When guests travel for pleasure, they typically want a lot more from their hotel than simply a place to sleep. They also want to eat, shop and enjoy their time while staying there. Hoteliers are eager to provide these services, hoping to attract and retain guests while finding additional recurring revenue streams as well. When guests travel for business, the same is still true. Since many business travelers routinely travel without a rental car, they search out hotels that offer a place on the grounds where they can eat, workout and more. There is no better example of this increasing trend in hotels than meeting spaces.
To better understand what hotels are looking for and what technology can help them accomplish it, I reached out to Michael Kurcab, Global Market Manager, Hospitality and Matt Ryan, Technology and Services Engineer, Enterprise for HARMAN Professional Solutions.
Michael Kurcab, who is based out of Las Vegas, has a long history in the hospitality market. After graduating with his Bachelor’s degree in Acoustics from Columbia College Chicago, he went on to hold a variety of technology positions, from Audio Engineer to Assistant Director of Facilities, at different Las Vegas hotels. Kurcab joined HARMAN’s hospitality team in 2011.
Matt Ryan has a similar long history with AV in general and hospitality specifically. His father worked in broadcasting, and for as far back as he can remember, he was involved with audio. In his preteen and teenage years, he helped his father setup and record live performances by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Pride and more throughout the Midwest, using a broadcast truck. After studying Electronics Engineering at DeVry University, he moved into staging and rental for banquet facilities and large hotels, where he worked for a number of years. Ryan joined AMX, now HARMAN, in 2007.
One thing my discussions with Kurcab and Ryan made clear was the fact that meeting space technology in hotels is quite a large topic. To provide better scope and insight into the subject, I’ll address it in three parts. In this first entry, we’ll look at why having good meeting room technology matters to hoteliers in the first place. In the next post, we’ll look closer at the technology in smaller hotel meeting spaces, such as huddle spaces and boardrooms. Finally, we’ll look at the technology available in larger convention spaces.
As I looked into the subject, I found that the desire for more better-equipped meeting spaces was a big trend in hospitality. To better understand the shift from a few sparse rooms with portable AV systems to more complex, integrated AV systems, I first wanted to better understand why hotels consider meeting spaces to be such a priority. Ryan explained:
“Meeting spaces are a big recurring revenue stream for hotels, and they offer a very quick return on any initial financial investment. Guests like it because not only can you have everyone coming in stay at the same hotel, you can actually have everyone meet at the same place as well, so there’s no traveling back and forth to some other venue. Having meeting spaces available with built-in AV ends up being a great revenue stream for the hotel, and it also ends up being more cost effective for the guest. That makes it very appealing for the hotel from a marketing standpoint.”
Due to this enticing revenue stream, existing and new hotels alike are searching for ways to increase the amount and types of meeting spaces they have available. According to Kurcab, this shift is ultimately driven by demand from guests, and the demand has led hotels to search out areas that they can convert into meeting space. He added:
“Meeting spaces are premium real estate for hotels. In order to have enough space to accommodate the increased demand for different types of meetings, we’re seeing a lot of hotels renovate both public spaces, like lobbies and even what used to be maybe a spa or food and beverage outlet, to get greater revenue from the business traveler.”
As part of this increased push for meeting space accommodations within hotels, guests have come to expect similar technological capabilities in hotel spaces as they find in their corporate offices. This desire manifests itself in a variety of ways, from a desire for impromptu meeting support to web conferencing capabilities. First and foremost, however, this desire for “the comforts of home” means connectivity. Kurcab explains:
“One of the big topics that everyone looks at is how to connect guests to the infrastructure, so they will be able to have a meeting. This can mean connecting to a display, so they can share content with the group or connectivity to cameras and speakers for a meeting where remote users will be dialing in via a web conference. The biggest concern, though, is internet connectivity. That’s vital for meeting spaces.”
Ryan agrees with this sentiment, saying:
“It almost goes without saying that internet has to be part of this package, whether that’s a wireless or wired connection. Almost all meetings you encounter in a hotel environment require an internet connection at some point as well as a connection to displays, speakers and other AV equipment you make available.”
As Ryan indicates, the next concern for any hotel meeting space after network connectivity is AV connectivity. Kurcab explains:
“The question becomes, How do guests consume the information they’re getting from that internet connection? Are they connecting to a TV in the guest room? Are they connecting to a display and speakers in a boardroom or a collaborative huddle space in a lobby? Are they connecting into a larger infrastructure at a convention center that a local AV company might be managing for the property? These are the kinds of connections that hotels are expected to provide.”
In other words, modern hotels must provide more than simply four walls and some furniture for a sufficient meeting space. Users expect to be able to walk in and share their content with the room, and everyone needs to be able to see and hear what they’re sharing without a portable screen and a projector on a cart impairing the professional look and feel of the event.
There are specific technology solutions available that allow the guests to connect and share content in a simple and intuitive way. However, the right technology solution varies depending on a number of factors. Ryan explains:
“A big factor that determines what technology you need is the size of the hotel in general. A smaller hotel, like a select service hotel, may only have 60 guest rooms, but they can still offer a boardroom or other meeting spaces of varying sizes for events. Some select service hotels will also have a private room in the in-hotel restaurant for dinner meetings. Even these smaller rooms can benefit from having a good installed AV system that allows guests to bring in their laptops and share content on the screen with the group.”
In other words, meeting spaces in hotels can come in a variety of forms. In fact, while you might think of convention spaces when you think of meetings in hotels, Kurcab argues that it is often these smaller spaces that can really drive revenue for hotels. He goes on to say,
“When you look at a hotel lobby, we see a lot of ‘on-demand’ meeting spaces or ‘collaborative’ meeting spaces, where just a few business travelers can huddle around a display that makes it easy for them to share ideas. Depending on the style of hotel, you may also find dedicated boardrooms, which typically offer a screen, overhead speakers, and microphones and cameras for web conferencing.”
These small meeting areas take up a small amount of square footage for the hotel overall, but they can provide a lot of recurring revenue. Collaborative huddle spaces, in particular, are extremely popular. Simply adding a display and an in-table connection system, like an AMX HydraPort, to an existing table provides a by-the-hour rental location or an enticing offer for premium guests without reducing usable space.
Of course, conference and convention space is still a huge avenue for hotel revenue, especially for bigger hotels. Ryan explains:
“A much larger hotel (300–800+ rooms) is going to have more designated space for meetings, because you have more people staying at the hotel. For those hotels, you’re going to need larger spaces and a larger variety of spaces to accommodate different parties. That’s where you find the large ballrooms with divisible walls, so they can divvy up the space as they need it, or they can have a much larger space, where all the rooms are combined together.”
Because of the complex nature of the events that go on in convention spaces, it is very common to use rental AV in these areas. But as I’ve noted previously, there is an ongoing debate on whether these conference centers should use solely rental gear or if they should provide an in-house (installed) AV option. Part of the reason for this debate is the challenges that divisible spaces bring to an installed AV system. However, achieving a robust, flexible system is still a straightforward and rewarding prospect. Kurcab addressed the issue by saying:
“The convention center-style hotels bring the most amount of complexity to the type of technology required. Because these rooms have configurable meeting spaces, and the rooms are combinable, the technology needs to be really flexible to account for the ability to share the same content across various room arrangements and spaces, including pre-function space, where a meeting might have registration areas, cocktail receptions, etc. This can be a challenge, but the rewards are great. When you look at a city like Las Vegas, gaming used to be the biggest revenue generator, but now that’s given way to the meeting and incentives market. So the revenue potential is large when the system is done well.”
No matter the size of the hotel, having suitable meeting space can be a great way to increase revenue and create return guests. We’ll dive more into the technology behind these different meeting spaces in future posts, including the technology for huddle spaces and boardrooms as well as technology in conference centers. So stay tuned to the Insights blog for more!
Do you have insights into hotel meeting space AV systems? Share them in the comments.