We no longer unfurl cumbersome maps to find our way around an unfamiliar city because there is GPS. We no longer need to send postcards because there is Instagram. We don’t even need to gesticulate to get understood in a foreign land, thanks to translation applications. Technology has changed the way we travel – surely it is about time it changed the way we rest while on the road?
Whether it’s allowing guests to state preferences prior to arrival or letting them order a midnight snack, hotels are tapping into technology to update a stay experience for the 21st century. From large chains to independent properties, hotels are racing to provide innovative high-tech toys – from infrared heat-detection technology and Google Glasses to even a virtual Pokemon hunt – to vie for the attention of an emerging generation of sybaritic and mobile millennial travellers. This segment of guests is increasingly well-researched and connected, with very different expectations from the tourists of the past. Replacing a deluxe fruit platter with a handwritten card are complimentary iPads for use during stay and unlimited free Wi-Fi access. In luxurious marble-tiled bathrooms, 18th century-style claw-foot bathtubs sit alongside remote- controlled heated toilet seats.
Tapping into technology becomes not only a boon to holiday makers and boardroom warriors, but also to the service providers. By tracking arrival times and travel habits of guests, it enables them to better prepare for arrivals, while steadfastly building up their loyalty programmes. Guest preferences and habits are automatically recorded into vast databases, ready to be reloaded upon a return visit. Now, when staying within the same hotel chain, whether in New York or Beijing, Mr John Smith can have his room pre-chilled to a cool 18 deg C and bed made with allergen-free magnetic therapy pillows, just as he likes.
Here, we share some of the latest cutting-edge offerings.
Sweet Dreams are Made of These
Complementing its Heavenly Bed experience, Westin Hotels and Resorts has upped the ante with a new wearable Sleep Sensor, in partnership with Lark Technologies. Guests will now have the best sleep they’ve ever had, by using the Lark Up Sleep Monitor, Silent Alarm Clock and Personal Sleep Coach – which provide a series of personalised coaching tips rooted in science. This trinity of heavily codified artificial intelligence systems will track sleep patterns and micro movements during the night and tag factors affecting sleep. Guests will also receive data visualisations of their sleep patterns and get expert explanations on how to overcome problem areas. Perhaps it’s time to catch those 40 winks.
Honey, Where are my Keys?
Misplaced that key again? Well fret no more, as long as you have your smartphone with you, that is. Powered by a Starwood Preferred Guest App, the function allows guests to bypass the front desk and head directly to their room. After a few easy registration steps, all it takes is a wave of the Bluetooth-activated phone at the sensor to unlock the door. Eager to be among the first to try out this pioneering technology? Well, head to W Hotels in New York, Hollywood, Beijing, Hong Kong, or right at home in Singapore. Also available at selected Aloft and Element hotels.
Power Up Wirelessly
After a guest’s submission on TravelBrilliantly.com – Marriott Hotel’s platform to engage guests in co-creating unique and meaningful stay experiences and service offerings – the hotel company has recently rolled out a pilot programme that offers wireless charging for handheld devices in 29 of its hotels. This comes in the form of a portable cube transmitter developed in partnership with Kube Systems, which enables both wired and wireless charging. Guests can charge up to three devices anywhere as they work or socialise, by just resting it on the cube. Being left in the lurch with a dead phone in hand and tangled-up cords may soon be a thing of the past.
Tap Tap, Who’s There?
Still holding on to that smartphone? Good. You’ll be happy to know that at Ritz-Carlton Hotels, you can use its app not only for check-ins and checkouts, but also to request an additional pillow and your laundry to be pressed, or order room service. At St Regis hotels, the rooms are equipped with an iPad that you can use to control the ambience of your rooms by adjusting the curtains, lighting and temperature, all from the comfort of your bed.
Do You See What I See?
The exclusive Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine might date back to 1146, but this historic abbey hotel and winery 100km north of Madrid is the first hotel in Europe to offer guests a Google Glass experience. This brings it to the forefront in terms of sophisticated modern hotel offerings. Eight pairs of the wearable micro-computers are available for guests to use. With simple verbal commands and a blink of an eye, the wearer can take photos and upload them onto their social-media channels. The hotel will also download the photos onto a memory stick for guests to keep for posterity. If social media is not your cup of tea, Google Glass can also serve as a guide for stargazing, an art tour or even just to take phone calls.
Do Not Disturb
Hotel 1000 in Seattle ensures sleep-ins are an undisturbed and peaceful experience by removing the hassle of having to hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign, or even having to flip a switch. Each guest room is equipped with an infrared sensor that detects body heat and displays the results to the housekeeping staff on a door panel (unless the occupier wishes to opt out). This lets the staff know whether or not to enter the room. Also, after a rejuvenating rest, you may wish to practise your swing at the hotel’s golf club, which offers a virtual golfing experience at 50 of the world’s top courses.
Tech for All, Big and Small
The Peninsula Hotel, Tokyo, has myriad tech offerings to appeal to guests of all ages. From remote-controlled toilets with heated seats and nail-polish dryers to wireless phones offering Skype connectivity and a television which automatically mutes when the phone rings, these gadgets are available in every guest room. For the young ones, the hotel has partnered The Pokemon Company to provide an augmented-reality hotel-wide hunt for Pokemon characters. This is for those checking in under the “Power of Ten” stay package.