For the tech-savvy traveller, a hotel room is more than a place to rest at the end of the night – it's a fully operating hub. Whether planning for a business meeting, researching activities or settling in for an evening of entertainment, nothing says 'not staying here again' more than weak connections, cumbersome procedures and crossed wires.
In its bid to meet the needs of a faster-paced clientele, the hospitality industry is on a mission to embrace new technology that streamlines processes, takes the hassle out of travel, and delights guests. With 'guest personalisation and 'user experience' featuring as buzzwords of the year, forward-thinking hotels are dropping their legacy thinking to be at the forefront of travel innovation.
Initiatives such as Marriott's TestBED, the accelerator programme that supports start-ups working on innovative ways to improve guest experience, means we can now expect some incredible tech to help shape the future of travel and hospitality.
Any good hotel will respond to an email query, but when it comes to last-minute questions or help planning a trip, the on-demand generation finds it much simpler to communicate with someone in real time through portals they use on a daily basis.
HiJiffy connects you to a chatbot via Messenger, providing an automated service that can tell you everything from availability and room description to services and sightseeing tips, and comes with instant translation where necessary. If artificial intelligence isn't quite your thing, you have the option to connect with a member of staff.
Now You're Talking
Sometimes, it's great to get local recommendations from a human being instead of reading another guidebook. While you can expect the concierge in most hotels to speak your language, how much better would it be to communicate in theirs?
Mymanu Clik wireless earbuds come with a voice recognition technology that translates 37 languages in real time, allowing the wearer to interact with locals wherever you stay. Plus its snug-fit and waterproof design means you can listen to your own music in the pool, the spa and even in the shower.
The old-fashioned practice of leaving the clunky key fob at reception, then the hassle of reclaiming it before you head to your room has been made marginally less frustrating by the key card, but assuming you haven't lost yours, how many repeated swipes does it take for that red light to turn green?
Luckily, you don't have to answer that, thanks to new smartphone technology that allows guests to unlock their hotel doors at the press of a phone key. Digital keys are being developed by the likes of OpenKey and Semieta and allow you to skip the front desk and there's no need to hold the phone up against the door – one tap on the way up and you're in.
A Room With Your View
Savvy travellers know to carry an HDMI cable but it's not always easy to get to the port, especially on wall-mounted hotel TVs. In a 'bring your own device' world, remote control flicking through adverts and scanning the pay per view is a thing of the past.
Tech solutions such as RoomnetTv and StayCast are leading the way to help you personalise the in-room entertainment directly from your smartphone. You'll also soon be able to take control of the entire room, from the blinds to the heating, using fixed-mobile convergence. The age-old mystery of which switch turns that light above your head off is close to being solved.
Save the World
The modern carbon-footprint aware traveller does not equate luxury with wastefulness. From paperless bookings to smart energy saving light and air –conditioning systems, eco-friendly green tech start-ups have become the darlings of the hospitality industry.
Optishower, for instance, can help hotels decrease water and electricity consumption using smart sensors and online dashboards, while LeanPath allows staff to keep track of where the most waste is being produced.
Keep Your Head in the Cloud
In a bid to make you feel less like a visitor and more like a familiar guest, hotels are embracing Cloud based technology.
Property Management System platforms such as Mews allows guests to give the hotel a better idea of their personality and preferences, meaning you can expect a tailor-made welcome, recommendations and service, right from the specified check-in time to checking out at any time without needing to say goodbye. Unless you want to, of course...
HiJiffy, Mymanu and Optishower are the finalists of Marriott's TestBED initiative. Each brand has the opportunity to test their product at one of Marriott's European hotels for ten weeks. To find out more about Marriott's TestBED, which aims to find cutting edge technologies that transform guest experiences, visit MarriottTestBED.com.