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This Whole Hotel Phone Situation is Really Starting to Get Quite Awkward

September 16, 2013 at 1:27 PM | by | ()

It seems we've reached a crossroads when it comes to the hotel phone, one that puts hotels in an awkward position when it comes to the next step. Undoubtedly, in-room phones are being used less and less as smart phones (and cell phones in general) continue to tighten their grip on the world. So why not get rid of the damn things?

One hotel executive told us that while there is little revenue from them, they really accept phones as a "need to have" at this point. Although most people have a cell phone, not everyone, especially older travelers, are comfortable using apps to contact the front desk or order room service, and would still prefer to simply pick up the phone and hit a button. There's also the issue of security. If a traveler doesn't have or forgets their cell phone, they need a way to reach the outside world in the case of an emergency. So we can't just straight up get rid of them.

We call it an "awkward" situation because we've reached a point where 9 of out 10 travelers find the in-room phone useless, yet hotels cannot get rid of them due to that one traveler who needs it. The result is a theoretical roadblock that is preventing this much-needed upgrade from taking place -- it seems some hotels simply don't want to deal with installing technically advanced phones until they absolutely have to.

The solution here is obviously an in-room smartphone or iPad with one-touch buttons for hotel services as well as more complicated app features (maps, concierge recs, etc.), but the question remains when such an overhaul will take place on a large scale at mid-range properties, as most hotels we stay in still sport the old-school phones. But, we all know this change needs to happen, and will happen sooner or later, both for the purpose of functionality as well as aesthetics.

But, unfortunately, it looks like "later" is going to be the reality here, as hotels seem in no rush to make the investment. Understandable? Totally. Frustrating? For sure!

[Photo: HotelChatter]

Archived Comments:

Big lessons here...

As the owner and operator of The Clarendon Hotel and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona I have to say this:  we offer free global calling, anywhere in the world, to all guests.  With that said, the total phone bill for all 105 guest rooms, our restaurant's 2 lines, the hotel's front desk and office phones, fax line, elevator line, etc. is.......... wanna take a guess?    Always, always, always under $700 per month!   With that said, nobody uses an in-room phone, and if they're calling internationally they're probably using Google Hangouts, Microsoft Skype, Apple Facetime, or the phone function in gmail.  People call the front desk using their mobiles more than they call using their room phones.  There's really no reason to have a phone in a guest room anymore, at all.  Guests wouldn't miss it, at all.  As younger guests get older, we're finding that they don't even know how to use their guest room phone - and it's a simple cordless phone system, two phones per guest room.  Also no need for alarm clocks in rooms... and I think we're getting to that point where we have hulu, vudu, netflix instead of DirecTV or CableTV... I can go on and on...

For Room Service?

If there isn't an iPad situation in a hotel, then I use the hotel phone for 2 things. 1) In-room dining 2) Back up wake-up calls.
I wouldn't even know what number to dial in a hotel room on my mobile to make a room service order. And couldn't be bothered to search for it. If the phone has clear buttons and they actually WORK (let's talk about that), then yeah, I'll push 'em.
So I guess I fall in that old-school camp if the tech isn't there.

Hotel room of the future

I think hotels should start using some giant touch screen tablets. Kind of like the control pads on the nightstand but bigger. Like TV-size big. And they would have giant, clearly marked apps like ROOM SERVICE, VALET, or even PHONE where you can make phone calls. Until then, I don't mind using the hotel phone as I use it for room service and to bother the front desk with some rando requests. But I hate the corded phones. Cordless all the way please!

Hold on

Senior traveler here.  I always travel with a laptop but do not have and do not intend to get a smartphone with a data plan.  I know I am not alone....so keep the phones and, if possible, offer global free calling.

An important failover / safety tool

I see these phones as an always-there failover communications tool especially in the safety context.

For example, if you are at risk of a something like a stroke, epileptic seizure or diabetic coma, and you fear that a dangerous situation may occur such as having one of these attacks while bathing or showering, you can set up an "I'm OK" routine in relation to these activities.

Here, you can call Front desk from your room phone to let them know that if they don't hear from you within a certain time that they send someone up to check on you.

This add a peace of mind that someone is there for you in case something goes awry with you.

As well, if your mobile phone's battery dies, you have a phone to make essential outside calls. Similarly you can use this phone to "ping" your mobile phone where you ring it to locate it by ear if you suspect you have lost it.