Technology gives, technology takes away

Technology gives, technology takes away

Automation, for the most part, has been a boon to industry?hotels included. But as technology becomes even more portable and web based, automation is once again pulling revenue out of the coffers of hotel companies.

Telephone revenue is all but non-existent. Now, it appears, TV-related revenue is going the way of the dinosaur, as well. In-room entertainment system providers are doing everything they can to make the in-room TV and entertainment relevant to guests. In fact, LodgeNet just rolled out a premium IPTV solution which integrates an Apple Mac mini in the guestroom to enable a broad range of content and functionality, including interactive services and Web browsing. It is truly cutting edge.

At the same time, a report this week in the Los Angeles Times, which I have seen picked up by many other newspapers and, thus, spreading the word among consumers, was all about how road warriors and leisure travelers are arriving at your front door armed with all their own gear and downloads for a customized in-room experience. If they can?t plug their systems into a big screen, they might not turn on the TV at all.

Needless to say, in-room entertainment revenue is dropping rather precipitously. Business is tough enough and now hoteliers are watching another great source of revenue slip away. Colliers PKF Hospitality Research reports income from in-room movies and games dropped to US$126 per room in 2009 from US$171, a decline of 26%.

Hoteliers continue to bend to the demands of guests and soon I expect web access will become a completely free amenity around the world, and in every segment of the business. Where does the hotelier turn for that fix of ancillary revenue? Do any of you have ideas?

Is live entertainment a good option? Can we turn the lobby into an alternative to the bar? Or is that a bad idea as pushing people into the lobby just cuts down on profitable bar business? I don?t pretend to have any answers. Do you?