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This week we attended the Hospitality Design Expo Conference in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center and never before have we seen so much hotel furniture in one spot--from chairs and beds to desks and lamps and beyond. It was thrilling for hotel nerds like us.
We'll have more from what we learned at the show next week (keyword: MILLENIALS) but for now, we thought we'd simply show you what we saw. Take a, um, seat and enjoy!
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All right, so here we go: Apple TV is digging its heels in the hotel industry.
When The Pearl, a 55-room luxury resort, opens in July on Rosemary Beach Florida, it will offer Apple TV in all its rooms. Is it ironic that an establishment on a beautiful stretch of beach is upgrading your television-watching ability? Totally!
We've hashed out our torn opinions about the value of in-room technology and its effects on the art of travel, especially when it drives up the room rate, but we do know that there are many travelers who will be quite pleased by this news (some of us included!). For those who've just come out of hibernation, Apple TV will allow you to stream shows and movies from iTunes and Netflix right to your hotel room.
Hotel WiFi / Hotel Technology / Dallas Hotels / ZaZa Hotels / Hotel Amenities / Free WiFi / → All Tags
Often times, when we plead our case for free hotel WiFi, we hear that setting up a network or upgrading an existing network is an expensive investment for hotels and in order to recoup the costs, they need to charge guests to use the WiFi.
Now, every hotel is different but there are plenty of hotels out there that have been updating their networks to provide faster speeds and more bandwidth to guests and they still aren't charging for WiFi.
For example, The Hotel ZaZa in Dallas which recently added a new fiber data network throughout the hotel. Hotel president, Benji Homsey, explained the reason for the network upgrade saying:
We designed this network with special attention to the increased presence of Apple iPad, iPhone and Google/Android users in conjunction with the typical laptop usage. We want every Hotel ZaZa guest to have the best, from coverage and access points to best of breed fiber data network to the newly installed bedside power docks in every room.
And the charge to access the internet? It's still totally free.
Late last month, HotelChatter ambled by the upcoming Peninsula Paris only to find that much of it was still under wraps. Yet last week, we got the chance to meet stateside with some GMs and execs from Peninsula Hotels and we've got a few new things to chatter about with you.
Let's get the big news out of the way now--the hotel is opening in 2014. So we won't get inside their rooms this year. Triste! BUT when the hotel does open, it's going to have some crazysexycool technology--especially these proprietary bedside tablets which will not only control everything in the room from lights to temperature but will also allow you to stream TV channels from around the world.
As we showed you yesterday in our 2013 Hotel WiFi Report, getting free WiFi during your hotel stay is now a reality. Nearly two-thirds of hotels offer free WiFi, whether it be free outright, free if you join the loyalty program or free if you simply make your reservation directly with the hotel.
But as more and more hotels do away with internet charges, we're starting to wonder: how are the hotel internet connections holding up?
We've long railed against hotels that charge for WiFi and then deliver piss poor signals where you have to stand near the door holding your laptop and balancing on one leg to get a signal (if this happens, immediately ask for a refund, and never book with that brand again.)
Yet if you book your hotel because it has free WiFi only to check-in and find that websites are slow to load and you are having trouble downloading or sending email attachments, then what good is that to you? And if the hotel doesn't offer a tiered WiFi plan where you can pay extra to have more bandwidth and a faster speed then really, that hotel touting its free WiFi is completely useless.
Yet until hotels start to standardize their internet offerings, finding good hotel WiFi speed, not just free hotel WiFi, will always be a bit of a crapshoot. We'll be doing our best to document the best and worst hotel speeds but for now (see below), here's what sort of internet activity one can expect to do on a hotel's WiFi network:
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Ever since HotelChatter's first annual Hotel WiFi Report in 2004, we've insisted that in-room WiFi was as essential as a working shower or air conditioning and that it needed to be offered free, fast, and reliably.
Hotels often gave us the run-around, blaming the costs of installing WiFi networks, the contracts they signed with the hotel owners or network security. But as more and more travelers book their hotel stays based on free WiFi, hotels have begun to drop their nickel and diming ways.
Today, at least two thirds of hotels have realized that offering free WiFi is in their best interests. Progress! Furthermore, many of these hotels have doubled down to put in reliable, fast WiFi networks for their older hotels, even if it means a big capital investment.
However, the battle cry for free WiFi should not die out just yet. One third of hotels out there are still charging for WiFi, including many luxury brands who charge premium internet fees on top of their pricey room rates. But if the nefarious one third don't start offering free WiFi at a basic level (checking email, surfing the web), potential guests will make a reservation elsewhere.
Even when the WiFi is free, there are still some caveats such as requiring guests to join the hotel's loyalty program, offering it free only in the lobby or having it free for just a limited time (anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours) before a charge is incurred. Furthermore, the WiFi fees can vary wildly from property to property within a hotel brand. These gimmicks are just another reason for guests to join together and demand better standardization for hotel WiFi.
Now, if you are a hotel currently offering excellent free WiFi, congratulations! You have made it to the next round of the games. In this round, which has already begun, guests will come to your hotel armed with multiple devices and expect to use those devices as remote controls for everything. Clearly, the end game in the battle for precious guest dollars is free, reliable and capable WiFi. So, let's see who the top contenders are in here in 2013. Shall we?
We called the hotel app the Must-Have Hotel Amenity for 2012 for its ability to bring all sorts of functionality straight to guests’ smart phones. Now, Marriott Hotels is branching out by taking the app idea and applying it to the world of recruitment, using it to paint a picture through real-life employee stories of what career path you might find at Marriott, and what it’s like to work there. And you might want to know, given that the group aims to double its number of rooms in Europe alone from 40,000 to 80,000 by 2015.
Like most frequent travelers, we've had trouble in the past with the infamous hotel lost and found. We know we left it in the room, but where is it now? Do hotel maids really steal all our stuff, or is there a trapdoor somewhere between the room and the lost goodie bin?
Travelers have been trying to solve this mystery for years, and while we certainly have to split the difference in terms of who's to blame (we left it there, after all), we can all agree that there is, at times, something going on behind the scenes that prevents our lost from being found.
In comes a new service, Chargerback.com, that hopes to help remedy this on-going problem. And like most solutions these days, it takes the entire process online. In this case, retrieving a lost item is, supposedly, just a few clicks away. Free to use, guests submit their lost item and stay information to the hotel via Chargerback's website. The catch? The hotel also must enter the found item's description into Chargerback, so there's gotta be some cooperation here. If there is a match, the system notifies the two parties. Hooray!
Here's the latest happening in the luxury hotel world as told by JustLuxe's own Lena Katz. Got a question about luxury hotels, the travel biz, and where to stay? Send it in and we'll have Lena answer it.
We can't help but notice lately the growing number of fancy remotes cropping up in rooms at luxury properties all over the place — and we like it.
On a recent visit over to The New York Palace we discovered another fun little gadget from Crestron that controlled our room's expanse of black out curtains and roman shades with a button tap and set the mood with lighting options like relax and evening (which is just fancy talk to for off and dimmed). This particular one was even kind enough to let us know when someone was at the door (see above). Pretty neat, although an added built-in camera would've impressed the hell out of us.
Only thing is, we couldn't quite how to figure out how it all worked, despite the little pamphlet that came with it. The media button didn't seem to control any kind of media and it certainly wasn't the iPod docking station we thought it was. Yet the volume setting makes us think perhaps we're just not hip enough to understand such high-tech equipment as it's obviously meant to pump up the volume on something. But we're going to keep trying, because it's just so darn fun to press buttons and see what they do.
Will Hyatt Hotels get new lobby "Smartboards" and other tech toys like these?
It looks like Hyatt Hotels is finally getting serious about their technology offerings. Late yesterday, the hotel group appointed Alex Zoghlin as their first-ever Global Head of Technology. You may know Zoghlin from another job he held--as founder and first employee of Orbitz.com, the online travel agency.
Now at Hyatt Zoghlin will be in charge of "all aspects of Hyatt’s technology platform and systems" and will be responsible for "rapidly deploying innovative technology solutions to enable superior guest experiences."
While we're picturing a James Bond-ish role like Peninsula Hotel's version of Q, where new in-room technology gets pioneered in a secret lab outside of Hong Kong, the reality is the job will probably deal with Hyatt's reservations systems and possibly new smartphone and tablet apps. We will also probably see more tech offerings like the ones recently installed at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago which now has 106 plasma TV monitors in the lobby and 800 wireless access points throughout the hotel.
Still, we won't give up hope there could be some newfangled tech gadgets at Hyatt Hotels in the near future. Perhaps one to ensure that housekeeping does not bust in on you while you're half-naked?
[Photo: Chanize Thorpe for HotelChatter]
Signing over a check for $168 millions dollars to refresh their rooms, the Hyatt Regency Chicago has created a haven for the most tech-savvy travelers. The hefty cost is not just for new coats of paint and a few new pillows, it creates an oasis for those that need to stay connected from check-in to check-out.
Mimicking the check-in hall of the world's largest airports, Hyatt's lobby with offer guests plenty of ways to collect room keys and start the unpacking process. In addition to the traditional face-to-face check-in, the hotel will offer iPads to track your arrival. If you prefer to be a little less futuristic, self-service check-in kiosks will be available too. Of course, we just discussed whether customers want this kind of non-personalized service.
We've been booking hotels online and without personal interaction for years, but the idea of a full-on "self-service" hotel is now officially a reality -- and figures to be the center of the next big debate in the hotel industry.
What do we mean by "self-service?" Well, you can now book, check in, and check out of a hotel without talking to a single human being.
The Sound Garden Hotel in Poland, for example, has streamlined the hotel experience in an attempt to cut costs and lower rates by installing electronic kiosks for self-check in, and the plans for the Marriott/IKEA Moxy Hotel also call to replace the counter with a kiosk. The machine spits out a key, and off you go. The Sound Garden Hotel also lets you decide which floor you want to stay on at check in (does this remind anyone of the airline industry?).