What’s hot in hotels right now? We tapped a few sources to find out not only what’s going in to the guest experience, but what’s going into the actual hotels!

by Amy Drew Thompson

“Tea. Earl Gray. Hot.”

It’s how Capt. Jean-Luc Picard ordered his beverage aboard Star Trek: The Next Generation’s U.S.S. Enterprise, where food replicators, the voice-activated insta-chefs of the future, fulfilled orders in seconds.

The world’s best F&B staff can’t yet deliver chateaubriand and crème brulee to a guestroom in 60 seconds, but hotel guests are already reaping tech-boosted benefits – in their rooms and beyond.

Technology is hardly the only notable hospitality trend in 2018. Developments in the realm of design, décor, construction, and more, are keeping hoteliers on their toes in their quest to deliver exemplary guest experiences.

Tech talk
In the guest rooms. At Universal Orlando Resort’s Aventura Hotel, designers put this top-tier trend in the must-have column.

“When people travel, they take their technology with them. It’s an ever-present part of their lives…and an important part of today’s travel experience from the moment an idea for a trip is born,” says managing director Stephen Cummings. “Hotels must be equipped to serve guests in the modern digital age by providing advanced, smart tools and amenities that enhance their stay, particularly in the guestroom, where travelers begin, plan, and end their day.”

As such, in-room tablets are the standard here.

“[They] are a powerful tool,” he says, “loaded with everything guests need for their stay, so it’s right at their fingertips and they don’t have to spend time searching.”

In the meeting rooms. Events figure big in many hotels’ profit margin. Smart properties are implementing the Internet of Things (IoT) to make events flow better than ever. IoT is a system of interrelated computing devices that allows the transfer of data over a network without human interaction.

“The IoT will bring sensors throughout the meeting venue to increase efficiency and improve service,” says Corbin Ball, an international speaker, consultant and writer on events technology. “More efficient, lighting, better AC controls, security and AV support, smart guest rooms and lobbies, or tech lounges, will be the result.”

At their fingertips. Guest experience? There’s an app for that.

“Technology is changing at such a pace, and that’s particularly interesting for us in hospitality,” says Charles Fisher, resort manager for the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort. “When you think about our history, particularly in the luxury market, there’s always this perception of formality, but that’s changing very rapidly as technology evolves.”

Since launching its Four Seasons Chat app, says Fisher, the number of messages flying through is extraordinary. Requests for more towels, even poolside drink orders, are handled expeditiously.

Checking in
Self-serve. “Unique hotels, like the properties currently open within Tapestry Collection by Hilton, are growing in popularity because they can provide guests with the ability to enhance their stays…Guests are looking for hotels that complement their lifestyle,” says Jenna Hackett, global head for the Hilton brand.

“Guests can find a Tapestry Collection hotel, book, check-in, choose their room based on their preferences and open the door with Digital Key, all through the Hilton app on their mobile device.”

Looks that fill (rooms) –
Lobbies & outdoor spaces

The smell of success. Properties intent on stimulating the senses are adding olfactory elements to the guest experience with a signature scent. Fisher says guests enjoy theirs, staffers often field requests for candles they can take home. “It adds to the overall sense of place when you walk into the space.”

Innerspace. Restaurant real estate, in many cases, is being forgone in favor of cleaner, more contemporary gathering spaces in the lobby, says Michael Parks, vice president for Hoar Construction’s Florida office. Hoar’s recent projects include the Hotel Indigo in Gainesville, FL and the Hotel Alessandra in Houston, TX. “We’re seeing a trend of quick-service places, coffee shops and bars that cater to the idea of grabbing a drink and hanging out in the lobby before you go up at the end of the night.”

Hilton’s Hackett would likely agree.

“Lobbies aren’t just for check-in anymore. Guests are looking for open, inviting common spaces to relax and mingle…These spaces are even drawing in local residents,” she notes.

Travelers want to experience the hotel in its entirety, she says, not just their rooms.

Parks says modern seating clusters, places to congregate and hang out, are increasingly visible. “Lobbies feel more comfortable and inviting in comparison to the old days where they felt like your grandmother’s living room,” he laughs, “where you didn’t dare sit down.”

Outside influence
Roof positive. If the impressive 360-degree vistas from Orlando’s Aventura Hotel are any indicator, rooftop bars are an advent that’s here to stay.

“The combination of picturesque views, open air, unique cocktail offerings, and creative design attract both hotel guests and locals,” says Hackett of this enduring trend.

Everyone, says Parks, seems to want a rooftop bar.

“They want to put the pool up there, too,” he says, “with glass all around to take advantage of the views as an added amenity.”

All turf, no surf. Artificial turf, too, vastly improved since the days of “your father’s Astroturf,” Parks laughs, is becoming standard in outdoor areas. Soft and clean, with no worry for mud after a rain, these new products, and the techniques for installation, make hoteliers and guests happy.

“There’s a composite substrate that includes sand and some stone beneath which allows it to drain,” he explains. “You roll out this green carpet that looks and feels like grass, it’s got some cushion to it, it’s got drainability, and it’s got a good life span.”

If you build it
Local color. And flavor, and texture…Parks says the biggest trend he’s noticed is a desire to bring a destination’s local essence into the hotel.

“There’s a sense of place-making, something that adapts to the region or city they are in,” he explains. “For example, at the Hotel Indigo, they’ve painted murals in the rooms that are rock ‘n’ roll themed – sort of Tom Petty-related, since he is from the area.”

Much like the trends in craft beer or artisanal food, hotels are zoning on what’s local in ways that transcend the F&B.

“Each property wants to feel unique,” says Parks.

Material world. Easy-to-clean hard surfaces are making gains in room design, says Parks. “Everything is becoming sleeker, more minimalist in an effort to feel tidier.” Carpet, he has observed, is on the wane. “We’re seeing more luxury vinyl tile with carpet tiles around the bed, so that when guests get up in the morning, they can still put their feet down on carpet.”

The Hotel Skyler Syracuse, the first to join Tapestry Collection by Hilton, was born as a synagogue in 1922, evolving into a performing arts center before its hotel conversion in 2011. It was Syracuse’s first LEED Platinum Hotel.

“More than 20 percent of the products used to build it contained recycled content and more than 75 of the [construction waste]was recycled,” says Hackett. “The hotel also utilizes organic fabrics, low-emission carpeting and non-toxic housekeeping products in guestrooms.”

Domo arigato. Mr. Roboto is being gainfully employed by construction companies as they bring the architects’ grand plans to life.

“The drone technology that we’re using is primarily for surveying and project documentation,” says Parks. Time-lapse cameras are becoming standard, as well. Paired with drones, the combination allows crews to track progress and keep an eye on things.

Laborers are now employing VR to ensure accuracy during the build. HoloLens, a VR headset with goggles that attach to the hardhat, allows workers to see the construction in the field as is, but with an alternative through the specs.

“They are moving with you, so you are able to stand in the middle of the space and compare what is actually there to the model, which you can see through the goggles in what’s almost an overlay.”

The rise of the machines has clearly begun. Tech guru Ball says that artificial intelligence and voice recognition will continue to improve the guest experience; bringing hotel design closer to the ideas we’ve grown accustomed to via “Star Trek” and slowly morphing from fiction into fact.


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