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Checking in on What’s Next

Hotels are finding intriguing new ways to thrill, pamper and tech you up

November 30, 2019

A recent survey by the Global Business Travel Association found 50 percent of travelers surveyed want to try a mobile app to control room settings; 38 percent are eager to try rooms with body sensors to control services; 34 percent want to experience rooms that are personalized by scent, linen choices and other amenities; and 25 percent want to use robotic services.

These days, business travelers are expecting higher technology in their hotel rooms and lobby work spaces. WiFi is table stakes for most hotels; beyond that, robotics, motion sensors and ambient lighting are all becoming standard.

Take the Sinclair, an Autograph Collection Hotel in Fort Worth, TX, for instance. The hotel, opening this winter, is right at the bleeding edge of technology. The back-up power for the entire art deco-era building is now provided by a battery rather than by a diesel generator, the first hotel in the world to be so equipped.

Light fixtures in the hotel are juiced by something called Digital Building Switches to replace regular high-voltage electricity and are shut on and off over the Internet.  Mirrors in the bathrooms have speakers that connect to users’ Bluetooth. Showers can flash different colored lights and will set the temperature of the water using the control pad on the wall in the bathroom.

Finally, going to the gym and powering the building’s battery by using a cardio machine for over 20 minutes will not just get you fitter, it will get you Marriott Bonvoy points. And just for good tech measure, the Sinclair has a rentable podcast studio in its lobby.

The new Loews Hotel 1000 in Seattle is equally high wattage in its technology. The property has a fully converged IP infrastructure giving travelers options of choosing and personalizing their room, temperatures, artwork and music. Infrared detectors let housekeeping know when someone is in the room or if it’s vacant. The Hotel 1000 also has Microsoft Surface tablets in every room, touchscreen VoIP phones and a virtual reality golfing room.

Of Apps & Abs

Meetings facilities in hotels around the world are also being amped up. The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, FL, for example, has a customizable video wall that greets attendees on check-in with customized images. The resort also uses the Kipsu app to direct message meeting participants about events, meals, galas and check-out times.

Hotel spas, too, are moving forward to use increasingly sophisticated technology, even edging into areas formerly the exclusive preserve of med spas. The Four Seasons Denver, the first hotel to use EMSCULPT, is offering guests the option of getting washboard abs in a couple of (pricey) sessions with this new electronic system that uses mild electric shocks to push muscles into fast fitness. The process doesn’t hurt while it’s being administered but you might feel like you’ve done a lot of sit ups afterwards. The innovation here is the merging of medical spa technology into hotel spa offerings.

Innovation also doesn’t have to be tech-driven. Service-focused innovation is being promoted by NH Hotels with their new City Connection service, a new benefit where customers can “stay in one hotel and enjoy them all,” according to a statement.

Guests receive a passport which allows them make use of services like lobby work areas, gyms, concierges, luggage storage and a 10 percent discount in participating sister property bars and restaurants. The passport explains which NH properties offer the service, where they are located and how long the guest can use them.

Isidoro Martínez de la Escalera, chief marketing officer at NH Hotel Group, says the new service “lies in delivering beyond what our guests need, exceeding their expectations before, during and after their stays.”

Enviably Green

Sustainability is also an innovation that most hotels are embracing whole-heartedly.

Edition Hotels, for instance, has made a pledge to be single use plastic-free by 2020. Hotels in the group will be offering bamboo toothbrushes in place of plastic ones. Plastic lids, single-use-amenity bottles and those ubiquitous straws will all be a thing of the past. Hilton, Iberostar, Fairmont, Four Seasons, Marriott groups have all announced similar initiatives to ban or reduce plastics.

Four Seasons Costa Rica, a property centered in the middle of an intensely eco-centric destination, is one of the first to appoint a Sustainability Manager who will oversee property accountability both in back and in front of the house. Knowing someone is taking this responsibility will help travelers feel confident about taking a journey to a country which has pioneered eco-sustainable tourism.

Finally, a feature low in tech but high in emotional support shines in the Fairmont Washington, DC. Here, the hotel can offer the presence of a comfort canine for guests and staff. George, a female Labrador, was born to be a guide dog for the blind but when she was tested at her birthplace, the Guiding Eyes for the Blind Development Center, it was decided she was far too friendly and people-centric to be a work-focused, no-touch guide dog.

Mark Huntley, the hotel’s general manager, adopted Georgie in 2018 and put her to work in a new career as a part-time hotel lobby comfort dog. Similar to the comfort dogs brought to people in need of emotional connection during crisis, Georgie is available to socialize with guests and attend meetings to help de-stress and calm participants.

Traveling kids who form a bond with Georgie can buy a small plush toy in her image or a Georgie coloring book to take home.