Hospitality Design & Operations Increasingly Center Around Integrated Audiovisual Experiences
From planning and design through customer engagement, every part of the hospitality industry — hotels, restaurants, cruise lines— is rapidly changing to meet the needs of the digital consumer. This is reflected in both the design of public spaces, where integrated audiovisual experiences are increasingly spectacular and memorable, to operations, where new efficiencies and consumer technology interfaces are energizing public and private spaces, to meet guest expectations.
Even the creation of new hospitality venues leverages AV technology in new and exciting ways. Marriott, for example, has a 360-degree viewing environment called the Igloo. Stand in the middle, and images of a room environment wrap around you. You’re no longer constrained to a singular view from a single point in that room, either. You can move around through space.
Within the Igloo, you can look at scale and experience what people might see from different vantage points. Marriott uses this audiovisual environment to present new design concepts to owners. That's important, because Marriott, like many major hospitality brands, has many locations that are independently owned and operated. Use of the Igloo is helping Marriott to accelerate development time while reducing many of the traditional costs associated with the design process.
Public spaces are another area where integrated audiovisual experiences are having a transformative impact on the way hotels engage with travelers. Lobbies are no longer static spaces simply to be passed through, but rather dynamic, spectacular environments where memories are made and brands are defined. Guests can access information through interactive touch screens or sit at communal tables with power outlets, personal displays, and positional audio. Separate alcoves welcome individual travelers and small groups who need a little privacy. The lobby is now very much a vibrant communal gathering place where digital-centric guests can connect with one another and the outside world.
Another exciting development being generated by integrated AV experiences are ‘anywhere, anytime’ meetings. Every guest has a meeting in their pocket if they have a mobile device that can link to a screen. Of course, formal meeting rooms are still vitally important to hotel operations. Up to 50% of a hotel's revenues may come from meetings, and the technology there must be first rate, but now other spaces are being designed to accommodate formal and informal meetings. Lobbies, restaurants and huddle spaces are increasingly the places where meetings happen, and that means that both network connectivity and careful audio design are required for clarity and privacy in these multi-use spaces.
Audiovisual technology is also improving the hotel concierge experience. At the Sofitel Paris Baltimore Tour Eiffel, a spectacular Welcome Wall designed by audiovisual design firm Float4 entices and engages guests with information and motion-activated experiences. The highlight is a giant map of Paris that can be used by hotel concierge and guests alike to plan walking tours, meals, and much more based on one’s interests and tastes. Guests can then download itineraries from the Wall to their phones and take it with them. This audiovisual Welcome Wall augments the traditional concierge experience and provides guests with an efficient, interactive, and exciting way to research a city.
Restaurants, too, are using audiovisual technology in innovative ways. All restaurants use audio, lighting and climate control to set a mood, but many restaurants, such as sports bars, now depend on an integrated audiovisual ecosystem to serve a shifting and diverse clientele. Buffalo Wild Wings is redefining sub-spaces within their main spaces quickly and easily, for groups — or even individuals — interested in a particular sport or event.
If someone comes in who is not interested in the Big Game, B-Dubs employees can change one of the TVs in their proximity and bring a speaker to the table that’s synced with the action. The whole process takes about 90 seconds. Twenty years ago, most of that customer’s meal would be over before employees found the right remote to change one TV. Dedicated sound wasn’t even an option back then.
In a world where consumers expect constant connectivity, cruise lines like Princess Cruises are upping their technology game. Travelers expect the same kinds of digital choices and speeds they enjoy on land, even out at sea and out of range of traditional high-speed Internet.
That’s why Princess is rolling out dedicated satellite connections across the fleet, to improve the speed of things and to deliver more information about every activity option that’s available to guests.
Of course, giant displays and surround sound systems are at the heart of the floating entertainment experience that is a cruise. Audiovisual technology also streamlines operations, with wayfinding kiosks that move people from one experience to another, without involving employees.
The hospitality industry may face many challenges in the digital age, but audiovisual technology is turning these challenges into exciting new opportunities to create more memorable and lasting experiences that generate better business outcomes for the hospitality brands that embrace it.
Brad Grimes is the Director of Communications for AVIXA, the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association. AVIXA represents the $178 billion global commercial AV industry and produces InfoComm trade shows around the world. For more information on AVIXA, visit www.avixa.org/hospitalityAV.