When it comes to technology, most hotels
haven’t kept pace with travellers, who increasingly find electronic gadgets to
Travellers worldwide tote three
or four portable devices on average, reports a recent survey by Sheraton
Hotels. And in the US specifically, a study by Google finds that travellers are
using devices about 20%
of the time they’re on the road -- more than double the rate from 2009.
Despite these trends, many hotels have been half-hearted in rolling out
sufficient digital services, such as free, single sign on wi-fi that conforms
to industry security standards, and power strips with widely spaced sockets to
accommodate large chargers and adaptors.
Not all the news is bad on the technology
front, though. In the past couple of years, some forward-thinking hotels have
outpaced the industry with tech-savvy amenities and innovations that make life
on the road a little easier.
app for ordering room service
Hong Kong’s year-old, 262-room Hotel ICON encourages its guests to
download their free, multi-language iPhone
and iPad app, which allows guests to order room service, set a wakeup call
or check out from their own smartphone.
The Palm, a two-year-old
Dubai outpost of the One&Only luxury resort brand, installed headphone jacks
next to each bed, so that a guest can continue to watch TV without disturbing his
or her dozing partner. Guests who forget their own earphones can borrow a pair
Sometimes the thick, multiple walls of
large buildings can weaken wireless Internet signals, resulting in slow or
non-existent connections. Other times, a hotel is located in a skyscraper and
its top floors are too high up to receive cellular data service. Both these problems
afflicted the Mandarin
Oriental New York until this year, when it installed a wi-fi access point in
each of the 248 guest rooms, replacing the single access point per floor that
it had previously relied on. The Mandarin Oriental chain
says it is also adding this amenity to all of its other properties.
your electronics into the TV
The Hyatt Plug Panel, which
allows guests to connect (or re-charge) popular electronic devices like laptops and portable game players with each room’s 42in, flat-screen, high-definition
TV, first debuted in 2007. But it only recently became a standard amenity in
all 165 Hyatt Place hotels and about half of the 54 Hyatt House extended-stay
properties in North America, the Middle East and southwest Asia. It’s up to
guests, however, to bring appropriate direct-to-TV cables.
For decades, hotels across the globe have
stocked their bedside tables with Gideon Bibles. This summer, the Hotel Indigo Newcastle in
Newcastle, England, switched the iconic hardbacks for Kindle e-readers loaded
with an e-book of the Bible. In a two-week experiment, guests were able to request
a £5 credit to download a text of any other faith. Today, you can use the
devices to download any e-book from Amazon and have the charge added to your
room bill, and those who have their own Kindles can borrow the hotel’s charging
cords to juice them up.
strips with international plugs
Some hotels in cities that draw heavy
international traffic, such as Dubai and Singapore, lend out adapters, which enable
guests to connect a plug whose prongs are designed for one country into a
hotel’s foreign outlets. Yet many travellers still dream of universal sockets, which
would dispense electricity without the need for an adapter. Leading the
industry in that direction is Beijing’s East Hotel, a boutique space
that opened last month, and its nearby, two-year-old partner hotel, The Opposite House. Each has rooms
that offer an array of power points accommodating all types of prong shapes,
including plugs from North America, Europe and Asia.
Sean O’Neill is the
travel tech columnist for BBC Travel