Sleep Inn, Minot Posts Up Number in Down Market: Attributes Success in Part to In-Room Media System

The Sleep Inn in Minot, ND offers something for everyone. With seven meeting rooms and 15,000 square feet of event space, it's a popular facility for corporate and private functions. Additionally, the hotel's close proximity to a number of stores, restaurants and entertainment venues makes it an appealing leisure travel destination.

But when the economy slumped into recession in 2008, the hospitality industry was hit hard. When competitive properties started slashing room rates in an effort to attract travelers, Sleep Inn's management faced a dilemma. How could they stay competitive without having to cut room rates?

Their creative solution
The Sleep Inn management team wanted to differentiate their property by providing guests with clear added value. During the week, the majority of the hotel's clientele are corporate business travelers, but on the weekends Sleep Inn accommodates more families. So management needed to find a way to add value that would appeal to veteran business road warriors and leisure travelers.

"At a national hotel industry convention in early 2008, we saw a really impressive in-room media system from Roomlinx," recalls Terry Alexander, general manager of the Sleep Inn. "We got to thinking that most people today probably have a wide array of entertainment options at home, but most hotels offer very limited choices. We decided that offering guests a rich in-room entertainment experience that equaled or exceeded what they're used to at home was the perfect value-add solution for both our family and business guests."

Sleep Inn felt that Roomlinx offered the most comprehensive set of options that would enable them to tailor an in-room media offering to perfectly fit their hotel and its mix of clientele. In addition to the system's flexibility and its wide array of customable features, management also liked that the Roomlinx's unique in-room advertising capabilities. This allows Sleep Inn to promote its own onsite facilities and generate an additional revenue stream by letting local businesses advertise directly to hotel guests.

Quick implementation
For the initial phase of the implementation, the Roomlinx system was installed in 80 of the hotel's 176 rooms in Feb. 2009. All 80 rooms were completed in just four days. "Not only were we pleasantly surprised when they finished the whole first phase in less than a week, we were thrilled that they accomplished it all with absolutely no disruption of our daily operations," says Alexander.

The Roomlinx converged in-room media platform now provides Sleep Inn guests in the 80 media-enhanced rooms with free in-room access to HD Hollywood and specialty movies, traditional free-to-guest television, HSIA, business tools, games, world radio, information about hotel facilities and local businesses, and maps through a flat-panel HD LCD television.

The Roomlinx in-room media system gets rave reviews from the hotel's guests, according to Alexander. "The most frequent question we get is: €˜are all these movies really included in the room rate?' We have to assure guests there's no catch, no gimmicks, no unpleasant surprises on their bills at check-out time. Now we're finding that our guests spend more time on Roomlinx than watching regular TV."

Tangible business results
Despite the challenging economy this year, the hotel's monthly average occupancy rates are matching or exceeding last year's numbers. Management expects total room revenue for the year will meet, and probably surpass, 2008 levels. Alexander attributes a significant portion of this success to Roomlinx.

"So many hotels are struggling, but we're not. Our numbers are actually up. About 60% of our guests are repeat visitors, and most of them request the Roomlinx-equipped rooms when they book. Plus we find that word of mouth travels fast, especially among families. Almost half the guests who tell us they chose our property based on a recommendation also request the enhanced in-room media rooms. That can't be a coincidence," observed Alexander.

In addition to providing Sleep Inn's guests with a rich, multi-faceted in-room entertainment and internet experience that inspires repeat visits and word of mouth recommendations, the hotel is also realizing significant incremental revenue from Roomlinx' unique advertising capabilities.

Shortly after the initial installation was completed, management hosted a luncheon for 40 local businesses. They invited Roomlinx to make a presentation about the system and the in-room advertising feature. The response was overwhelmingly positive €" by the end of the luncheon, 25% of the attendees had already signed contracts on the spot to buy ad space on the in-room system.

An added benefit
Sleep Inn also found an unexpected benefit from Roomlinx's in-room advertising. Whenever the hotel signs up a new local store or restaurant to advertise, they generally ask for a percentage of the payment in trade, in the form of coupons for free goods, meals or services.

"We use the coupons for employee incentives, to reward excellent performance and recognize staff members who go the extra mile," explains Alexander. "They're also great for diffusing potentially sticky situations and smoothing over service hiccups. Say for example a guest arrives and for whatever reason, the room isn't ready. We can give them a coupon to go enjoy a free meal at a local eatery while we get the room ready for check-in. It's a terrific solution; not only do we avoid having disgruntled guests, but the guest actually feels pampered and well taken care of."

The Roomlinx system has so far had a positive impact on Sleep Inn's business, and as a result management is planning to upgrade the remaining 96 rooms with the Roomlinx in-room media system.

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