Smart Design: The Top Technology Design Trends Your Hotel Guests are Demanding

By David Ashen Principal and Founder, dash design | October 07, 2018

There was a time when I was a kid that the most exciting technology in a hotel room was the television's hand-held remote control. What a treat it was to stay in a hotel room and not have to get up to stand in front of the TV and change the channel for my dad. Well, that certainly has changed, and with how quickly is technology evolving, by the time you read this article, I am sure some of the concepts will be outdated.

The quick pace of change in devices and systems powered by ever-advancing technology makes it a challenge when thinking about the design of a hotel. I often laugh when I visit a hotel and see the jack-packs on the side of a desk. They were the rage about ten years ago when brands tried to stay ahead of the pack and provide connectivity for the guest. Most of the connectors aren't recognizable anymore, and now with Bluetooth-enabled televisions, who needs a connector cable anyway? I always think "what a waste of money" and wonder what pundits will say next year about the kinds of technology we are putting in rooms now.

When we talk about the top technology trends, it must be understood that some of these advances are expected by the guest and no longer merely an option. For instance, Wi-Fi is not an option today. While not so long ago it was not a "given" that the hotel would provide for this amenity, now, not only does every square-inch of a property need to have the coverage, but also, it has to be as fast-as fast as is possible. With streaming media now a mainstay of our daily lives, the kiss-of-death for a property is slow internet speed. Consider today's average attention span of less than six seconds, less than that of a goldfish. It's no wonder our technology needs to keep up.

Yet Wi-Fi is just the foundation of what the technology platform in a hotel needs to be built on. The future is in smart or intelligent buildings and totally integrated systems that can do several things that enhance the guest experience and manage energy consumption, so costs are minimized.

Let's begin with the check-in experience. We are seeing more flexibility and variation in how the guest checks-in, allowing for different choices for high- or low-touch engagements. Marriott, Hilton and the other major brands offer mobile check-ins, which not only allow for a faster encounter at the reception desk, but also provide the opportunity for guests to skip the reception desk entirely, with an "electronic key" that's delivered directly to the guest's smart phone. By using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, the guest's phone becomes his or her room key. This is now the exception but, no doubt, soon will be the norm, as it is such a jump in convenience. It's also convenient for those that want discretion for conducting special business or other matters-no worries about running into someone a guest would rather not see in the lobby.

I recently checked into a Citizen M hotel and was fascinated by the check-in experience, which was at a kiosk (there was no front desk) and allowed me, like other guests, to choose my room. Just like checking into a flight, Citizen M allows the guest to see the available room inventory and select what he or she likes best. Whether it's an upper or lower floor, closer or further from the elevator, or another criterion, after the guest selects a room, the kiosk dispenses its access key.

Sinclair Check-In Lobby
Sinclair Check-In Lobby Seating
Sinclair Single King Guestroom
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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.