Hotels of the Future: Growing Trends and Bends

By Jackson Thilenius Principal, Retail Design Collaborative | June 17, 2018

I recently attended a hospitality conference in LA and went to a talk titled, "Hotels of the Future," hosted by a panel of industry experts. It struck me as odd that there were so few insights into the actual future of hotels, and that the conversation revolved around the usual rhetoric about lobby activation, mobile check-in, keyless rooms and ADR. When we hear a topic as intriguing as "Hotels of the Future," I think we're all looking for a glimpse into the future of hospitality and how hotels will evolve. I don't have a crystal ball or the ability to predict the future, but I can comment on growing trends and make observations about opportunities that might steer the direction of hospitality and the hotels that support it. It's an industry that's facing some serious challenges from the likes of Airbnb and other peer-to-peer platforms that offer more variety for less money.

Seeking a Departure from "The Norm"

It's reasonable to assume that bold departures from the norm, and radical brand positioning may survive, or at least lead the way for innovation within the hotel industry. I've written on many of these topics before, and the parallels are not dissimilar, such as what is authentic and where we will gather. In their attempts to differentiate and create unique experiences, hoteliers are choosing to align themselves with local talent. By displaying locally sourced products, or using neighborhood artists to create atmosphere, hotels are finding ways to showcase their commitment to community engagement.

Our clients are constantly seeking new ways to exhibit a variety of services, products and amenities in ways that allow fluidity of purpose. These trends have been in place for years, and the growing infusion of technology within those environments continues to drive the conversations about the future. Obviously, technology will continue to play a major role in supporting and providing guest experiences and attempting to predict where those advancements might take us in the distant future is a lengthy exercise. Robotics, AR(augmented reality) and VR(virtual reality), biorhythm customization, and DNA analysis profiles, all seem like science fiction, but these technologies are currently being explored and integrated into different hospitality models.

Blurring the Lines of Fantasy & Reality

Augmented reality, for example, has become a dominant trend within the hospitality industry because it helps hotels enhance the physical environments they offer, and heightens the experience of exploring the contextual neighborhood. Interactive hotel rooms and digitally enhanced surroundings are providing a new level of luxury and convenience to travelers, and hotels around the globe are using AR in conjunction with wall graphics and installations to create dynamic experiences.This technology is also a great way to provide large amounts of information that hotel guests regularly request, both before and after their stay. AR/VR technologies make a lot of this information readily available to customers on multiple platforms, theoretically improving the entire guest experience.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.