4 Audio-video technology


  • Know the role of audio-video technology in hospitality.


  1. Understand the concept and purpose of AV in hospitality
  2. Distinguish among several AV applications in hospitality
  3. Know the role of video, audio, and interactive technologies in enhancing hospitality experiences
  4. Know the principles of designing the appropriate AV infrastructure in a hospitality business


AV technology has been a part of the hospitality industry since the initial installation of a TV set in a hotel room by Conrad Hilton at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then, the AV industry has undergone tremendous transformation, offering incredible opportunities to hospitality businesses and guests for creating value through entertainment, learning, and communication. While most of today’s IT incorporate or can seamlessly connect with hardware that can access multiple media as part of their normal configurations, AV technologies – as standalone systems – have been around for a long time. This chapter discusses the role of AV technologies in the hospitality industry, with a special focus on the value that they bring to consumers and businesses.

An important factor that contributed to the popularity of AV technologies in hospitality is the high rate of adoption of such technologies among the consumers in their daily lives. For example, for a long time consumers in the U.S. had their own TV sets in the music players at home. In addition, the physical limitations of the human body (speaking and hearing) required the use of AV technologies to allow people to be seen and heard. Consumers are used to watching TV and listening to music, and those lifestyle traits have transcended into demand for such services when consumers enjoy hospitality services. In addition, to differentiate from competition, many hospitality businesses have added AV-based services to their offerings. For example, it is common for hotel rooms to have a TV set and a digital clock equipped with a radio in each guest room. Hotel lobbies and restaurants play ambiental music and air travelers may watch movies during flights.

Although the AV technology evolved over the years, the main principles of AV remain the same. Such principles gravitate toward the notion that consumers’ access to AV media when enjoying hospitality services is valuable for consumers. Thus, AV media became an important component of the overall service experience, which together with other aspects of services comprise the hospitality servicescapes. Servicescapes represent spaces where the service experience is being created (Bitner, 1992). Servicescapes are increasingly recognized as spaces in which consumers, businesses, and other stakeholders interact, thus appropriating value from the services that are being co-created and consumed (Morosan & DeFranco, 2016).

Today’s AV technology represents a blend between video technology, audio technology, media content, and sometimes integration with IT systems. To offer a great service experience to guests, AV should be seamlessly integrated within the service of a business. For example, a café may decide to offer ambiental music to guests. For the music to help create a pleasant ambience, the type of music must be in line with guests’ preferences. Many cafés decide to use music streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music for their ambiental music, as such services provided the types of music that the consumers may like. In addition to the hardware necessary to make the music audible throughout the café, the café needs to have a system that integrates the streaming service (typically accessible through a computer or mobile device) into the café’s sound system. From a content point of view, using music streaming services allows the businesses to have access to curated playlists of songs that may be liked by specific segments of consumers.



Because the hospitality industry continues to view AV technology as a way to differentiate from competitors and create value for the consumers, we see a continuous evolution of AV services in hospitality. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic and the digitization of some hospitality services (for example, virtual events), has led to an extensive AV technology deployment in hospitality. An important aspect of AV technology is that it is very broad. For this reason, the AV applications will differ considerably from business to business based on the type of business (for example, big hotel versus small hotel), number of people being served (for example, small wedding versus large professional convention), or the purpose of the activity that consumers engage in (for example, lifestyle hotel versus country club). Yet, there are a few popular applications of AV technology that could be found in many hospitality businesses. For example, TVs in guest rooms, cable and streaming services for guest rooms and meeting rooms, projectors located in meeting rooms, sound systems located in hotel lobbies and meeting rooms are among the most commonly used AV technologies in hospitality today.

To gain a deeper understanding of AV technology, we will discuss them based on the purpose that they serve:

  1. Video technology (purpose: letting consumers see content)
  2. Audio technology (purpose: letting consumers hear content)
  3. Interactive technology (purpose: focusing on consumers’ interactions)

While there are separate systems that address the three types of purposes listed above, most of the time, AV systems integrate video, audio, and interactive features.

AV technology is complex. Complexity of AV technology typically ranges from very simple and intuitive to very complex. Complexity is an important factor that influences consumers’ perceptions of ease of use, with a direct impact on system adoption. For example, a TV set located in a guest room may be one of the most basic technologies that hotel can offer. Yet, to access a variety of TV channels or streaming content, such TVs may be equipped with remote controls or apps, whose utilization may be more difficult for certain consumers, especially if they are not familiar with technology.

Similarly, events may include technologies that range from very basic to very complex. For example, a small meeting of 10 people in a small breakout room at a conference may not need a public address (PA) system because any person can hear the other persons. However, large conferences and conventions often require the use of professionally designed PA systems, which require set-up and operation by trained professionals. A PA system represents a grouping of hardware that are connected for the purpose of amplifying sound and distributing the sound to a public audience.

It is important for businesses to decide how much control they want to provide the consumers in operating the AV hardware or software. The latest trends in the industry are based on the logic that the technology should be very intuitive and that the consumers or the professionals working for the hotels should be able to use the technology with minimum effort. For this reason, many AV technologies are designed with digital controls, touch screen intuitive interfaces, and wireless connectivity, which can facilitate use without extensive learning.



What consumers see when they enjoy hospitality experiences is extremely important. While not all hospitality services have a visual component, for a lot of them that do, the visual technology represents a vital part of the technology infrastructure. For example, many hotels incorporate big screen TVs in every guest room, featuring streaming services, apps, and fast Internet connections. They allow the consumers to stream content from online services or watch cable television programming on high quality TV hardware.

Video technologies become even more important for events. Sometimes the visual aspect of the event is the most important (e.g., conferences, training), while in other events the visual aspects of the event only enhance the overall event (weddings).

There are a few types of technology hardware that are indispensable for hospitality experiences with a visual component. TVs and projectors are among them. A TV generally receives signal from a source and displays in on a screen. Modern TVs are able to connect to the Internet and play streaming content in addition to “classic” video content from cable TV, antennas or external sources (for example, video games). A projector receives signal from audio-visual (AV) sources, such as a computer or smartphone, and projects an image from those sources onto a screen to make it visible. While the recent development of TV has led to the manufacturing of relatively cheaper large screen TVs, the projectors still represent the main hardware in situations in which the image needs to be big enough to be seen in a large room.

Because the typology of hospitality experiences varies considerably, TVs and projectors come in many sizes and can be characterized in many ways. One of the most important characteristics of a TV or projector is the resolution. The resolution represents the number/size of pixels that form the actual image. The higher the resolution, the better the quality of the image. However, the resolution is not the only criterion that determines the quality of a TV or projector. Criteria such as brightness, size, cost, and especially the ability to connect easily with a multitude of devices are important. Today’s TVs and projectors have come a long way in terms of size, weight, portability, and cost. The advancement in technology allowed many manufacturers to produce TVs and projectors that are bright, have a high resolution, and are portable. This enhances the capability of the hospitality businesses to offer experiences that would have not been possible in the past.

As an alternative to projectors, systems assembled from multiple TV screens have also become common in addressing the visual aspect of hospitality experiences, especially in events. Sometimes, the projectors cannot cover large surfaces or do not have enough resolution for large applications. In this case, TV screens are being used. Sometimes TV arrays or TV walls can be created by connecting multiple TVs together. The main evaluation criteria for TV sets are similar to projectors, and include screen size, resolution, brightness, and frequency. The development and general decreasing costs of the modern TVs have led to a situation where TV screens are present virtually everywhere.


While there have been advancements in various aspects of audio technology, the core principles by which audio technology functions have not changed dramatically over the years. Overall, the quality of the hardware has improved, which allowed many consumers to develop tastes and appreciate high quality sound. Consumers bring such tastes and preferences with them when they enjoy hospitality services.

In hospitality, audio technology is used predominantly for two main purposes: (1) voice communication – to amplify a person’s voice in situations when the person is inaudible due to the size of the room, number of people present, or ambiental noises; and (2) playing music/other audio content – either as ambiental music (lobbies, restaurants) or as part of events (e.g., weddings, concerts).

While generally sound can enhance a hospitality experience, there are situations when it can ruin it. For example, some consumers may like to listen to loud music, while others may be bothered by loud sound. Therefore, the utilization of audio hardware has seen some limitations in hotels, restaurants, or smaller scale events where sound is not expected to reach levels higher than ambiental. Specifically, such settings rely on basic and low-output PA systems.

Based on this logic, today’s hospitality businesses customize the way their sound design on their properties. That is, that not all the areas of a restaurant, event, or hotel need to have the same ambiental sound level. In some areas of the restaurant the value for consumers is enhanced by increasing the volume of ambient music to match the ambient noise (for example on a terrace), while in other areas of the same restaurant the value for consumers is enhanced by reducing the volume (Wright, 2019).

One area of hospitality that requires unique utilization of audio technology is represented by events. Because events gather multiple participants, most of the time it is necessary to host the events in large spaces. However, sound does not travel very well in large spaces, and it is necessary to amplify the sound so that everybody can hear it. While this is true even for events that are relatively small, it is especially important for large events.

Regardless of the type of event, the logic of audio technology is basically the same. A sound source is connected to a PA system, which eventually produces sound that is loud enough to be heard by the audience. Obviously, the design and number of components of a PA system differs from smaller events to large events. On smaller events one will likely see portable systems with one or two multiway speakers. Some of the hotel ballrooms even have basic PA systems already built into the architecture of the room, such as speakers being placed inside the ceiling, or attached to the walls, etc. However, large events, such as sporting events or music concerts, have designed advanced technologies that allow for sound to travel and be heard with high fidelity and volume by every member of the audience even in large venues (stadiums, arenas) or outdoor spaces (festivals). Since the development of modern PA systems, it has become an expectation for participants to music events and festivals to expect loud sound.


A graphic representation of the anatomy of a PA sstem
Anatomy of a PA system

Generally, audio technologies are used to enhance the entertainment value of a hospitality experience and are designed with many interrelated components. However, they are based on the same workflow. The anatomy of a PA system is relatively similar regardless of how loud the system is designed to be. Generally, it consists of one or multiple sources of sound, such as music players, microphones, or musical instruments. These devices send the sound to the system the form of electric current – also called signal. The signal from multiple sources is eventually combined into a mixer board or console. From there, the signal is being mixed, processed for quality and taste, and eventually distributed to one or multiple amplifiers. Amplifies are hardware devices that amplify the signal. Once the signal is amplified, it is being distributed to speakers that are carefully placed in locations around an area (for example, meeting room, concert hall) so that the public can hear everything clearly. Some of the modern speakers include onboard amplifiers in order to optimize the matching between amplifiers and speakers and reduce the amount of connecting cabling. The number, size, and location of the speakers should be commensurate with the type of event, the number of people present in the audience, and the size and the location of the event. This is important because events where sound is too loud can result in dissatisfaction for consumers or even medical consequences (for example damaged or loss of hearing). In contrast, events that have inappropriately low sound can result in dissatisfaction because the participants cannot hear everything that they expect to hear.

There is an entire industry that provides sound technology for musical events, and many artists or event venues take pride in designing complex PA systems that are loud but also convey the music with high quality and fidelity. Thus, the consumers hear the live music with the same quality as they would hear it by listening to an album. In many cases, the sound technology is being combined with video, lighting technology, smoke and pyrotechnics, to enhance the value of the show and create a unique experience.

Paging and communication technologies

So far, the discussion in this chapter has focused on consumer-facing technologies. However, one of the most important areas of AV technology is communication among staff members, which is facilitated by AV technologies. This communication is important in the fulfillment of outstanding hospitality experiences and is especially critical in emergencies. Many hospitality organizations are spread out over large spaces, multiple floors, and sometimes include large outdoor areas (for example golf clubs). Many hotels operate in old, massive buildings, which thick walls and concrete structures (for example, parking garages). Therefore, designing communication systems that allow staff members to be reached anywhere on the property is critical. Such systems generally are referred to as paging technologies.

Generally, in hospitality, especially in businesses that have a large footprint, covering the entire area of the business with Wi-Fi signal is not always feasible. To address this issue, many business use radio devices, including walkie-talkies. Walkie-talkies are relatively easy to set up and use without much effort. Their maintenance generally revolves around ensuring that the batteries are charged and that the various staff members know the appropriate channels/frequencies that they need to use.

While walkie-talkies are simple and effective technologies, the industry has seen innovative approaches to paging. Such innovations are based on the assumption that staff members have access to smartphones and cellular or Wi-Fi signal is available. Therefore, modern paging systems can take the form of mobile apps, allowing team members not only to communicate effectively but also to assist each other with task management or in emergencies, thus optimizing operations. A critical aspect of such communication systems is represented by panic buttons set up within communication apps. In case of an incident, the staff members can immediately access the panic button to activate an alert. The system will automatically communicate that there is an incident taking place and will automatically relay the location of the staff member who activated the alert.



Due to the broad typology of hospitality experiences, the ways in which the consumers interact with the hospitality business and with each other can take multiple forms. Generally, such interactions result in value (Neuhofer, et al., 2013). The more consumers interact, the higher the value.

The predominant industry view was that consumers are just passive and only like to consume hospitality services without much input into the design and delivery of such experiences. Most of the older AV technology was designed with this mindset: the consumer arrives on the property and will only seek to consume products without much interaction. As technology developed and consumers indicated that they are willing to interact with hospitality businesses to co-create value, newer technologies were developed to encourage and monetize such interactions. Moreover, many traditional AV technologies have changed to (1) allow more input from consumers, and (2) use such input into the design and delivery of services.

Interactions with businesses

The hospitality industry has seen significant changes in the way consumers interact with the businesses using AV. For example, one of the main ways in which consumers can now interact with hotels is by connecting their own devices to a hotel’s TV sets. Devices such as Apple TV or similar connecting hardware have been increasingly used by hotels to offer consumers ways to consume content available through their own devices. Consumers can connect their computers or smartphones to the TV in their room to watch streaming services without the need to use a smart TV or to login on the hotel’s TV.

Interactions with others

Interactions with other consumers or presenters are most likely to take place during events. Like other areas of the broader hospitality industry, event professionals have found that interactions among event participants and presenters also increase the value that they appropriate. Thus, they shifted the focus of events from a one-to-many approach to a many-to-many approach, in which information is exchanged freely among presenters, participants, and businesses.

A variety of technologies can be used to facilitate such interactions. For example, one of the primary technologies is Voice Over IP (VoIP). Using these systems, the participants can interact with other participants and presenters during the event and can provide input that is necessary for designing future events. Another important technology that is used in events is radio frequency identification chips (RFID). Using RFID, the participants can interact with the various devices that could be installed at events to understand better the flow of participants in various areas of the event.

In events where multiple audience members interact with a presenter, it is common to use technology that provides input to the presenter. Once can see systems such as text-to-screen (T2S) communication, text-to-moderator communication (T2M), or live polling tools using as standalone technologies or embedded into social media. T2S and T2M can be done publicly or privately, depending on the type of the event. For example, a participant may want to ask a question but may not want to be identified as the person asking the question. In that case, the participant can send the question anonymously to the presenter, and the presenter can address the question publicly or privately. This way, even the participants who are shy can be engaged in the presentation and can find relevant information beyond what is normally planned for the presentation.

Another popular technology that is being used to increase participants’ involvement in events is represented by a broad category of systems called audience interactive systems (AIS). While such systems can take multiple forms, they have been historically known as clickers. They allow participants to provide input during the event, which then can be used in the event itself to stimulate further interaction or to represent a foundation for presentations or performances.



Because the audiovisual infrastructure carries important weight for the success of a hospitality experience, many hospitality businesses have gone a long way to design their infrastructures to maximize the value offered to consumers. We often see integrations between AV technology and IT. For example, the hotel chain CitizenM offers one of the best AV technology experiences to their guests by integrating large TVs in every room with streaming technologies. This allows guests to watch their favorite channels from the convenience of their room without requiring additional logins to various streaming services.

It is important for hospitality businesses to understand exactly what they need in terms of AV hardware. This aspect is even more important in the post pandemic world, as many hospitality experiences have been digitized into hybrid or 100% virtual. Thus, it is critical to ensure that the video and sound associated with any particular experience can be streamed online for audiences that may not attend in person. Another option is to have the content of the experience recorded for future reference. The following are some important principles that should stay at the foundation of designing the appropriate AV infrastructure for a hospitality business without wasting resources.

  1. Know the type of customers and understand what their preferences are in terms of AV content. For example, there are restaurants where music is part of the experience, and it enhances service quality. The music may be provided by live bands or streamed from music players over small PA systems. In contrast, there are locations such as clubs, upper scale restaurants, or lobbies where the guests are you using the space to conduct business or have conversations, where loud music is not desired.
  2. Know the limitations of the physical space of the hotel, restaurant, or event venue. For example, rooms that are designed based on modern principles of minimalistic interior design, with a lot of open spaces and concrete surfaces, make it difficult for sound to be absorbed and can create a lot of annoying sound reflections. In contrast, restaurants where the dining rooms incorporates a lot of wooden furniture, curtains, or intricated ceilings may offer a good sound experience because the room is able to absorb sound reflections.
  3. Buy high quality hardware. As paradoxical as it may seem, some audio and video hardware (especially analog audio hardware) have a very low obsolescence. For example, it means that if a business buys high quality speakers, they will not become obsolete anytime soon, and can be used for a very long time with low maintenance. Companies such as ElectroVoice, JBL, Bose, and Shure manufacture products that will last many decades and create amazing sound experiences.
  4. Work with professional vendors. In every single region of the U.S. there are multitudes of professional vendors that can design customized solutions for hospitality spaces. While the vision of the hospitality decision makers is critical to the success of the hospitality experience offered to guests, collaborating with AV professionals is very important in designing an outstanding experience that can stimulate all consumers’ senses.

The AV industry is always innovating. Such innovations are continuously challenging the traditional business models of the industry and provide new opportunities to add value to hospitality businesses and consumers. For example, given the development in signal distribution technology, event planners can organize conferences without the need of breakout rooms (www.splchicago.com, 2022). The participants can listen to content using apps connected to event PA systems and can engage with the event without disruption.

One of the areas of constant innovation is the digital content that is being offered through in-room TVs. For many years, hotel guestrooms have been equipped with big screen TVs. Innovative businesses are currently taking advantage of the large TV screen. Specifically, TV content distribution can be better managed via interactive digital TV. Specifically, businesses can set up customized messages, logos on big screen TVs that are installed in guest rooms (Broadband Hospitality, 2022). Such innovations create the personalized experience that guests are looking for and increase the overall value that they receive.

Combining the benefits of wireless information technology and AV technology, a new area of constant innovation is wireless AV. Given the multitude of mobile devices available today, and an increasingly seamless infrastructure that allows all these devices to be connected, innovative companies are taking advantage of connectivity of mobile devices to send messages to be displayed in other areas of the property (Koss-Feder, 2019).

Just like hospitality organizations want to provide customized services for their consumers, AV vendors offer customized solutions for hospitality businesses. Viewing technology as a luxury attribute of the hospitality experience, innovative vendors are striving to design super high tech conference rooms in hotels. Such rooms combine high resolution big screen TVs, systems that can process clear sound, streaming technologies, and easy to use interfaces that can connect devices effortlessly (Crestron, 2022). Such innovations allow consumers to conduct meetings in any format, therefore enhancing the value of their experiences.

While the TVs and projectors continue to dominate the hardware arena in hospitality in terms of visual technology, there are some innovative technologies that have made their way into hospitality in recent years. For example, streaming devices, such as Apple TV, have seen increased application. These are devices that allow users to connect their own smart devices (for example, smartphones) to large screen projectors or TV arrays to facilitate interaction. Another interesting technology that is very impactful for its ability to produce visual effects is synchronized projection onto buildings. This technology is not necessarily used in many day-to-day applications, but they are increasingly popular in certain promotional or celebratory events. Generally, the technology is so sophisticated that it uses the shape and size of the buildings as backgrounds, and images synchronized with sound are projected onto those buildings to create unique effects.



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Information technology in hospitality Copyright © by Cristian Morosan, PhD is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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