TVs vs. Tablets
There is speculation that the next step for the hotel room TVs is to command the guestroom. Sure, it can control lights, thermostats and more through interfaces to peripheral room technologies. It can also let guests stream their personal service programming, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime or stream music from Pandora or Spotify. But the TV must be “turned on” to gain any benefits. With travelers bringing their own entertainment devices while on the road, oftentimes they remain connected to their smart phones and laptops instead – especially if the hotel doesn’t offer streaming capabilities.
Some argue that the TV should be the command center since guests are facing the device most of the time while in the room. Tablets, however, are strategically placed on the bed-side table, equally visible and close at hand when the guest needs it. More importantly, those devices are “always on.” Customizable welcome screens draw guests' attention, making them want to engage with the hotel. While most units are programmed to “go dark” after 11:00 p.m. (as to not interfere with guests’ sleep), the devices can be awakened with just a touch and used continuously if desired.
When the TV is turned on, it is generally broadcasting movies or news; guests don’t typically use the TV as source of information or transactions. Some hotels set-up dedicated stations to provide hotel and local-area information, but viewing is limited. When people want that type of information, it’s easier for them to search by smartphone, tablet or laptop. Then there’s the clunky handheld controller. Have you tried to type anything using a hotel TV remote? It’s enormously frustrating, so guests turn it off. When that happens, the TV stops communicating. That means the hotel has lost the ability to reach the guest.
The real benefit of the in-room TV is its large screen, making viewing easy from anywhere. But requiring guests to navigate through multiple menus to turn lights on/off, the temperature up/down, request morning coffee, or deliver roomservice — forget about it. It’s simply not practical to expect guests to order food and beverage from the TV using the clumsy interface and guest experience that the remove provides. Instead, placing that function on a tablet conforms to existing usage patterns, and gets extremely high engagement.
Do you want to enable guests to stream music from Pandora or Spotify? Send it to the tablet docking station that is equipped with high-quality audio speakers. Want to enable guests to order roomservice from local restaurants vs. having to manage your own operation? Outsource the service to the tablet provider. Want to offer mobile-device charging via new alarm clock/radios but don’t have the budget for equipment? Let guests power up through the tablet dock and set alarms on the tablet. Need to reduce operating expenses? Encourage guests to opt out of room cleaning with instant alert messages on the tablet. Hope to reach every event delegate with special offers, promos and meeting materials? Set up a communication channel on the tablet. Wish you had voice technology that enables guests to speak requests but can’t afford to add smart speakers? Add voice-enabled microphones to the dock. These capabilities and many more are already available to hotels.
The bottom line is this: Tablets are the only way to reach 100% of guests. My prediction for 2025 is that Tablets — not Apps, not TVs — will be the No. 1 in-room appliance for controlling the guestroom.