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Guests at the Hotel Trio Healdsburg, a Marriott hotel in Sonoma County, California, may be surprised when the extra towels they requested get delivered by a 3-foot-tall robot named Rosé. The hotel’s social distancing ambassador, Rosé can be summoned via the hotel’s app to bring guests everything from linens to wine.
Over the last two years, COVID-19 has forced the lodging industry to adapt and innovate. For many hotels, that's included more fully embracing contactless technology like remote check-in; designing work-friendly spaces for customers who want to combine business with leisure travel (“bleisure,” as it's known), thanks to remote working arrangements; making room cleaning optional, for a variety of reasons; and beefing up programming to attract travelers who — after enduring lengthy lockdowns and travel bans — are now looking for richer experiences they can share with family and friends. And, yes, some have even introduced robots like Rosé.
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Kate Cummins, a clinical psychologist, worked with Hilton Hotels & Resorts to examine how the pandemic has affected travelers' mindsets and behaviors. The findings, released in November in a report called “The 2022 Traveler,” captured four main trends: a desire for technology-aided efficiencies such as digital keys, wellness offerings beyond standard gyms, activities that delve into passions such as art and cooking, and more concern for sustainability and community efforts. Here's more about the ways hotels are catering to a new era of travel.
1. More tech-enabled conveniences
“I’ve been impressed by the astronomical pace of technological innovation within the hotel industry over the past 18-plus months,” says Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Robots double as bellhops at Marriott and Hilton properties throughout California, and they’re also being used to sanitize some hotels. The Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, for example, now uses Xenex LightStrike robots, which feature germ-zapping UV light technology, to clean the property’s rooms and public spaces and even to disinfect luggage.
Matt Schuyler, Hilton’s chief brand officer, has seen unprecedented adoption of contactless digital offerings on the Hilton Honors app, including digital key, room selection, and digital check-in and check-out. Hotel Indigo, a boutique brand from InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, uses artificial intelligence (AI)–powered digital concierges at its properties as an alternative option to face-to-face encounters. Rather than go to a concierge desk for recommendations, guests can communicate via text message 24/7 with a chatbot that can suggest everything from the hottest restaurants to top live music spots.
In New York, the Gansevoort Meatpacking hotel recently installed Google Nest Hub units in every room. With the technology, guests can use simple voice commands, such as “Hey, Google, ask the hotel for extra towels,” to make common service requests and use the Assistant feature to make restaurant reservations and get up-to-date COVID-19 information for the area.
2. Rooms made for working remotely
More leisure resorts are being designed to accommodate nomadic workers. All of the rooms at Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites in California, which opened in April 2021, feature modular dining tables equipped with power outlets that can double as workstations, while the lobby’s tech lounge serves as a contemporary coworking space with speedy, free Wi-Fi and long bar tables with power stations for charging gadgets. At Gravity Haus in Vail, Colorado, guests can book one of four work pods (private rooms with desks) for digital meetings between ski runs or hikes.