The hotel guestroom telephone is being ignored more and more these days.
The average hotel guest checks in with three mobile devices. That has pushed the guestroom phone down the list of preferred communication devices.
“We have noticed a significant decline in guest room phone usage and that guests, by and large, bring and use their own mobile phones,” says Kevin Carl, executive vice president and chief information officer of Radisson Hotel Group.
And why not? Hotels have traditionally charged exorbitant prices for the privilege of using a landline.
“Long ago, hotels helped to train guests not to use the room phone for long distance calls due to egregiously high fee structures,” says Robert Cole, founder of RockCheetah, a hotel marketing strategy and travel technology consulting firm. “Often, phones that offered multi buttons to call a dining outlet or housekeeping merely got forwarded to an operator or front desk clerk. Being put on hold defeats the purpose of making the call. So hotels have not always provided great phone experiences.”
Travellers are now hanging up on the traditional phone and using the hotel room phone only for minor logistical purposes. If that, thanks to the advent of new technologies.
Kate Ashton, senior vice president of operations for Wyndham Grand, says the most common uses for in-room phones are for calls to the front desk. The most frequently asked questions are “What’s the Wi-Fi password?” and “When is checkout time?”
Guests also call to make housekeeping requests, order room service or get advice on local restaurants and attractions.
That said, hotels say they would never give up on landlines for the simple reason that they need them for security.
“Having a landline accessible means guests can always have a way to call in case of emergency or if they have any issues with their own devices,” Ashton says.
That doesn’t mean that the guestroom telephone is not changing or that hotels aren’t finding technologies to supplement the landline.
“Telephones continue to evolve and become more stylish in the hotel space,” says Andrea Torrance, vice president of operations for AccorHotels North and Central America.
Phones have gotten more complicated over the years even as their popularity has sagged.
Hotel room phones used to be quite simple with one line and basic services.
Now companies such as Cetis provide extensive services out of one device such as one-touch voice mail retrieval, Bluetooth paring for music streaming, and digital clocks. They also have built-in USB charging ports for smartphones.
The hotel landline has gone from a single line to a two-line corded telephone to a cordless.
“Now, the trend seems to going backwards in time to a single line corded telephone,” says Chad Collins, vice president of sales for the Americas at VTech, a company that produces hotel landlines. “I believe this is driven by the fact that hotels simply want a telephone with dial tone, not all of the bells and whistles. Guests’ demands are changing and the telephone is not excluded from those changes.”
But many hotels are finding other ways to communicate with guests beyond the regular landline.
Roxy, a Seattle startup, has created speech-enabled devices that will allow hotels to replace landlines with voice-activated calling. The devices also act as a guests’ personal concierge. Guests can place requests to the front desk and get recommendations for restaurants and activities.
Some hotels are experimenting with Alexa, which lets users message or call other users if they have the app installed on their smartphone. Wynn Las Vegas has equipped all 4,748 rooms with Echo, Amazon’s hands-free voice-controlled speaker. Other hotels are trying it out, including the Inn at the Pier in Pismo Beach.
Hotels such as the relatively new environmentally-friendly 1 Hotels brand have added iPads to rooms to take away part of the function of the phone. The branded 1 Guide is an iPad that lets guests order room service, request concierge and housekeeping services, set up wake-up calls, and check flight status or check into flights. In other words, it accomplishes many of the functions that the guestroom phone can do.
Hilton recently launched its Connected Room that will soon let guests manage everything from the Hilton Honors app on their smartphones, “including functions that they may currently use the guestroom phone for such as setting a wakeup call or ordering and tracking room service,” says Randy Gaines, senior vice president of new openings for Hilton.
Cole says the solution should include some sort of guestroom phone or other communication device.
“It may be a smart speaker, interactive video screen, tablet or plain-old phone handset, but there should be something in the room that allows direct guest-management communication in case of emergency,” he says.
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