Tech Republic


Tech Republic


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Business Corner, Shilla Stay Yeoksam

It wasn’t that long ago when the most cutting-edge technology you could expect in a hotel room was free Wi-Fi.


These days, however, hotels are competing to attract tech-savvy travellers who value innovation over indulgences. And the pace of change is set to quicken.


A consequence of the recent merger of the Marriott and Starwood brands, as well as Accor’s buyout of FRHI Holdings (the parent company of Fairmont, Raffles and Swisshotel brands), is that the technology bar will be raised even higher. The combined resources of these mega brands will ensure the next generation of travellers can expect the most advanced gadgets, gizmos and hi-tech gimmicks in their hotel rooms.


With crystal ball in hand, we preview five tech trends likely to change your hotel experience:


1. The Read Carpet: Within the next few years, you can – quite literally! – put your foot down on new technology! Interface, a leading carpet manufacturer, has designed RFID (radio frequency ID) sensors that are embedded into hotel carpets. The sensors can monitor a room’s temperature and moisture and track a guest’s movements in the hotel via a mobile app. The sensor-set flooring is able to turn on accent lighting to direct guests to the bathroom in the middle of the night or alert housekeeping when a room service tray has been left in the corridor.


2. Key-Free Entry: In the last year, Hilton Worldwide and Starwood Hotels & Resorts began introducing keyless-entry mobile apps. Instead of the standard plastic key card, guests can gain access via an app on their smartphones.


3. Keeping Mobile: Hotel brands are taking advantage of guests’ reliance on their mobile and tablet devices to streamline the hotel experience. Some are exploring services such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet as a way to use mobile phones for payment. Others, like Marriott, invite guests to use their mobile phones to check-in and check-out via their Marriott Rewards app. Virgin Hotel in Chicago takes it one step further, letting guests take charge by allowing them to adjust room temperature and lighting with their smartphones.


4. Reality Heights: Virtual Reality will be the boom industry of 2016. Industry experts expect the facebook-owned Oculus will sell over 14 million virtual reality headsets this year, growing to 38 million units by 2020. Armed with virtual reality headsets, travellers can tour a hotel and event planners can walk through a hotel function room without ever setting foot on the property. Brands can also promote their properties through Google Cardboard, a low-cost alternative that transforms any smartphone into a virtual reality headset. Hotels can issue branded Cardboard viewers to potential customers, inviting them to explore fully immersive experiences.


5. Make it Mine: Technology is personalising the hotel experience. Smartphones can be adapted to change a room’s lighting and temperature, switch TV channels or access a guest’s Netflix accounts so they can stream their favourite programs on the hotel’s smart TV. To encourage loyalty, a guest’s preferences will be recorded so when they return to the hotel, the room will be set to their liking.


For those hotels still crowing about providing free Wi-Fi (or worse, those still charging for internet access!), it’s time to up their offerings and face the tech-enabled future.

Catherine Feliciano-Chon

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