More than two-thirds of American adults now own a smartphone, making mobile technology part of daily life for most travelers.
As such, travelers now expect to see mobile technology integrated into their hotel experiences. Gone are the days when offering Wi-Fi at a hotel was enough; travelers are booking hotels, finding travel information, and controlling every detail of their trips from their smartphones and tablets.
In cities with burgeoning tech markets, such as Chicago, Austin, and Miami, hotels are on the forefront of adopting technology aimed at helping business travelers orchestrate their visits and make their stays more convenient and comfortable.
Hotels in Chicago have been leading the charge on implementing new technologies.
The first Virgin Hotel, which opened in Chicago in January, was designed with tech-savvy travelers in mind. The hotel offers unlimited bandwidth usage on its Wi-Fi network; the patent-pending headboards were ergonomically designed for those working from their beds; and guests check in at a kiosk, via a smartphone app or with a tablet-wielding employee. From the hotel’s mobile app, dubbed Lucy, guests can control their room temperatures, change channels on the TV, order room service, or request items from the front desk.
The Peninsula Chicago is renovating its rooms to include tablet-based technology. When the renovation is completed in April 2016, all rooms will be equipped with a minimum of three Samsung tablets, which will become an integral part of the Peninsula experience. Guests will use the tablets to control room temperature and lighting, watch television, listen to the radio, order room service, and request privacy, among other things.
The Trump Hotel Collection has announced a partnership with hotel internet service provider GuestTek that will debut at its Chicago tower. With that partnership, guests will be able to stream content from their mobile devices to their room TV and have access to on-demand television services, including the ability to pause and record live TV.
Miami is a town known for setting trends, and that reputation extends to setting trends for hotel technology.
Every room at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, for example, features a 20-inch iMac computer set to provide information about hotel menus, facilities and services, as well as browse the internet. Guests can check in and check out via their smartphones, either by using the StayNTouch platform, which sends emails to notify guests of check in and check out options, or via the Fontainebleau app. Through the app, guests also can explore hotel spa services, Miami nightlife and nearby shopping, manage events, make reservations, and find special offers.
The Hotel Beaux Arts Miami, owned by Marriott, equips each of its rooms with an iPad. Through the hotel’s app, guests can use the iPad to order room service, request a taxi, get directions, or ask about local dining and attractions. The hotel also offers mobile check in and check out, so guests can bypass the front desk.
Technology is part of the culture in Austin, one of America’s biggest hubs for tech companies, and that culture extends to Austin hotels.
In July, Marriott demonstrated its latest technology upgrades at the JW Marriott Austin, which opened earlier this year. In addition to the Marriott app—which allows guests to check in and out, and get updates on their rooms via their smartphones—the hotel chain plans to install doors that can be unlocked with Bluetooth technology via a guest’s smartphone. The hotel chain is also allowing guests to use their smartphones at kiosks to print additional or replacement room keys.
And in 2016, guests at the JW Marriott in Austin will be able to log onto their Netflix accounts on their room’s TV.
Marriott also revealed that its hotel chain will be adding wireless power to some of its lobbies, giving guests the ability to charge a mobile device just by setting it on or near a charging pad.
The Four Seasons, one of Austin’s most prominent hotels, just released a new concierge app that, in addition to letting guests check in and check out, allows for ordering room service and requesting hotel services such as housekeeping, car retrieval, and turn-down service.
As hotels rapidly adopt the new technologies debuting in tech towns, such as hotel-specific apps and room controls via smartphones, the next technologies are already being explored.
Some major hotel chains, including Radisson and Hyatt, are promoting new niche hotels—Radisson Red and Hyatt Centric—launching in tech cities such as Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston.
Radisson and Hyatt are promising the hotels will be equipped with the latest technology while providing guests with a flavor of local culture, appealing to the next generation of tech-savvy travelers.
About the Author
Abi Mandelbaum is co-founder and CEO of YouVisit, which creates virtual tours and virtual reality experiences for a variety of industries, including hospitality, real estate, travel, events, education, and factories.
Photo caption: JW Marriott Austin