HONOLULU – When the Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger opened its doors, it set a new standard for guest experience — one that parent company Outrigger Hospitality Group intended to replicate across its Hawaiian resort properties. The Waikiki Beachcomber represented a $35 million modernization project under the Outrigger brand that sought to create the feel of a Hawaiian beach house in the middle of the city. And as anyone knows today, home is where the digital experience is.
“We’re not only doing a physical transformation of our properties, but we’re also repositioning them,” explained Michael Shaff, Vice President of Hotel Operations for Outrigger’s Waikiki and Guam properties. “Having the best offerings in a guest technology package is a big part of that.”
Starting at the Beachcomber, that package includes mobile apps for finding information and interacting with hotel staff, a digital concierge kiosk for exploring what Hawaii has to offer, and a network of smart, in-room TVs from LG Business Solutions USA designed to make guests feel at home.
In the Beachcomber’s new activities lounge and concierge desk, a video wall comprising four large-screen LG digital signage displays and an LG touchscreen digital kiosk welcomes guests. When they enter the lounge, the display installation helps them discover new experiences they can explore on the island.
“Guests walk up to the kiosk and answer a series of six questions,” Shaff said. “At the conclusion of the questionnaire, the system creates and shows them a custom video of what their Hawaiian vacation could look like.”
And when they’re not exploring the beauty outside the resort, they can relax back at the hotel and enjoy the same level of entertainment they would at home.
“We want guests to have the best, most seamless entertainment experience in our rooms,” Shaff continued. “These days, that means watching whatever they want to watch on TV, including through their smart phones and mobile devices. Whether they want to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, it’s like they are experiencing their TV at home.”
Each of the Beachcomber’s nearly 500 guest rooms include a 55-inch smart hotel TV (LG’s UT770H series). Designed specifically for use in hotels, these TVs feature LG’s exclusive NanoCell technology for displaying vibrant colors and sharp images with more than 8 million pixels for 4K Ultra HD resolution. The TVs are so slim — with virtually no bezel — that Shaff says many of the Beachcomber’s rooms were designed so the TVs could be mounted on the wall, some even framed, to give guests more physical space in which to enjoy themselves.
LG UT770H series hospitality TVs come with Pro:Idiom technology, a digital rights management solution for protecting video content as it travels from the hotel’s head-end system to the in-room TVs. In addition, because the LG UT770H is a smart TV, it runs its own LG webOS operating system, giving it added capabilities, such as displaying custom content and information, enabling in-room purchases from the TV and allowing guests to “cast” their favorite streaming media from their devices to the LG TV.
“There is other technology out there that lets guests log into their Netflix account through the TV remote, for example, but you can imagine what that experience is like,” said Henry Schwartz, Vice President and Chief Information Officer for the Outrigger Hospitality Group.
With its hundreds of integrated LG smart TVs as the network foundation, Outrigger adopted technology from LG solutions partner SONIFI to create the in-room experience it sought.
“With SONIFI running over our LG TVs, we’re delivering the in-room guest entertainment, a paperless hotel compendium, video channels with hotel information, and fielding guest requests,” Schwartz explains. “We’re also rolling out Staycast across our properties, which is the technology that lets guests watch their personal content on the LG smart TVs.”
LG and SONIFI began piloting what would become Staycast in 2014. When a guest arrives in a Beachcomber room, they see on their LG smart TV a personalized welcome message and instructions for wirelessly enabling their mobile devices to watch their own streaming services. Having connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, no other login is required. They simply use their streaming apps’ casting — or mirroring — feature to send the content to an in-room Chromecast receiver and play it on the LG TV.
“It’s set up so people can only cast to the TV in their room,” Schwartz said, describing a security feature of the solution he’d been monitoring as LG and SONIFI perfected it. “You don’t want a guest in one room casting their content to a TV in the next room. We’ve had very good uptake. Since rolling it out, 25 percent of guests have been connecting, which is high, and we expect that number to go up.”
As Outrigger Hospitality Group renovates its Hawaiian properties, including the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, which is next in line, it plans to continue to rely on LG smart hotel TVs to help set it apart from the competition — now and in the future.
“We select high-end TVs so we can get a longer life from the technology,” Schwartz said. “Content is only going to get better, so if we only select TVs that suit today’s media, we’re going to have problems a couple years from now. We also want highly reliable technology, so we buy displays built specifically for the hospitality industry.”
Because every property is unique, a reliable, multipurpose display platform is invaluable. Shaff said that because the Outrigger Reef Waikiki is more spread out, for example, the company plans to use LG smart TVs as digital signage in high-traffic areas. “Whatever we’re doing digitally, we want to make it a great technology experience,” concluded Shaff. “That’s just where we are as a human race today. It’s what travelers expect.”