by Karen Galles
Let’s take a trip, one that doesn’t require you to get up from your seat. Think of it traveling through time, just a few years ahead; you don’t have to pack, because all you need is your imagination. We’re going to walk through a hotel and into a guest room that will someday represent standard or “ordinary” accommodations and the future of travel. Ready? Let’s go.
Check into the hotel from your mobile phone—just a few taps and swipes. Register your fingertips into the app, too, so making payments and accessing your guest profile is always just a touch away. Hand your car keys to the valet. You can hand your luggage over to a luggage-storing robot, but you’ll manage it yourself this time. Pull your bag through the sliding hotel doors and enter a large, airy space.
You’re standing in a state of the art lobby designed for social interaction, with a communal open kitchen off to the right and a bustling coffee bar on the other. Before heading to your room, walk over toward the terrace and take a comfortable seat under the solar canopy to recharge your device while recharging your senses with a fancy smoothie—go on, place your order with one of the tablet-toting hotel associates who are walking around serving guests’ various needs.
Feeling better? It’s time to go up your room. Step into the Wi-Fi-enabled elevator and enjoy your ride up to your floor. Your mobile phone conveniently opens your guest room door, welcoming you to your home away from home. What’s that familiar yet kaleidoscopic image on the wall? It’s digital artwork based on your image that was snapped when you entered the lobby.
Getting acclimated is practically hands-free, at least once you put your bags down and tap your personal lighting preferences into connected device on the wall. And while you’re at it, schedule the automatic coffee machine in your room to starting brewing your morning cup at 8:00 a.m. Feel a chill in the air? Don’t worry, sensors in the room are sending a message to the heating system to adjust the ambient temperature to your body.
Mount your own mobile device anywhere in the room, or simply set it down on a wireless docking station for recharging. See that bedside touchscreen panel? Use it to activate your room door’s electronic “Do Not Disturb Sign” and order some room service—your fingertip biometrics tell the hotel to charge the meal to the credit card on file.
Take a seat and some deep breaths until dinner arrives. If you want to listen to music or watch a movie while eating, connect your in-room entertainment center to your wireless device and start streaming anything from your library, or browse the list of options provided by the hotel. Maybe you want to explore some potential local attractions—or a far-off destination—through a virtual reality headset after dinner? Use an app on your mobile phone or a touchscreen panel to order an adventure.
Make it a great night.
It’s time to wind down for the day with a shower and some sleep. Did you forget toothpaste? Put in a digital housekeeping request—and wait for your robot butler to arrive with a fresh tube. And while brushing your teeth, feel free to check your Twitter feed in the mirror that doubles as a large, touch-screen display. Out with the lights and off to sleep. Thanks to the invisible movement- and weight-detecting RFID sensor that’s stuck on the floor near your plush, adjustable bed, a nightlight will turn on in the bathroom when you get up for a late-night bathroom visit. Sweet dreams!
Many of the experiences you just sampled are already a reality in hotels—but there’s more coming down the pipeline. Across the hotel industry, hoteliers and even universities have been conducting experiments to gauge people’s reactions to and experiences with “futuristic” lodging concepts. Researchers are especially interested in what the guests of the future, Millennials, think of the offerings, as these prolific travelers are expected to travel frequently for business and leisure.
Learn about these efforts, including Marriott’s M Beta and the work of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management and its teaching and research hotel, Hotel ICON. And for more ideas, including inspirations from the trip you just took with us, visit 11 Amazing Things Found in the Hotel Room of the Future on TravelandLeisure.com and The World's Most Hi-Tech Hotels on CNN.com.