Posted on: March 13 2012In a bid to entice today's tech-savvy travelers, Hyatt today has become the first major hotel brand to announce that it will roll out a newfangled, in-room TV system centered around the Internet.
The announcement means that, within about a year, guests in all full-service Hyatt hotels in North America will be able to log onto their Facebook account or stream a movie from their Netflix account and play the content on their room's 40- or 50-inch TV screen instead of their smaller laptop screen.
The announcement also ups the pressure on rival chains that have also been experimenting with the latest forms of in-room TV technology.
"We feel like we're on the cusp of the way people consume content in their homes and on the road," says Pete Sears, senior vice president of North America operations for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts.
"We felt it was time. A lot of them can't even do this at home at this point, so we're giving them the ability to consume content, be entertained and communicate in a hotel the way they want to - not the way we tell them they have to," he says.
Basic cable surfing won't cost you anything, so you can still watch ESPN, CNN and other channels. It's free from the get-go.
(Did you note that HBO isn't mentioned? In a move worth exploring further in this forum, Hyatt no longer offers HBO, but guests who subscribe to HBO at home have access through HBOGo.)
If you want standard Internet access, which is best used for checking email, you'll pay the $9.95 daily Internet charge - which includes access for up to one device. You'll pay $9.95 plus a $5 premium for up to four devices. The ability to stream video via the Internet is included in the $14.95 price.
Most guests will still have the option of renting a current Hollywood title ($14.95 each) or adult content, if they so choose, but that will not be the system's emphasis, Sears says.
The new system - provided by hospitality Internet provider Roomlinx - will introduce other gee-wiz features, such as letting you order extra towels from housekeeping, view local restaurant recommendations, order room service or book a city tour through your in-room TV.
Hyatt's rival chains have been testing new in-room technology systems - and various providers are doing their best to land these large accounts, but until now, no other large chain has made this large of a commitment.
Sears believes that "the technology has reached a point that allows us to do this in a safe way that's going to be reliable for our guests."
Beyond TV shows and movies
Besides entertainment, the system can be used to accomplish a number of other tasks. Examples:
Work: Business travelers working on a presentation will be able to work on their presentation using the large TV screen. "You can do that now on your TV," Sears says. After a guest completes his or her work, "you can hit print, and someone runs it up to your guest room. You've seen it on a video screen and know it's going to work, and now you've got a hard copy."
Communication: Meeting planners, event organizers and even a bride and groom with a group of friends, colleagues or loved ones in a single Hyatt hotel will now have the ability to send their group a personal welcome note or a reminder about an event. For corporate groups, for example, a regional manager could tell her team members to gather somewhere before a conference session begins. How is this done in today's world? "You get a copy of the room list and you start calling people," Sears says.
Which Hyatt hotels have it now?
The new TV technology can currently be found in about 1,800 rooms in three hotels -- North America in Hyatt's hip Andaz 5th Avenue in New York, the Hyatt Regency New Orleans and the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center. Hyatt's full-service brands operate about 60,000 hotel rooms in 135 North American hotels.
Hyatt's plan is to install the system in two-thirds of these hotels by the end of this year, with the rest to be completed early next year.
"We're motivated to get it installed quickly," he says, adding that they'll target gateway city hotels first.
In the future, Hyatt says RoomLinx plans to roll out additional features such as an app that will convert a smart phone into the TV remote control, which would eliminate the need to pick up the germ-infested one in your room.
Roomlinx installed the first system for Hyatt in its flagship Andaz luxury boutique hotel - Andaz on 5th - when the hotel opened almost two years ago, and kept updating and improving features, Sears says. "The system in there today doesn't resemble what was originally put in," he says. "There were hundreds of things we improved upon."