‘The Hotel Room of the Future’ is a live installation and exclusive printed report created especially for the Independent Hotel Show 2018.
The project will be curated using research gleaned from conversations with hospitality thought leaders and follows the Independent Hotel Show 2017’s ‘The Perfect Hotel Room’ report and installation.
An immersive representation of the results – the hotel room of tomorrow, today – will be designed and realised by Two’s Company Interior Design, an agency specialising in hotel and domestic bedroom design headed by residential and commercial designers Nick Sunderland and Gilly Craft, President of the British Institute of Interior Designer.
The room will be considered to be of the ‘near future’ rather than the ‘far future’ – think Black Mirror rather than Westworld. But technology and our tastes are, of course, evolving at exponential rates. Our Hotel Room of the Future could become reality during the next decade. So we believe that the report, and the immersive installation which accompanies it, will provide hugely worthwhile inspiration for independent hoteliers operating in the here and now.
The intel gathering began earlier this summer, at a round table forum held at the famously forward-thinking CitizenM hotel. The experts in attendance included technology directors, opinion formers and specialists in on-button areas like sleep innovation and digital entertainment.
In his opening address, Rodney Hoinkes, head of innovation at the Independent Hotel Show, was keen to point out that “This is the independent hotel room of the future. It may have slight differences from that of a chain, or a brand, and what can be realistically achieved, maintained and supported. We’ll be making sure we reflect on that, and comment appropriately. We want to inspire, through this future, and give people things to strive for, improve their thinking and their options with. But also, we want to challenge, so people think wisely about their options.”
In a lively, detailed, and rigorous discussion the most pointed questions revolved around, inevitably, technology. But what was much less clear was how guests’ relationships with tech will evolve over the coming years.
One could have been forgiven for thinking that technology’s march was indefatigable. But the past twelve months especially have seen a backlash. Some of us have ended up exhausted by constant connectivity and compulsive usage. Even so, tech-
nology certainly still has its adherents.
Alex Lambert, innovation head at mattress developers Simba Sleep, said that for him the most important aspect of a hotel stay was, “Connectivity – to your group, your life at home, or to the local environment. For me it’s about having a device and being able to access data.” This sentiment was echoed by IT specialists like David Pryde, whose resumé takes in the Bespoke and Red Carnation groups. “Connectivity is a given, no matter where you are in the market,” he said, “and technological innovations can be in unlikely places.”
Nick Sunderland, from Two’s Company Interior Design, added, “My domestic clients travel all over the world and want that feeling of being looked after. They wanted the same technology they had at these luxury hotels. But now, they have even more technology in their homes. They want to walk into a room and say ‘lights on, TV on, heating down’ and if they don’t get that they become frustrated.”
But Juliet Kinsman, founding editor of pioneering OTA Mr and Mrs Smith, and founder of ecological consultants Bouteco, seemed quite appalled by the call for more gadgets, and connectivity in particular. She stressed the emotional aspect of a hotel stay, changes in guests’ priorities, and a return to core considerations instead of trying to replicate a household or indeed its technology.
“Ultimately, it’s about how the room makes us feel,” she said, “In the future, hoteliers may have to pare back tech. The best places don’t have lots of it. They are forward-thinking though, and do the basics very well. I think hotels will be more sustainable, and the business will be less about profit. It will be more about crafting meaningful experiences.”
What constitutes an ‘experience’ sometimes seems equally mercurial. To our experts, though, it’s mostly defined by the character of the establishment – that certain authenticity, rather than any activities available. Paul Saxby, marketing director at software house Eviivo cited “the winner of our ‘Hidden Gem’ award in 2017, Abbots Grange, a 13th Century monastery that’s unusual, historical, charming… to me, this is what people are wanting to purchase.” He continued, “I think the challenge though is marrying this trend for heritage with technological advancement, not least the thick stone walls that are no good for wi-fi signals!” But Paul stressed keeping an open mind: “We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that some people may want to be introduced to new, fun and exciting technology,” he warned.
It’s fascinating that our first forum to discuss The Hotel Room of the Future prompted as many questions as it answered. In the coming weeks, we’ll be pondering them and more, while we compile this game-changing report and curate the next in our new series of immersive installations.