It may be difficult for some travelers to stay in a country where they don’t speak the language. Sometimes, they do indeed speak the language but prefer nevertheless to remain connected to their home country’s news or perspectives on international events. French-speaking travelers will be offered this privilege in one of the latest developments on the close relationship that the hotel industry enjoys with multimedia entertainment. France 24 will now allow for francophone visitors to surf its site for “French-friendly” hotels. In other words, potential guests will be able to specifically search for hotels that carry t h e French-language network thought a search engine available on their website. It is expected to open by the beginning of March of this year, at the latest. This will facilitate the loyal viewers of the channel to stay connected to the francophone network when they travel to any one of the 1 million rooms that carry it worldwide, and notably in India. France 24 acquired the authorization to broadcast in the Asian country on 3 December of last year.They allow guests to check into hotels with their own entertainment in their bags. When are we going to see 3D entertainment in our hotel rooms? It might not be that far away. Samsung has already started supplying Parisian 5-star hotels with 3D entertainment. Philips is also advertising its next generation of 3D ready television. It might be another two years before the technology trickles down to more accessible hotels. One of the obstacles is the management of 3D glasses, but this problem should easily be worked out soon.While some channels might be specialized in news, notably English-language networks, French-language network TV5 has chosen to distinguish itself by being a little more cultureoriented. This target audience is the reason why TV5 is now present in 25,000 4 and 5* hotels. A client-profile study has demonstrated that the typical business-traveler viewer of TV5 is within the hotel’s 20% of clients in a higher income bracket. “We’re going to be present in both a re a s ” s a y s Ingrid Gressier, the network’s Distribution and Marketing Manager. She continues, “Namely, to remain on top of the market in Europe and to take a bold approach in developing our presence in Asia’s high-end hotels.” Most importantly, this client-study has also demonstrated a very important statistic: “A third of viewers who watch TV5 Monde in their hotel are francophile, without necessarily being fluent in French.” Says Ingrid Gressier. “The ratio is even higher in private homes, mainly in Europe. Our viewers are experts in French culture and it is our duty to promote French culture to them.That’s why we always subtitle in the host country’s language. We currently work with 13 translating firms.” The French network highlights its partnerships with entertainment/ communications suppliers such as Quadriga, Locatel, Acentic as well as other European leaders, “but also dozens of other partners present on a national level, as we did in the U K , ” their Marketing Director explains. “Using technology that is a ‘must’ like IPTV, we vary our choices for entertainment, like our range of French VOD.” Diversifying broadcasting methods is another point to examine, especially with the applications to access TV5, as frequent travelers can already do on the website. As far as small independent hotels are concerned, the French cable network, CanalPlus proposes a cable subscription that is reserved for small establishments and allows them to select the channels they want included in a custom-made package. The price of this package will depend on the number of channels chosen and the duration of the contract. One of the problems hotels have is dealing with different carriers for IPTV, PBX, and internet.Actually, they never even considered it a problem as it was unfathomable that all three could be grouped in a single digital network without resorting to a set-up box. Today, not only is it conceivable, but the technology is very well available from companies such as Acentic, Swisscom, and Quadriga. Hotel chains can now benefit from a personalized “guest communications portal” which allow hotels with any network infrastructure to connect to IPTV and internet while working with just a single supplier instead of multiple carriers. Different packages are available depending on budget and desired services for visitors. For instance, Swisscom Hospitality Systems and LG Electronics have developed an all-in-one solution for Internet Access, live TV, VOD that also allows real-time guest messaging through the hotel’s front desk. One is not limited to communication from the guest room to only the outside w o r l d . C o m m u n i - cation will also link the front desk to the guest room in many ways, notably through a main menu that will communicate hotel services. If a hotel has a specific happyhour at its bar or would like to announce its spa’s opening hours, it can do so through the television. Many times, guests are in desperate need of advice for local hotspots. With this portal, hotels can now direct guests to selected restaurants, events, or partners’ establishments. The portal can then become a source of revenue for the establishments by selling publicity to outside partners. One of the market leaders for this technology is Quadriga with their product Sensiq.Marc Budie, technology director at Quadriga, adds: “We have developed Sensiq to give hoteliers an opportunity to generate additional business value, whilst enhancing communication with guests and bringing relevant information to them. By tailoring the inroom experience to meet the needs of its guests, we are using technology to enhance services and optimize guest satisf a c t i o n a n d loyalty.” This is definitely an advantage for the guest who no longer has to go downstairs to see the concierge and maybe wait on line. Concierge traffic is reduced and customer satisfaction is increased. The next step would be a video phone communication between the concierge and guest, but that is definitely a development reserved for the future. This digital technology will also allow hotels to know their clients’ consumer preferences regarding their television viewing. It can report what guests watch to hoteliers, which they can then use as a factor when developing a marketing strategy. Who would be eligible for this technology and how would it work? In theory everyone can, whether they have coax, ethernet or a telephone cable connection. The question is rather, should the system be run remotely (cloud) or on site. The answer depends on the amount of individualized services a hotel would like to provide. As with PMS or CRM systems, two or three star estab l i s h m e n t usually tend to group services outside their establishments . Once a hotel wants to give more individualized services, they might want to keep their server on site, which is the case for four and five star establishments. As for running TV from a remote site, that is impossible at the time being, but might be a reality in 10 to 12 years. Alfonso Tasso from Swisscom stresses the importance of a building’s infrastructure when conceiving digital guest and hotel services. This should be conceived at the earliest stages of conception, from the archi- tect’s blueprint, along with electric wiring.Developers need to take into consideration, “what services are going to be proposed and how they are going to ‘talk’ to each other,” states Mr. Tasso. For inst a n c e , S w i s s c o m ’ s CitizenM runs d o o r l o c k s , Intenet access, entertainement, voice services, room ambiance, and the temperature controls on one fully convergent infrastructure. The phone system and the PMS are hosted remotely. “The convergent service set-up facilitates a consistent, personalized guest experience while reducing operational costs for the chain,” states Mr. Tasso. Another minor but important development that hotels need to keep their eyes on is security. Often times, when configuring internet passwords, systems will use any combination of first name, last name and room number which is practical for consumers because they can actually remember their password. How many times have we lost a little piece of p a p e r wi t h RTJ25iuTHJ45 written on it? But too easy password favors fraudulent room charges since they’re easy to guess. In an effort to safeguard both guests and hoteliers against inaccurate room charges and yet preserve the practicality of an easy password, some systems provides a computer generated password through a television portal. This system is a logical hybrid that combines security and practicality because it easily provides a password at arm’s reach and yet protects the guest’s identity by keeping a computer-generated code.Acentic’s cross platform approach, Core CUI, does this and much more. Acentic’s CEO, Richard Robinson states, “This is a huge step forward to build new revenue streams. On the log-in pages where movies are advertised, hotels can now upsell with incentives to buy the full bundle package for use on all devices.” In a study done for multi-media experts Acentic, 95% of business travelers care if there is Wi-fi or a wired connection in a hotel. 63% of business travelers confirm whether a hotel has internet prior t o b o o k i n g . According to a study conducted for Quadriga, UK businessmen found reliable internet connection almost as important as a comfortable bed. However, many travelers feel that they shouldn’t have to pay for internet or that internet should be included in room rates. This point of view is very unpopular amongst hotels because it might discourage guests using a self booking tool because they just see a figure and don’t necessarily know that the higher rate compensates for internet. As of recently, Radisson used to provide internet service with a slightly higher room fee, but decided to limit it to its loyaltyprogramme members. Carlson CEO Hubert Joly stated that it is "a handicap from a marketing standpoint." The public sentiment for “free” amenities is now starting to spread to pay-per-view. In an on-line poll, USA Today’s internet readers voted 81% that they feel pay-per-view should be free as well. The American daily cited new portable technology, such as the I-pad as the culprit.They allow guests to check into hotels with their own entertainment in their bags. When are we going to see 3D entertainment in our hotel rooms? It might not be that far away. Samsung has already started supplying Parisian 5-star hotels with 3D entertainment. Philips is also advertising its next generation of 3D ready television. It might be another two years before the technology trickles down to more accessible hotels. One of the obstacles is the management of 3D glasses, but this problem should easily be worked out soon.
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