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Apple AirPlay for Hotels: Here's What You Need to Know

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Jordan Hollander in Guest Experience

Last updated June 06, 2023

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Beaming and streaming your content to a hotel TV has historically been a total pain in the you know what.  Even when streaming providers have claimed to offer this functionality it has rarely worked to date for hotel guests in a live environment.  This is expected to change with Apple's latest hotel specific rollout.

At WWDC 2023, Apple announced Airplay in hotels, a feature that allows users to pair their iPhone to their hotel room simply by scanning a QR code.  Delivering an AirPlay experience in hotels is more complex than in a consumer environment because of WiFi networks being inundated with devices.  With this new development, hotel guests will be able to beam their own content from any iOS 17 updated device to a compatible television.

The Historical Challenges of Deploying AirPlay in Hotels

In the past, it was challenging for travelers to AirPlay their own streaming services in hotels due to several reasons:

  1. Limited connectivity options: Hotels often provided limited connectivity options, primarily limited to cable TV or basic channels. The infrastructure in hotel rooms was not designed to accommodate personal devices or streaming services.
  2. Lack of compatible technology: Hotel TVs and in-room entertainment systems were not always compatible with Apple devices or AirPlay technology. This meant that guests were unable to wirelessly connect their iPhones or iPads to the TV to stream content.
  3. Network restrictions and security concerns: Hotels implemented network restrictions and firewalls to protect their systems and guests' privacy. These security measures often blocked the necessary protocols for AirPlay streaming, making it impossible for guests to connect their devices to the hotel's network and share content on the TV.
  4. Complex setup procedures: Even if a guest managed to connect their device to the hotel's network, the setup process for AirPlay was often complicated and required technical expertise. This complexity made it difficult for guests to enjoy the convenience of streaming their own content.
  5. Content licensing agreements: Hotels had to comply with content licensing agreements, which restricted the type of content that could be streamed in guest rooms. This limitation meant that guests could not access their personal streaming subscriptions on the hotel's in-room entertainment systems.

These factors combined made it challenging for travelers to enjoy their own streaming services through AirPlay in hotel rooms. However, with advancements in technology and collaborations between hospitality companies and technology providers like IHG Hotels & Resorts and Apple, the integration of AirPlay in hotels is now becoming a reality, providing guests with a seamless streaming experience during their stays.

Apple Has Selected IHG as it's Official Launch Partner

IHG Hotels & Resorts, a global hospitality leader, has announced a collaboration with Apple to launch AirPlay in hotel rooms. This partnership enables guests to seamlessly share content from their iPhone or iPad to their guest room TV. The rollout of AirPlay will begin in select IHG hotels worldwide by the end of 2023.

As the first hospitality company to integrate AirPlay, IHG prioritizes convenience, time-saving, and friction-free service. Once AirPlay is available, guests can easily enjoy a personalized entertainment experience on the TV by scanning a unique QR code assigned to their room. With a focus on privacy and security, AirPlay allows guests to stream, control, and share videos, photos, music, and more from their Apple devices to the TV. This feature enables them to watch popular streaming services, such as Apple TV+, view presentations, relive vacation memories, and more, in the comfort of their hotel room.

George Turner, Chief Commercial & Technology Officer at IHG Hotels & Resorts, expressed excitement about the collaboration, highlighting the seamless connectivity and personalized entertainment options AirPlay brings to the IHG Studio platform. Turner stated that this technology aims to create a home-away-from-home environment, enhancing the guest experience whether traveling for business or leisure.

IHG Studio, launched in 2019, has already revolutionized the in-room guest experience by providing a comprehensive range of entertainment, communication, and streaming functionalities. By incorporating AirPlay into the IHG Studio ecosystem, IHG Hotels & Resorts continues to lead the industry in delivering exceptional guest experiences that integrate cutting-edge technology. This collaboration demonstrates IHG's commitment to continuous innovation and exceeding guest expectations, ensuring a comfortable and effortlessly connected stay.

The demand for enhanced entertainment options is growing, with streaming services becoming increasingly popular. IHG recognizes this trend, as 85 percent of U.S. households have at least one video streaming subscription. The streaming industry is projected to reach a value of $330 billion by 2030, emphasizing the significance of providing seamless streaming capabilities to guests during their hotel stays. With AirPlay in IHG hotel rooms, guests can resume watching their favorite shows and movies from where they left off, without worrying about logging out of their accounts when they leave.

IHG Hotels & Resorts remains committed to investing in transformative guest experiences, enabling guests to effectively manage their stay throughout their travel journey. By leveraging innovative technologies and partnerships, IHG aims to create stronger guest experiences, drive value for hotel owners, and improve operational efficiency.

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The Benefits of AirPlay Over Legacy Options in Hotels

AirPlay offers several advantages over traditional hotel TV options like cable or pay-per-view:

  1. Personalized content: With AirPlay, guests can stream their own content from their personal Apple devices directly to the hotel room TV. This means they have access to their own libraries of movies, TV shows, music, and other media, allowing for a more personalized entertainment experience. They are not limited to the pre-selected channels or pay-per-view options provided by the hotel.
  2. Convenience and familiarity: Many travelers are already familiar with AirPlay and how it works on their Apple devices. It eliminates the need to navigate through complex menus or learn how to use a different remote control. Guests can simply use their own familiar devices and interfaces to control what they want to watch or listen to, enhancing the overall user experience.
  3. Broad content options: AirPlay enables guests to access a wide range of content from various streaming services, including popular platforms like Apple TV+, Netflix, Hulu, and more. This opens up a vast selection of movies, TV shows, music, and other entertainment options, catering to diverse preferences and interests.
  4. Continuous viewing experience: Unlike traditional pay-per-view options, AirPlay allows guests to pick up where they left off in their content. They can resume watching their favorite shows or movies exactly where they stopped, regardless of whether they are in the middle of a series or have previously paused a movie. This seamless experience adds convenience and eliminates the need to start from the beginning or pay for additional viewings.
  5. Cost savings: AirPlay eliminates the need for guests to purchase pay-per-view content, which can be expensive. By utilizing their own streaming subscriptions or personal media libraries, guests can save money on entertainment expenses during their stay.
  6. Enhanced interactivity: AirPlay enables guests to not only stream video content but also share photos, videos, and presentations from their Apple devices onto the TV. This functionality is particularly useful for business travelers who may need to rehearse presentations or collaborate with colleagues during their stay.

Overall, AirPlay offers greater flexibility, personalization, and a more seamless user experience compared to traditional hotel TV options like cable or pay-per-view. It empowers guests to enjoy their preferred content and create a more comfortable and personalized entertainment environment during their hotel stay.

We're living in the Netflix age and guest room entertainment has never been more important.  While guests fundamentally desire unique experiences that aren't like home when they're in hotels, one of the few areas they really wish they could teleport their in home setup lies around hospitality TV.  Not only will AirPlay kill off legacy pay per view providers that hurt the guest experience and frustrate customers for a nominal net profit (after fees to vendors) but it's going to deliver a new era of guest satisfaction if Apple can succesfully scale the product beyond just IHG's properties and into the mainstream.

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Jordan Hollander
Jordan is the co-founder of Hotel Tech Report, the hotel industry's app store where millions of professionals discover tech tools to transform their businesses. He was previously on the Global Partnerships team at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Prior to his work with SPG, Jordan was Director of Business Development at MWT Hospitality and an equity analyst at Wells Capital Management. Jordan received his MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management where he was a Zell Global Entrepreneurship Scholar and a Pritzker Group Venture Fellow.