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Hotel News Briefs / Ace Hotels / Hotel News / Marriott Hotels / Hotel Technology / AC Hotels by Marriott / Legoland Hotels / → All Tags
Hallo! There's a bunch of news flying around and we're having trouble getting to it all, so we've packaged the tidbits up nice and neat for you to read about here. Enjoy!
· BEHIND-THE-SCENES STRUGGLE IS HAPPENING AT ACE HOTELS: Alex Calderwood, the man who founded Ace Hotels, passed away last November, shocking those close to him and those who like us, just loved his hotels. His presence can still be found throughout the Aces, including in illustrated format at the Ace Hotel DTLA. But now his estate is asking for a bigger presence. We received a media alert which said the following:
The estate of the late Alex Calderwood has filed suit against Ace Group International LLC (“Ace”), its member Ecoplace LLC, and board member Stefanos Economou. Calderwood’s estate is the majority stakeholder in Ace and is asking the court to declare that it, not Ecoplace or Economou, has the right to control and manage Ace under the Ace membership agreement and Delaware law. The case is pending in the Supreme Court of New York for New York County.
Calderwood, who passed away in November 2013, was the founder and creative force behind Ace and its collection of successful Ace Hotels. Aspen Ace LLC, with Gordon Sondland as President, was established to advise and represent the estate on behalf of the Calderwood family.
Ay, yi, yi. We hope this ends amicably.
UPDATE 1.20.15, 5:00PM PST: A rep from Ace Group International has sent over this statement on the lawsuit.
Upon Alex Calderwood’s death, his interest in AGI passed to his estate which is administered by his father Thomas Calderwood. AGI’s operating agreement states that the estate's interest is a profit/distribution only interest and that it has no management rights. Stefanos Economou and the rest of Ace’s management team have been operating the company since Alex’s death. A lawsuit was filed which requests a broader role for the estate. We believe that this lawsuit is without merit.
Hotel WiFi / Free WiFi / Marriott Hotels / Hotel News / Personal Hotspots / Hotel Technology / → All Tags
It's the first WiFi victory of 2015! Marriott International has abandoned its quest to block your personal WiFi hotspot at their hotels.
The hotel giant told Inc. (in an article which we also quoted in) that guests at Marriott-managed hotels will be able to use their personal WiFi devices, citing customer response. However, Marriott said they would "continue to look to the FCC to clarify appropriate security measures network operators can take to protect customer data."
That sounds a bit ominous but whatevs, your personal WiFi hotspot is safe.
Meanwhile, TODAY IS THE DAY that Marriott begins to free their WiFI for all guests. So long as you made your reservation through Marriott.com (or the mobile app or the reservation hotline) and you are a member of Marriott Rewards. Got those two things? Then WiFi is free. Whee!
Staying at a Marriott and reading this story using free WiFi? Let us know how it's going!
Booking a hotel room by using your smartphone was sooo 2014. Pretty soon you'll be able to book a room by using your car. Yes, your car.
The Washington Post reports that General Motors is getting ready to unveil a new component of their OnStar GPS program to be called, "AtYourService." (No spaces, apparently.) When you ask OnStar to search for a hotel nearby, AtYourService, which is a subscription service drivers will have to pay for, will bring up a few options and then allow you to connect to Priceline.com to actually book the room.
Ok, so the ability to book a hotel through your car's GPS is awesome from a technology standpoint. Just ten years ago, road-trippers were still pulling up to random roadside motels praying they would have rooms open and only a moderate roach problem. Now, we can just command our car to find a hotel--long before we get there--make a reservation for us and then direct us to the place. But do we really need all this?
Hotel Butlers / Viceroy Hotels / Caribbean Hotels / Hotel Services / Hotel Technology / St Lucia Hotels / → All Tags
Remember that bright red phone that went straight to Batman’s cave, summoning him whenever crime was afoot and a superhero was required? Well, Viceroy Sugar Beach Resort in St. Lucia has one of those. Except it’s not red, necessarily. And it doesn't summon Batman, but rather, your butler.
But this one works from the beach. And if you find yourself in a dire champagne emergency — well, let’s just say that not all heroes wear capes.
We recently spent some time at Sugar Beach, a resort replete with amenities throughout its luxury villas--from infinity plunge pools overlooking the sea below, to full wet bars stocked with local beers and rum. (Also awesome: private terrace views of a spectacular Caribbean sunset flanked on each side by the lush Piton mountains.)
One of our favorites, though, is the handy provision of Firefly mobile phones. The brand is typically treated as a “starter cell” for kids, since the phones are restricted to dialing among a handful of pre-programmed numbers. Sugar Beach, however, cleverly repurposes them as service bells, basically.
Last month, Starwood Hotels officially began letting guests use their smartphones to open up hotel room doors at 10 select hotels via the SPG app. Shortly after we learned that, Hilton Hotels came out with their own announcement that mobile room keys could be used in four of their hotel brands as soon as this spring.
But in Australia, one hotel has been using smartphone keys for like, two months already.
The Next Hotel in Brisbane opened on October 14, with guests using their smartphones not only as room keys but also to control the room lights, change the TV and order room service. The keyless entry and other functions all operate through the NEXT Hotels Smart App.
Here's how using your phone as a room key works at the NEXT Hotel:
Hotel WiFi / Free WiFi / London Hotels / Amba Hotels / glh Hotels / Guoman Hotels / Hotel Technology / Millennial Hotels / → All Tags
The main reason we go crazy for free WiFi in hotels? Checking social media, apparently. The second? Getting directions. How very dull.
The research has been done by Amba, the “contemporary” (ie millennial) arm of glh, formerly Guoman. Amba Charing Cross, which used to be a Guoman itself, opened this month with what it’s billing as “the world’s fastest, free unlimited WiFi” (how much would we love to test that out?). There will also be Smart TVs in every room, USB sockets by every bed, and iPads on every nightstand.
Handily for them (but also totally believably), Amba found that 67% of the 1000 UK travelers questioned said free WiFi would make them more likely to select a hotel – even higher than location,at 65%. Specifically fast WiFi with unlimited downloads came in at 34%.
WiFi also came out as the most important factor in rating a hotel post-stay, with 60% of those questioned saying that was the most crucial – even more than those who rated getting a good night’s sleep.
You know the feeling. You’re checking into a hotel, maybe a little late. You get into the elevator a little wary. You emerge onto your floor, hoping that the room won’t be directly opposite the elevator door, or that it won’t be overlooking a rubbish dump, that it won’t be a disabled room if you don’t need it – hey, you might even be hoping for a particular layout or color scheme, we won’t judge.
Well, UK chain Thistle Hotels wants to quell your anxiety with its new “Choose Your Own Room” service, being trialed at its London Euston property. They reckon that 48% of British hotel guests have asked to change rooms before (this being Britain, we reckon that means at least another 48% have wanted to ask but felt too impolite to do so), and 40% feel some kind of anxiety about getting saddled with a dud pre check-in.
With Choose Your Own Room, you can, unsurprisingly, choose your own room, with 360-degree virtual tours of available rooms, so you can pick the one you want. According to the Telegraph, who gave it a whirl:
After booking a room at the Thistle Euston, guests are sent an email granting online access to the hotel floor plan. On a Wednesday night, I was given the option of picking between five different rooms available over two floors in my price category. There were also photos for each room, including a 360-degree interactive “tour”.
The photos included views and different color schemes, in order to pick the exact one you want. Which is almost more anxiety-inducing, in a way – what if you pick the wrong one?
We had the opportunity to play with the tweaked and updated app at a recent stay in Chicago and we're pretty excited about it.
Right from our mobile phone (or iPad, if we wanted), we could access as much info about the property as we could from the in-room compendium. But the real magic was exposed on our way home from a night out in River North.
Not Vegas. A lobby
With hotels piling in to chase the millennial dollar, it’s reassuring to see one brand going back to what hotels always used to do to get clients – pile on the superlatives.
After three months of work and millions of euros, NH Hotels have just reopened the NH Collection Madrid Eurobuilding (definitely not a millennial name), now the biggest hotel for the brand. NH may not be a big deal to American ears but they’re one of Europe’s most reliable brands, treading the line between business and boutique quite impeccably (also, delicious toiletries, if you ask my mum). Anyway, this is the flagship property for the NH Collection brand, and it’s pushing the boundaries of hotel technology. Basically, they have what we’re looking for in a hotel down pat:
Well-equipped rooms: “Brilliant Basics” is the name for the thinking behind the room design. All 431 rooms have specially commissioned mattresses, rain showerheads, Nespresso machines, professional hairdryers and “next generation LED” TVs.
VIP level if you want it: If you stay on the “five star floor” you get access to the VIP lounge, too.
All the services you need, plus fun extras: Spa, fitness center, event spaces, rooftop solarium with a fake beach, two fine-dining restaurants (including DiverXO, Madrid’s only three Michelin-starred restaurant), a lounge and a sushi bar.
Fashion-forward technology: An LED vault screen (the largest in Europe, and the largest in the world for hotels) in the lobby projects digital art and “special sound” across the lobby. Think the Fremont Street Experience in Vegas, but in a hotel lobby. Insanity!
Cutting-edge tech: Here’s the really interesting part – there are four ”Living Lab” bedrooms (plus communal areas) that are trialing the latest hotel tech – not just wireless mobile charging, but tablets providing a video link to reception for when you need to ask a pressing question. The Living Lab isn’t just about hotel guests – it’s apparently an initiative to “identify and encourage entrepreneurial talent by fostering pioneering projects in the hotel industry”. They will be running contests and promoting hotel tech-related start-ups. We dig.
Last week, Marriott International was fined $600,000 by the FCC for jamming up guests mobile WiFi hotspots at the Gayord Hotel in Nashville (a Marriott entity), thus forcing guests to join the hotel's network and pay the ridiculous WiFi fees. This week, Marriott wants to win back some love by announcing that a whopping 29 Marriott hotels will sport wireless charging stations for guests to charge their devices on.
We heard the news the other day and we were just like, well, this:
The gesture is appreciated, especially since it came about from a survey of real travelers on Marriott's TravelBrilliantly.com platform, meaning that Marriott is really listening to what guests want. And we've all been there when we roll up into a hotel and our phone dies. Or we forget our charger completely.
We can also respect the type of charging stations being used--a KS Portable from Kube Systems which uses the Qi wireless charging technology. Simply place your device, whether it be an iPhone or a Galaxy so long as it's equipped for wireless charging, on one of these black cubes and voila! You're charging. Up to six devices are allowed too.
But let's be real, it's hard for us to get excited about charging our devices in a hotel that is charging us for WiFi.
UPDATE: A publicist for Marriott Hotels wanted to clarify that WiFi is free in the lobbies at Marriott Hotels.
[Photo: Marriott Hotels; GIF: Giphy.com]
Hotel Openings / Hotel Technology / Hotel News / Millennial Hotels / Hub Hotels / Premier Inn Hotels / Premier Inn / → All Tags
A tech-friendly hotel that accepts reservations by app? Snooze. A tech-friendly hotel that only accepts reservations by app? Now that’s something we’re not sure anyone’s dared try before. Except there’s probably a reason for that.
Next month, budget UK chain Premier Inn launches a new brand, hub, with a flagship hotel opening in St Martin’s Lane, central London. It’s another millennial-friendly idea – aiming “to catch the imagination of guests who already rely on technology for many other aspects of their everyday lives”. Technology is going to play a central part – or, rather, the new hub by Premier Inn app will.
You’ll check in via the app, of course; then during your stay, you can control the TV channel, the room temperature or the lighting by using the app. You can use it to order food to pick up downstairs, and stream entertainment on the 40in TV. And for when you venture outside, the app contains a “detailed local area guide, hosting a careful edit of the hottest places” (more millennial speak, there), and even “is enhanced by an Augmented Reality experience in the room”. Not sure what that means. Not sure we want to.
Hotel Service / Botlr / Hotel Robots / Aloft Hotels / Hotel Technology / California Hotels / Cupertino Hotels / Cupertino Aloft / → All Tags
Named for its purpose and state of mind, Botlr, the robotic servant is currently at the tail end of a test run at the Cupertino Aloft in California. We told you all about Botlr last month but in case you need a refresher, here's how he/it works:
After receiving a request that needs to be delivered, such as a snack or small amenity, a hotel employee programs the robot by hitting a few buttons. Botlr then uses the hotel Wifi to interact within the hotel and perform tasks, such as calling and directing the elevator to a specific floor. It is programmed with a mapping system that allows it to navigate through the property, the exact same technology used by Google's self-driving cars. Cameras help it avoid obstacles and real people.
When it arrives, it uses a signal to call the room telephone and alert the guest. Sensors allow Botlr to recognize when the door is opened and lift the lid on its storage container. And instead of being silently pressured into giving a tip, guests can enter a review for Botlr on its flat panel display screen. If it's a positive review, the Botlr will do a little dance. Well, that solves our problem of not having enough cash on us.