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New Hotel Technology Trends: What Business Travelers Are Trying Out in 2017

February 2nd, 2017 /

Smart TVs were old hat to me, or so I thought before I walked into an elevator in the Ritz and was invited to browse an interactive screen of hotel amenities. Like a massive iPad, the illuminated display surprised me with HD clarity, and I exited the sliding doors with an appreciation for modern tech—and an immediate desire to visit the hotel sauna.

As a frequent traveler, I’ve been in more hotel elevators than I’d care to count, so it’s significant that one captured my attention in any way. But that’s the effect of new technology on guests. We don’t usually expect anything fancier than decent WiFi—so hotels that offer something more have a massive advantage.

Finally, Hotels Are on the Cloud

Cloud-based tech, in particular, promises to be the hotel industry’s savior. Many chains invested heavily in user-facing mobile and network tech in 2016, which means we should be reaping those benefits this year (including significantly better WiFi speeds)

Some of these changes are long overdue. Keyless entry, for instance, is something every frequent traveler has wistfully considered at some point—and Hyatt, Marriot, and IHG have finally added smartphone keys to their mobile app configuration. You’ll never lose your key card again.

But I was surprised to learn that, according to HT’s Lodging Technology Study, 30% of hotels also allocated funds toward location-based technology. This umbrella term basically means that your hotel could let you check in and pay for your stay with your smartphone—but could also track your location to see which of their amenities you’re using. This is what’s known as beacon technology—where hotels use electronics placed throughout their properties to push marketing messages to your device. Your phone might notify you of a spa discount when you walk past the massage rooms, for example. Location services are great for hotels because they get to offer you personalized upsells. For customers, however, these notifications can be absurdly annoying.

hotel technology trends for 2017 seem promising

Say goodbye to ancient technology–and say hello to tech-savvy hotels. Image by Flickr user gildas_f (CC BY 2.0)

Hotels Invest Big in Tech Devices

When it comes to new gadgets, however, the situation is markedly more positive for guests—although it does get trickier for hotels. No chain wants to invest heavily in brand-new products that might flop badly, which means that the devices hotels do offer will inherently be behind whatever you and I have in our own homes. Still, “new” tech that has proven it in other markets can provide an unexpected level of comfort. This year, keep an eye out for:

  • New charging stations. Your incessantly beeping alarm is about to be a thing of the past. Some hotel chains, including Marriot, Hyatt, and Sheraton, are starting to feature Kube Systems’ alarm clock charging stations. These devices give you two attached cables, two USB ports, and a wireless Qi spot to charge up to five devices. Some properties even offer a portable version in communal spaces. Rather than hunting for a wall outlet in the hotel lobby, you can just pick up a portable station and head to the bar.
  • Tablets Galore. The typical leather-bound binder of room service offerings is being replaced by an elegant leather-bound tablet (usually provided by Crave). You can order room service and even direct message hotel staff through this platform, which I’ve found to be far less intrusive than using the hotel landline. In-room tablets might not be all that exciting to business travelers who’ve gone through five or six personal iPads, but you probably will appreciate the frictionless check-in that’s also being facilitated by new tablets at the front desk.
  • Voice Activated Hotel Rooms. I’m counting down the days until my next Las Vegas trip, when I get to see this firsthand. The Wynn now has entire property decked out with Alexa and Amazon Echo, meaning that guests won’t have to lift a finger to play the news, open the curtains, turn on the lights, or listen to their favorite music. I’m hoping five-star hotels across the country will take note.
  • Smart TVs. In all honesty, I am a little curious about the overlap with this technology. A good smart TV will incorporate streaming services, partner with the thermostat in your room, and control the lights for you. Basically, smart TVs act like a really big smartphone controller. But if you have a tablet in the room, and an Amazon Echo, you don’t necessarily need a smart TV… do you?
Hotel tech trends, when done right, can make a business trip surprisingly relaxing

The nicer the hotel, the newer the tech. Image by Flickr user Holiday Point (CC BY 2.0)

Hotel Tech Is a Race to the Top

Of course, your hometown Hyatt might not see an iPad until 2019, while the W in Dallas already has a 72-inch flat screen in each of their best suites. The best tech will come to the big cities first—and to upper-tier properties.

It’s also pretty clear which hotel chain is at the forefront of tech innovation. Marriott was the first to partner with Netflix for in-room streaming services, and they began implementing keyless entry at several properties before the close of 2016. Now, they’re putting the reins in customers’ hands by creating the M-beta at the Charlotte Marriott City Center. This beta hotel is fully decked out with the newest in VR and customer experience technology, and it will be fascinating to see what comes out of such close attention to consumer feedback. Personally, I’m excited to try out FLEX fitness at the Charlotte location, which claims to totally revitalize the hotel workout scene.

Even the newest of hotel tech trends aren't exactly cutting edge in other markets

As far as tech is concerned, most hotels are in the bottom 16% of this graph. Image by Flickr user Wesley Fryer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

How Tech Affects Us

What’s most interesting about hotel tech developments is that they can have a surprisingly strong emotional impact on guests. Luxury amenities can completely turn your day around, especially if they’re unexpected. When I enter a hotel and am pleasantly surprised by frictionless check-in, smart room tech, and a concierge at my (virtual) fingertips, I feel cared for. I relax. And these emotions are gold to hotel companies, because it means they’ve gained another loyal customer. In this way, hotel tech isn’t just about function—it’s an art form.

Hotels are, slowly but surely, getting on the technology trend. If you’re interested in sampling the best that the industry has to offer but don’t want to pay ridiculously high sticker prices, I’d suggest a membership with JetLux Hotels. I get the best rooms at four- and five-star hotels for anywhere from 15-40% off the online rate, which means I’m free to try out the Echos at the Wynn in Vegas whenever I get the chance.

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