smart if owners and operators were looking into installing CBRS cabling on new construction projects now to have time and money later. In addition, telco providers are having to disperse the purchasing power due to the cloud configuration. With a large variety of products and solutions available today and even more in the future, operational services such as service configuration, order fulfillment and customer care are becoming more complex but increasingly vital.

Guests have a very high intolerance for lack of Wi-Fi and cellular coverage. IoT technology is an increasingly expected part of the guest experience and go hand in hand with managed Wi-Fi solution. With this coming an expected growth in data to be handled by networks.

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