Sponsored Content by Marriott

A Hotel Room with a View… of the Future

Maybe the first thing to consider about the hotel of the future—regardless of city, brand, or style—is that it will likely hold its first grand opening in a virtual showroom, attended by a group of execs stumbling around in VR goggles. Long before construction crews break ground, investors and architects will do virtual walk-throughs to customize everything from the decor and signage to natural light and musical ambiance. Nvidia, the chip technology powerhouse, has already helped several hotels design new venues using its nascent VR platform.

As leading-edge as that sounds, though, more strategic innovations are needed for hotels to compete in the years to come, as a confluence of trends—the rise of Airbnb and the sharing economy; the ubiquity of social and mobile technology; and the ultra-personalization of the consumer world—puts pressure on the industry to adapt at a faster clip.

While the U.S. hotel sector pulled in a record $199 billion in revenue in 2016, it is also “over-saturated with brands,” according to a new study by Deloitte. The report concluded that in order to compete and grow, hotel brands need to think outside “silos defined by brands and spaces” and embrace the new role: to serve as a creative  “integrator” of experiences, people, cultures, spaces, and processes—and not just to “put heads in beds.”

“Even in the face of new technology, evolving customer preferences, and new competitive threats,” the study found, next-generation hotels will “still require a human touch.” Small wonder, then, why brands like Marriott have launched startup accelerators such as TestBed to test and validate breakthrough products and services that enhance the hotel experience. Here are a few other macro-trends that push in the same direction.

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The Robots are Coming (for Your Luggage)

Yes, it’s true—the robots are joining the hotel industry workforce. How and where they will make their presence felt will be up to hotel brands to sort out in the next few years. A few early indications: Japan is already home to a couple hotels staffed by robots that work the front desk, speak four languages, and carry luggage. California-based robotics company Savioke has designed a multi-purpose service bot that can make room deliveries and run errands. Marriott’s M Beta hotel concept revolves around a more holistic kind of automation: relying on constant customer feedback to customize your hotel experience starting from the moment you check in. What else is on the horizon?: Room service robots; bartenders; messengers; chat bots; and more.

Management by Algorithm

Mechanical bots might be the visible form of AI in tomorrow’s hotels. But behind the scenes? As AI-powered software applications gain footing across dozens of industries, hotels will be able to focus more on redesigning the customer experience by offloading a range of mundane management chores to algorithms that can handle them more efficiently than humans.

AI tools, for instance, can learn to evaluate staffing demands during peak and off-hours, and then rotate hotel staff accordingly to ensure optimal coverage (and cost efficiency). They can also better manage a hotel’s energy consumption by automating tasks such as regulating temperature control based on occupancy, and flipping lights and appliances on and off at the ideal times.

Rooms Priced by Experience, Not Square Footage

In the Deloitte study, researchers asked hotel power users for wish-list requests when it comes to mobile services and apps—an area where most hotels have been laggards. At the top of the list? An app that offers the ability to choose and select different types of rooms based on desired type of experience. Customers would tap into an app and “find what types of rooms he can choose from and find a wide variety—from wellness, to productive, to inspirational rooms.”

Offline Social Networking

Finally, hotels will soon need to serve not just as integrators, but “matchmakers,” according to the Deloitte study—especially when it comes to catering to younger travelers seeking more, not less, interaction with fellow guests. Among the possibilities floated in the study: creating “public and private spaces that are expertly designed for collaboration, chance meetings, and intimate gatherings;” hosting social events that give guests more incentives to connect; and alerting guests of other people in the hotel who they know, or are connected with online.