By Mark Chesnut
Whether you’re heading out on business or enjoying a Europe vacation or New York vacation, you’re more likely than ever to find technology playing a role in making your hotel stay go smoothly. But looking to the airline industry may provide the clearest vision of how hotels will operate in the future.
As with seemingly every aspect of modern life, smartphones are an increasingly helpful resource during hotel stays. Ritz-Carlton, for example, now offers its World Concierge service on Foursquare, the location-based mobile program. Using a smartphone, travelers can now check into locations and landmarks in 25 countries for tips provided by Ritz-Carlton concierge staff from all 75 Ritz-Carlton properties.
In May, Starwood Preferred Guest unveiled the latest version of its free app, which allows members to keep track of their SPG account. The company’s free app for W Hotels Worldwide app, meanwhile, allows users to tap into some of that brand’s characteristic cool, by streaming custom music mixes from DJs around the world.
When it’s time to leave the hotel, many travelers now use the televisions in their room to review the bill and check out. At the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, which is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation before opening in October, TV functions — provided by a company called Roomlinx — will offer even more, with access to Internet apps including Netflix, Youtube and Facebook, as well as unrestricted Internet and e-mail.
For a glimpse of the future, take a look at how you check in and board planes at the airport. Or pay a visit to the Comfort Xpress in Oslo, Norway, which opened earlier this year and claims to have the first 100 percent automated check-in and check-out system at a major hotel. Guests here can check in with a link received via e-mail or text, which also allows them to indicate their check-in time and room preference. Upon arrival, guests receive another message via cell phone with their room number, and may proceed directly to the room, using the phone instead of a key card, much the same way airlinepassengers use electronic boarding passes on their phones.
Travelers in the United States can also experience futuristic innovations at YOTEL New York, which opened in June. Guests arriving at the 669-room New York hotel check in at self-service kiosks similar to those found at an airport, and only need to speak with a human staff member if they have a question or problem. If a traveler needs to leave luggage either before or after their stay, they stop at the Yobot, a robotic arm that checks and stores guest luggage.
Mark Chesnut is a travel writer, editor and publisher of LatinFlyer.com, which focuses on business and leisure travel to Latin America.