Rethinking the Guestroom

Transport to Future Customizes Guest Experience

By Ronald M. Lustig Design Architect/Principal, Earl Swensson Associates, Inc. (ESa) | November 15, 2015

As smart technologies continue to permeate every sector of our lives and Millennials grow into consumers with clout, the hotel industry is taking note. New developments are taking place and others are being imagined to keep pace with demands of this technology-savvy generation. Futuristic guestrooms will trend toward being smaller, but technology will rule to provide guests the efficiencies they prefer, the unfettered access to Wi-Fi they demand and the individual recognition they enjoy. A trip to the future is really not so far away.

Smart phones. Smart cars. Smart watches. The list goes on. Smart technologies are being interwoven into our daily lives to eliminate routine tasks and to increase efficiencies. Some smart technology goals are to make lives easier, free-up time, support sustainability, improve accuracy rates and enhance communication. The future is now, and every aspect of our daily lives is being impacted by smart technology.

As a way to better personalize and customize the hotel guest experience in accordance with the guest's lifestyle, the hotel environment is trending toward incorporating smart technologies. Not only will efficiencies be improved with advances in technology, but the industry's intent is to improve upon the guest experience with an even-more hospitable setting that will make the guest's stay feel special and tailored with individual recognition.

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Currently, Millennials represent one-fourth of the U.S. population. By 2030, it is projected that the Millennials will number 78 million in comparison to 58 million Baby Boomers. Estimates are that by 2020, Millennials will spend one-half of the money spent on the travel sector. To accommodate this up and coming generation, technology is everything. Smart phones are everything. Many Millennials say they want engaging experiences and immersive environments. As long as Wi-Fi is available, this group is content. A communal group, they will be satisfied is a small room and comfortable lobby. Instead of check-in desks, they are accepting of concierge apps and kiosks.

The founder of our architectural firm often quotes Walt Disney when Disney said, "If you can dream it, you can do it." Today, the futuristic, as yet unrealized, hotel room is closer to being a reality than a dream. Just as Disneyland is ever evolving with the introduction of new attractions, so, too, is the hospitality industry. Innovations in the delivery of service are being introduced at a rapid pace. In the competitive lodging industry, keeping up with advancements and implementing them appropriately into the different properties will be key to ROI.

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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.