TULSA, OK—Hotel TVs have long been seen as revenue generators, and while they may not be raking in the dough like they used to, they’re creating a space for a different player:
Coury Hospitality—a management company with more than 25 hotels and restaurants under its wings—has seen just how efficient this technology can be. The company is implementing this technology in its hotels across the Midwest, expanding in-room options.
From television and room controls to asking questions and requesting amenities, Hotel Internet Services’ BeyondTV with Amazon Alexa gives guests new, more convenient ways to customize.
“This was a clear differentiator and game-changer in our mind when it comes to guestroom entertainment,” said Tad Stricker, regional director of operations, Coury Hospitality. “Voice control and automation are becoming increasingly more common in everyday life at home. We want to make sure that guests are not ‘downgrading’ when they turn on a TV in one of our rooms versus what they are accustomed to at home.”
With boutique hotels scattered across major Midwestern cities, Coury was looking for an easy-to-customize option that would suit the needs of each property and its unique guests. These properties include Elliot Park Hotel in Minneapolis; Ambassador Hotel Oklahoma City; Ambassador Hotel Tulsa in Oklahoma; Ambassador Hotel Kansas City in Missouri; Ambassador Hotel Wichita in Kansas; and Colcord Hotel in Oklahoma City, among others.
“BeyondTV with Alexa is highly customizable to each property. Each of our hotels are independent, upscale, luxury, boutique hotels that have independent branding and clear identities—our guestroom entertainment systems should reflect that,” Stricker said.
Hotel Internet Services integrates the wireless internet solution to interact with Alexa and the BeyondTV system. This allows for streaming from phones or tablets to the TV while also improving operations.
“The TV responds without lag on the BeyondTV platform and further makes the TV not feel like a ‘hotel TV,’ but rather what a guest experiences at home in a residential setting,” Stricker said.
Most guests utilize these streaming services, but it’s Alexa commands that new-to-technology guests may be less familiar with—but they seem to be equally open to it as these features present new—and often more efficient—ways to enjoy a stay.
“Each hotel is unique and specific to their location and market,” Stricker said. “What our guests share in common is that they typically like the road less traveled and want to use technology such as BeyondTV with Alexa. To be able to have Alexa help with various tasks and answer questions is a distinct benefit.”
While streaming provides an added convenience for guests, the real benefit for hotels may come from other in-room functions.
“There’s a real ROI, especially on the temperature part of the system,” Stricker said. “As hoteliers, we are all well aware of the decline of TVs being a revenue generator. With our BeyondTV with Alexa units acting as a smart hub for the room, we can now pivot into making the unit a cost saver. The BeyondTV with Alexa system is already receiving data if a room is occupied or not. Through a partner vendor, they can further have setback temperatures, which helps reduce utility costs tremendously.”
Adding to this, and according to Stricker, Coury plans to bring other Alexa functions to guestrooms later this year.
“There are options available, although we have not activated yet, in which a guest can order amenities via voice control. For example, a guest could say, ‘Alexa, ask the hotel to bring me a bottle of champagne.’ We are very excited to bring some of these automations to our properties,” he said.
For those more independent, self-sufficient guests, many are now communicating with Alexa for simple requests like, “Alexa, ask the hotel what time the restaurant closes.”
“Voice control is able to simplify some things, especially if you have interacted with the technology before,” Stricker said. “One of the first things I do when I walk into one of our rooms is to ask Alexa to turn on the TV to my favorite news channel. I don’t even look for the remote anymore.”
Not every guest is as accustomed to this type of technology however, which is where Coury and its employees step in. For the hesitant guest who’s wary of his or her privacy, Coury advises guests to simply say, “Alexa, stop listening.” And, for those less familiar with all of the capabilities, Coury provides room cards with common commands that guests can ask as a good entryway into the technology.
“Although I use a voice-activated system at home, I’d never interacted with an Alexa device before we began installing in our properties,” Stricker said. “I experienced that hesitancy firsthand, but quickly found some favorite commands. My favorite that I discovered so far is, ‘Alexa, ask the hotel to play white noise.’ Alexa will then wish you a goodnight and play the sound of rain. With the card and associate engagement to explain the technology, we are finding that more and more guests are adopting usage.” HB