The Hotel In-Room Tablet Isn’t Dead, It May Even Be Evolving
In a forty or even four hundred room hotel, in-room tablets are nice, but almost always feel like overkill. When you’re talking thousands of rooms they may be the best way to communicate with the modern hotel guest.
Aria Resort & Casino is outfitting all of its 4,004 rooms this week with new tablets developed by UK-based Crave Interactive, designed to provide better guest messaging, streamlined in-room purchasing, and room management.
This is the biggest roll out for Crave to date. Last year, the company installed the next generation devices at a number of upscale boutique hotels in Britain. The full-size tablets use proprietary Crave Agent software, based on the Android operating system, in a locked-down environment that restricts uploading and downloading for the end user.
Part of MGM Resorts International, Aria opened inside the massive CityCenter complex on the Las Vegas Strip in 2009. At the time, it was the first large hotel to employ the Control4 “smart home” digital hub where guests could open drapes, set temperatures, illuminate the hallway Do Not Disturb light, etc., with their bedside remote device.
The new Crave tablets integrate the pre-existing Control4 room tech and brings the user interface up to 2016 standards. It also gives the hotel the ability to potentially save energy by automatically closing drapes and lowering air-conditioning output when guests leave the room.
The most significant new functionality with the Crave tablets revolves around guest communications and in-room ordering. Now with the new tablet platform, Aria’s hotel operations team can upload detailed information, photos and videos for products, services and events in real time. The content can be delivered as run-of-the-house updates or customized communications for select groups of guests.
For example, the hotel can upload nightly food and beverage specials for the in-room dining menu, complemented with comments from the chef and a selection of new photography. Or, the spa can push discounted rates for spa treatments and amenities directly to guests in-room based on shifting demand.
“Updating guest services directories can take weeks, so if we have a change in the in-room dining menu, or anything in the hotel, traditionally there’s a lag in updating that information,” said Shannon McCallum, executive director of hotel operations. “So having everything electronic enables us to be able to deliver an up-to-the-minute guest experience.”
The immediacy of fresh content and a more modern, seamless user interface is also expected to drive incremental sales.
In Aria’s case, the hotel sells a variety of themed packages pulling amenities together from different departments. A Romance Package, for example, might require champagne from food and beverage, flowers from the concierge department, and boxed chocolates from retail.
The Crave tablet is integrated into all of the different hotel departments, making it much easier for the hotel to customize those packages on demand. At the same time, the tablet menus help the hotel upsell higher quality package components to customize the sales experience.
“So the new tablets enable us to showcase those packages better, and guests can order them just by the press of a button,” explains McCallum.
That’s the technology’s greatest attribute. This is really about removing barriers between the consumer perusing the available products and the decision to purchase. That, more than anything, is why the tablet information is provided in multiple languages including English, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and German.
“In other hotels where they’ve done the installation, Crave has seen 15-20% incremental sales on in-room orders when the system is used, on a per-check average,” adds McCallum. “I’m also really excited about the potential for our spa services and amenities because we can target off times to drive bookings, which we haven’t been able to do up until this point.”
Amy Dice, director of business technology at Aria, told Skift that the long term retail opportunities for the Crave tablets are almost unlimited. That includes potentially loading all of the more than a dozen hotel restaurants for in-room purchase, as well as fashion and other merchandizing retail.
“The wireless aspect of this technology can be a challenge at many hotels, but at Aria we’re very fortunate to have amazing Wi-Fi throughout the property,” says Dice. “That’s why other properties, including some in Las Vegas, haven’t been able to implement this.”
Eventually, customer profiles sourced from MGM’s M Life loyalty program will be integrated into the Crave back-end to further personalize the in-room experience for the guest and sales targeting for the hotel.
And for meetings and conventions, the tablets provide a way for planners to send customized messages to a specific group of hotel rooms, such as welcome letters, agenda notifications, video presentations, etc. Guests using the same conference code will also be able to message each other room-to-room.
Dice says that MGM is having conversations with third party companies such as Uber, Lyft, and various car rental companies, airlines and tour operators to expand the services available specifically for Aria customers.
Looking further ahead, the Crave content and connectivity ecosystem will one day be scaled across some or all 10 properties in the MGM Las Vegas portfolio. Aria guests, or those at other MGM properties like Bellagio or Mandalay Bay, will then have quick access to a greater variety of hotel restaurants, entertainment, spa and shopping opportunities.
“At this point we’re restricting this to Aria-only content, because this is brand new and we’ve been very careful to limit our scale and protect the general scope,” says Dice. “But absolutely, at some point in time we’ll roll out additional information regarding other MGM properties, and potentially we could offer all kinds of local destination information too.”
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