Hotels, resorts, cruise lines and other hospitality enterprises require an easy, effective way to communicate with guests as well as promote their facilities and service offerings. Traditionally, the hospitality industry has relied upon printed signs to fulfill these functions. However, printed signs are neither easy, nor quick to update. As a result, communications has often been focused on the strategic, concentrating on branding or longer-standing offers, foregoing the revenue possibilities of tactical messaging that responds with time-sensitive offers, such as the appropriate menu – breakfast, lunch or dinner – for an in-house restaurant.

The inability to reach guests with time-sensitive messaging isn’t the only drawback of print. Printed signs require the assistance of skilled services, including graphic designers and printers, which place added demands on already tight marketing budgets. Thus, every time a hospitality manager considers updating a sign, there is a real cost involved that must be weighed against the perceived importance and revenue-generating potential of the sign. Over the course of a year, the cost of designing, printing, installing and disposing all of the printed signs in a hospitality enterprise can be a significant expense.

Digital Communication Solutions

Fortunately, digital signage offers an effective, affordable communications alternative. Additionally, digital signage leverages many of the strengths commonly associated with the IT industry, making it ideal for conveying ads, marketing messages and information far beyond the possibilities of print. With the necessary equipment, individual digital signs in a network can be assigned their own internet protocol (IP) address, so different messages can be targeted to different locales within a hospitality setting. Digital signage media servers can be networked with existing property management computer systems and programmed to extract information, such as meeting room schedules, for automatic display on the appropriate digital sign or signs on the network. By leveraging networking technology, hospitality personnel responsible for digital signage can even monitor content playback on all networked signs from a central location.

Increasingly, the hospitality industry is turning to digital signage to satisfy its informational and marketing communications requirements. Applications vary but can be broken down into six main areas, including: in-room channel, door cards, reader boards, advertising signage, way finding and hybrid, interactive display.

In-Room Channel

A local origination, in-room channel for a hotel at the simple level can play videos to promote amenities offered on the property or information on hours of operation for an in-house restaurant, checkout times or safety procedures.

A more complex solution could involve segmenting the screen of an in-room channel into zones. For instance, one on-screen zone can playback ads for property venues, another can be dedicated to a text crawl to with news headlines, for current weather conditions and still another for a logo to brand the channel.

Reader Boards

Hotels, conference centers, and other venues hosting events traditionally use reader boards to inform guests and visitors of the times and locations of meetings, wedding receptions, training seminars and other organized events. Besides passing along information to the public, reader boards also keep employees of the facility informed.

Digital signage is replacing static and LED-based reader boards with easily updated, LCD and plasma panel technology. Often, the flat-screen monitors used in reader board applications have a portrait orientation (vertical versus horizontal orientation) and are mounted in the property’s common areas to ensure maximum exposure.

To maximize the value of reader boards and minimize the amount of personnel time and effort dedicated to updating signs requires centralized control of each reader board and data acquisition from existing property management software systems.

Door Cards

Door cards are quite similar to reader boards – both are used to convey information that’s pertinent to a particular event. However, unlike reader boards, door cards typically have a landscape (horizontal vs. vertical) orientation, are 15 to 19 inches and rely on 4:3 aspect ratio LCD panels.

Most often, door cards are found near convention and conference centre meeting rooms typically identifying the event being held, meeting times and perhaps identify the sponsoring organization or speaker.

Like reader boards, door cards can run automatically displaying information collected from property management and event data software applications.

Way Finding

When used in way-finding applications, digital signs replace static directory signage. The advantage of using digital signs in this application in place of static signs is that what’s being displayed can be changed instantly to accommodate new way-finding needs or to supplement existing digital signage advertising playback when required.
In way-finding use, digital signs enhance customer experience by directing them to their desired location.

Advertising Signage

The ability to present time-appropriate advertising messages geared towards the demographics of an anticipated audience at any given point in the day – may be the chief advantage of digital signage in advertising applications over static, printed signs.

With digital signage day parting, hospitality facility managers can, for example, promote in-house restaurants based on their breakfast, lunch or dinner specials of the day on the same sign at the time of day when people are most interested in a given meal. Later, thanks to day parting, the same sign can be used to promote the hotel lounge and special entertainment – all in an effort aimed at encouraging guests to stay on premise and spend their money in house.

Other advantages of using digital signs over print include eliminating the cost of printing new signs; the ability to act tactically with digital signage messaging; the creation of ad material with dynamic elements like video, animation and text; and the ability to combine multiple display panels to add appeal to advertising.

Michael CastnerHospitality