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How tech should luxury hotel rooms go? An insight from top executives at major luxury hotel chains

From Ipads and touch screen phones from which guests can control the entire room (temperature, humidity, lighting, DND, curtains, blinds and TV programs) to Ipads which offer full interaction with each hotel department, guest being able to order room service or enquire the Concierge about an event, technology at top luxury hotels is no longer about the high speed wi-fi and the latest TV sets which are considered basics. CPP-LUXURY.COM has taken an in-depth look at technology in luxury hotel rooms and has interviewed some of the top decision makers in the field.

Mr Ingvar Herland, General Manager, Research & Technology at PENINSULA HOTELS

Which are the benefits your guests appreciate most when using your latest in-room technology? How far should technology go in terms of in-room technology?

Innovative technology has always been one of The Peninsula Hotels’ prime differentiators from other hotel groups. Our latest innovations including fully customized interactive tablets, are installed at The Peninsula Hong Kong – We are calling it “the most personalised hotel room in the world” – as each tablet is pre-set in one of five languages – English, French, Traditional and Simplified Chinese and Japanese – enabling all facilities and information throughout the entire room to change according to the guest’s language preference, together with complimentary wifi and international calls via VOIP. Our guests find that our latest in-room technology is user friendly, intuitive and easy to use.

In terms of in-room technology, there should be no limitation.  The direction we are now going towards is that the room is more like a “smart room” that you can easily reconfigure with an iPod or tablet to change the functionality of the room, as it is very software-driven.  We are still continuing to look at some new technology that can be added to our hotels’ guest rooms to enhance our guests’ experience.

What percentage of your guests regularly use your in-room technology? What is your approach to guests who may find technology challenging?

All our guests use our in-room technology as it’s built into the rooms, but some guests may use less than the others.  If some guests encounter any difficulties in using our in-room technology, our hotel operations staff, who have been well trained, are happy to guide them on how to use it.

Recognising guests’ needs and answering those needs are an integral part of our service, and so the group therefore strives to provide user-friendly, intuitive technology for today’s increasingly demanding and sophisticated hotel guests to enhance comfort and the overall hotel experience – whether on business or vacation, the technology is there to assist guests with work or simply to relax and “repair” with the room as their sanctuary.

Apart from our own creations, we continue to work closely with manufacturers of off-the-shelf items such as TVs to re-design remote control devices to be as simple and user-friendly as possible for guests.

Are there any additional features you plan to implement in the future?

Yes, absolutely.  We are currently looking at some more new technology and functionality applications to be implemented into the rooms for the future.  We are also looking at adding more languages to the tablets.

Do you envisage the possibility of featuring ads or special offers of luxury brands from other sectors on the iPads or TVs in your rooms? i.e. fashion, jewellery, accessories etc

Yes, it’s something that we are looking for the future.

 

State of the Art Technology at The Peninsula, Hong Kong

 

Mr Mark Campbell, Chief Information Officer, DORCHESTER COLLECTION HOTELS

Which are the benefits your guests appreciate most when using your latest in-room technology?

In several of our hotels we have the ability for a guest to connect to their own content to the unrivalled picture and sound of the Bang & Olufsen TV’s. This is extremely popular. Wireless coverage throughout the hotel provides internet access to our guests. We invest in fibred internet to all our hotels ensuring high capacity is available when ever where ever they need. When room control systems are installed, the customer can manage the bedroom from where ever they are; touch panels, touch telephones or on the television. Ordering room service via the iPad provided in the guest rooms is well received at Hotel Bel-Air and 45 Park Lane.

What percentage of your guests regularly use your in-room technology? What is your approach to guests who may find technology challenging?

To a certain extent the technology is integral to the room. The technology is being used in many cases without the customer being aware. This is certainly the case in 45 Park Lane. We listen to feedback and regularly provide updates to the technology to make sure it is easy to use. We recently introduced an improved user experience to reduce the number of steps needed to perform a task and to internationalise the icons for room control. Our next release will see an improved dialler.

For those who prefer basic (standard) technology, would you consider offering non-tech rooms? (rooms with no iPad’s, no centralized control of AC, curtains etc)

In the cities where we have installed the high end rooms, we have sister hotels that have a more traditional approach to technology. Technology is available to you (discreetly placed and available).

Are there any additional features you plan to implement in the future?

We would like to allow the guest to pair their own device to the TV and to connect wirelessly to enjoy their own content.

Do you envisage the possibility of featuring ads or special offers of luxury brands from other sectors on the iPads in your rooms? i.e. fashion, jewellery, accessories etc

The tools allow for this; however we have always felt that the customer didn’t appreciate the co-branding / selling within the technology. We have always associated ourselves with providing for co-branding of items that our customers have in their homes within the rooms. Control 4 (The room control solution) and Bang & Olufsen are two examples of this.

Technology at 45 Park Lane Hotel, London – A Dorchester Collection Hotel

Monika Nerger, CIO, MANDARIN ORIENTAL Hotel Group

Which are the benefits your guests appreciate most when using your latest in-room technology? How far should technology go in terms of in-room technology?

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group prides itself on being a leader in innovative in-room technology, and our goal is to provide an experience which both delights and inspires our guests.  Stellar WiFi and cellular coverage is a must. Given the increasing demands for connectivity and the number of mobile devices travellers now carry, we have invested significantly to ensure plentiful bandwidth and fast internet connection speeds.

Equally important to many of our guests is the presentation of high quality audio and video to create a rich entertainment experience, as they enjoy their own content or the selection we have carefully chosen to satisfy a variety of cultural and linguistic expectations.  Lighting and drapery can be individually controlled, enabling our guests to create their own personalized in-room ambience. For simplicity, we have programmed a few ‘scenes’ such as a dining mood or a business/reading setting, which will adjust lighting with the touch of a button. For guests that are looking for a true ‘wow factor’, we often feature some of the latest consumer technologies for them to enjoy, such as AirPlay via a Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin.

In terms of ‘how far should technology go’ in a guest room, we understand that there are wide range of interests and comfort levels with technology.  Luxury is about choice, and our technology is designed to be complementary to the guest room.  We typically design solutions that can be used in a traditional fashion, such as light switches and TV remote controls, but we also feature serendipitous elements for those who are tech savvy and wish to have a more high-tech experience.

What percentage of your guests regularly use your in-room technology? What is your approach to guests who may find technology challenging?

Given that Mandarin Oriental is renowned for our guest-facing technologies, we anticipate that a large percentage of our guests enjoy what we have to offer. We collect data based on guest feedback as well as statistics based on utilization. For example, we know that guest use of our WiFi has increased dramatically in the past few years (99% of our guests now use WiFi, not wired connections).

All in-room technology is designed with ease of use and simplicity in mind. If a guest does wish to have personalized guidance for any aspect of our technology, Mandarin Oriental colleagues are well-versed to assist. In some of our properties, we have “Technology Butlers”, although this position is changing as we continue to add intuitive elements to further simplify the use of technology, such as touch displays and language-sensitive systems.

For those who prefer basic (standard) technology, would you consider offering non-tech rooms? (no centralized control of AC, curtains etc)

As described, Mandarin Oriental rooms are oriented to be used in both scenarios, and guests are free to manually close drapes or set the thermostat as well as do so via the television or a tablet, whichever is their preferred orientation.

Are there any additional features you plan to implement in the future?

The world of consumer technology is moving at an exponential pace. We are constantly researching trends in technology to spot those which would be enjoyed most by our guests during their stay at one of our properties.  For example, we will soon enable guests to wirelessly connect their own devices to our televisions for an even more personalized entertainment experience.  We will also be installing new ultra-high definition (4k) televisions as content becomes available, and are currently evaluating the new 108” TVs for some of our suites to provide a true home theatre experience.

What is interesting is that technology moves both forwards and backwards.  We’ve seen a momentum for ‘retro’ technologies, and our audiophile guests will soon be able enjoy listening to their favourite vinyl albums on record players we will install in select suites.

Do you envisage the possibility of featuring ads or special offers of luxury brands from other sectors on the iPads or TVs in your rooms? i.e. fashion, jewellery, accessories etc

We have chosen to provide our guests with a respite from ads and offers in the serenity of their guest room, but respectfully consider branded partnerships using other avenues of communication.

Mandarin Oriental, Paris – Superior Suite

FOUR SEASONS HOTELS & RESORTS

The hospitality industry is extremely high-touch and technology will never replace the face-to-face interaction that is so important to our service culture and the guest experience at every Four Seasons property. Instead, technology is meant to bring comfort, ease and efficiency to our guests. In many cases this means replicating and even elevating the comforts of home with intuitive technology that is effortless to operate.

The rapid pace of technological change requires a thoughtful approach to determine what technology makes the most sense for our guests. Recognizing that each guest is unique in their technological preferences, the use of many new technologies is offered as a choice. For example, at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills and Four Seasons Toronto we recently introduced in-room iPad offering a streamlined approach to accessing hotel services.  Guests can also use a provided login on their own devices to access hotel services.  More than 50% of guests reported using the iPads for activities such as: ordering room service, booking spa appointments and concierge services and scheduling wake up calls and turn down service.  But, we also continue to offer a hard copy of the room service menu because we know that many of our guests prefer to customize their orders and place by phone. At check-in we will always offer technical assistance or instruction to any guest if needed and will proactively alert guests to specific in-room features that might require additional explanation, such as electronic mini-bars or new stereo systems.

These days many of our guests are extremely tech savvy and travel with their own preferred mobile devices. According to the recent Luxury Traveller Technology Survey, commissioned by Four Seasons, the most important in-room tech amenities include: excellent cell phone coverage, fast WiFi, charging stations for multiple devices, power outlets by beside tables and wireless printing from a tablet or smartphone.  These considerations factor into room design and layout – such as determining the location of power sources and charging stations – to ensure we are in-step with the ever evolving needs of our guests.

Skype check-in is one recent example of a how technology is bringing value to our guests by maximizing their most important commodity – time.  During the drive from the airport to the resort guests en route to Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, can now connect live via Skype with Four Seasons staff to check in, book restaurant and spa reservations and order room service, easing the check-in process when they arrive at their destination.  Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea is also piloting the program.

Another innovative new program is being piloted by Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills which now offers a luxury eight-passenger Mercedes van equipped with two plasma screens, electrical outlets and unlimited Wi-Fi, allowing groups to conduct meetings on the go. Initially developed for groups conducting road shows around the city, the van is proving extremely popular with other business travelers as well.

Since October 2012, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts offer complimentary wi-fi internet in all its limousines.

Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills offers a high tech luxury eight-passenger Mercedes van

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