What hoteliers should consider before installing USB sockets
"Many of us reading this will have seen and possibly experienced the seemingly meteoric flurry of new hotel construction in London and other major towns or cities building-up to the last Olympic Games. Ross Thornhill, Focus SB product consultant, discusses how hotel owners can gain a competitive edge and provide their discerning customers with the subtle touches that make all the difference to their stay.
"I'm guessing that most of us would have presumed that once all these new hotel builds and refurbishments were completed demand would quieten down a little. Surely enough the frantic rush to provide hotel accommodation by major hotel groups appeared to level-off at the sub four and five star accommodation levels. However we are still seeing significant numbers of new-build hotels and major refurbishments with hoteliers looking to provide the higher standard four and five star (and higher) levels of accommodation for the expected increase in overseas visitors. Perhaps following the recent UK currency rate changes we can expect an additional expansion in this area?
"Traditionally larger hotel operators will provide power sockets for overseas guests to use personal electrical items brought with them for use during their stay. These items have typically utilised American and European type power outlets. Catering for this the larger hotelier will have installed suitable power sockets, perhaps incorporated into bespoke accessory plates alongside standard UK power, telephone, data, and audio sockets. A dedicated power supply for these sockets will invariably be needed requiring an additional wiring network throughout the hotel to 'feed' the applicable power sockets (often 110/115 volts and different frequencies). Alternatively a suitable transformer can be installed within, or adjacent to each guest room or suite (space permitting). The cost of both the above options can be significant and perhaps only an economic proposition for larger hotels or complete renovations.
"But does the hotelier really need to provide this facility for their guests? Some operators looking to offer a less expensive and simpler alternative have historically chosen (perhaps unwisely) to offer their guests the loan of a 'multi-country' or 'travel' adaptor. These are supposed to enable the guest to use their devices with the hotels standard 13 amp room sockets. Not generally available from reputable UK retailers these adaptors will not be compliant with any UK electrical safety standards and have the potential to create significant safety and legislative implications for the hotel operator. Typically a guest will plug-in their electrical appliance and (not unreasonably) expect their device to function correctly. Unfortunately this is where things can go badly wrong. It is highly questionable whether the the use of such an 'adaptor' will allow the hotel guest to safely use devices designed for voltages and frequencies differing from UK standards. The use of such an adaptor could be a possible fire hazard with a very real risk of causing damage to the guests electrical appliances and the hotel wiring.
"A very simple and relatively inexpensive alternative that many hoteliers are now choosing to install is the one gang and two gang 13 amp socket with built-in USB charger. "There is an increasing standardisation of operating and charging voltages for mobile 'phones, tablets and many other audio and personal electronic devices. These devices are usually supplied with charging leads featuring standard USB connectors. They can be charged from a USB socket on a PC or laptop, from a mains charger adaptor, and now increasingly dedicated single and twin 13 amp fixed domestic wall sockets featuring single or twin USB charging outlets.
"When choosing a suitable product the hotel operator should look for good quality UK Standard one or two gang 13amp switched sockets. If a twin USB socket is to be used both five volt charging outlets should be fully rated at 1 amp and 2.1 amps.
"For the hotel operator, the cost benefits of installing or retrofitting USB charger sockets can be significant."
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