Saturday, July 17, 2021

Hotels! Let me play stuff on my room's TV screen!

It has been my observation that successful hotel chains seem to always be on the lookout for new ways to positively differentiate themselves from their competition -- and thus, to attract more guests, and/or be able to charge higher rates. Such differentiating amenities range from the lavish -- such as building elaborate "pool complexes" on the hotel property -- to the simple -- a classic example being offering a warm cookie at check-in.

In this spirit: Hey, hotel chains! Here's a simple "amenity" suggestion that would get me to book with you over your competition, all else (e.g. location and price) being approximately equal: You know those nice big flat-screen TVs you've put in each of your guest rooms? It would be super great if you'd let me use that nice screen with my gaming console to play a game, or with my laptop to watch a video -- instead of, say, actively blocking my ability to do so!

Pictured: Not necessarily the optimal guest experience.

I was recently fortunate enough to be able to spend a couple of weeks traveling around Utah with my family, hiking in the national parks. Beautiful, and highly recommended! (Although if the forecast calls for 110°F+ temperatures, I recommend heading out as early in the morning as you can manage!)

Unfortunately, we had a lot better luck with the natural scenery than we did getting streaming video to work in our various hotel rooms' TVs.  I had come on the trip prepared -- or so I thought -- with a laptop and an HDMI cable, so we would be able to stream a show in the evenings after our daily adventures (or in the hot afternoons between them!).

In the trip's best-case hotel, we had a TV where I was able to reach around to the back of the TV to get at an HDMI port, then access a hidden function of the remote to change the input source on the TV, managing to get the show being streamed via my laptop to play on the TV.

In the worst-case hotels -- plural -- the TV's onboard HDMI ports had evidently been disabled entirely. Even though (peering behind the wall-mounted TVs) there were HDMI ports present on the TVs, there was no way to switch to them. The TVs were "hotel models" whose only physical control was an on/off button, and there was also no way to switch via the TV's remote controls.

This resulted in some silly situations like the one pictured above, with the family sitting around the hotel room's TV to watch some LEGO Masters -- with the TV uselessly powered off, while we huddled around the show on my laptop's small screen. 

While certainly a trivial problem in the grand scheme of things, it would nevertheless be quite a nice amenity to stay in a hotel which made it easy, instead of difficult or impossible, to play content on the room's TV screen from my laptop or gaming console, via an HDMI connection!  (And I have to imagine that this would be cheaper and easier for hotels to implement than adding more "pool complexes" to their properties!)