February 27, 2007：Marriott International announces Monday an upgrade of televisions at high-end hotels. It´s aimed at providing better pictures, more programming and centralization of electronic gadgets used for work and entertainment.
Marriott´s initiative gives it a slight edge on competitors also scrambling to meet the demands of multitasking techno-guests. Hilton, Sheraton and Hyatt Place have similar plans.
Marriott (MAR) will install 32-inch high-definition, liquid-crystal display televisions. They´re attached to "digital connectivity panels" that allow a guest to connect several digital devices — laptops, camcorders, digital cameras, video games and iPods.
Once tapped into the TV´s flat-panel screen and the 25-watt speakers, a guest, for example, may work on the laptop and watch TV simultaneously on a split screen. The system also permits listening to an iPod through the sound system.
Marriott will roll out the upgrade over three years at its Marriott, JW Marriott and Renaissance brands in North America. By the end of 2007, about 25% of the high-end hotel rooms will have the system.
Enjoying strong demand, hotels in recent years have improved traditional amenities such as bedding and furniture. With an influx of younger guests traveling with more gadgets, they´re turning now to technology.
Marriott´s new TV system also comes with more channels — an increase to 45 or 64 stations from 28, depending on the hotel location. New channels include NFL Network and The Science Channel.
Henry Harteveldt, a travel technology analyst at Forrester Research, predicts the project will be well received. "It´s a pretty bold move. It reflects how ingrained technology is in travel," he says.
Business traveler Brenna Strickland, a technology consultant in Atlanta, says she welcomes the idea of using the large screen for work and entertainment and watching her own DVDs. "Eye fatigue at the end of the day is a big issue for consultants," she says.