iHotel: Reconfiguring Traditional Spaces to Emphasize Connectivity

By Keith Simmel Principal, Cooper Carry | November 15, 2015

Technology is engrained in everything we do. It's in our cars, offices, homes and even the hotels we select. Travelers today, from millennials to baby boomers, are technologically driven and expect the ease and comfort that various forms of technology can provide. Many crave convenient and quick access to information. And with more hotel flags and brands than ever, hotels must incorporate high-tech elements throughout the building from the lobby to amenity spaces to the guest room in order to stay competitive.

The need and desire for high-tech connectivity is driving hotel owners and developers to evaluate what can be added to existing hotels, and what might be required in the future. Hotels that don't embrace technology will eventually become obsolete as technology continues to become less of a luxury and more of a necessity.

Lobbies and Public Spaces

Traditional lobby spaces are becoming more of a social hub with lobby functions such as registration and concierge services moving to periphery space. The lobby itself is now occupied by spaces that allow people to connect. Bars and lounges, breakfast and casual dining and even pop-up meeting areas are teeming with people. Several years ago, people would order a room-service hamburger and work on their computer with the television on in the background. Today, people are more likely to grab their tablet or laptop and camp out in the lobby where they can work, grab that burger, and feel a part of the larger social scene in the hotel.

Lobbies and public spaces have to accommodate the need for power sources. At the bare minimum, almost every guest travels with a cell phone, and, most of the time, also a laptop or tablet. Think about the lounge seating at airports that now have power stations where people tend to congregate. In lobbies and public spaces, designers are locating power sources in inconspicuous, yet convenient locations, near seating or dining clusters.

Access to wireless internet services in lobbies and amenity spaces is also a must. Since internet access is required for most activities on a phone, and data can be pricey, travelers don't just expect Wi-Fi, they demand it. It's the cheapest way to check-in with friends and family members while traveling, and many business travelers view it as a requirement so they are able to work on the road.

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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.