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Posted: June 27, 2014

Three more radical trends behind the hotel of the future

Magic payments are coming

Thomas Frey

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

Here are three more radical trends redefining the hotel of the future:

4.) Well-Balanced Operations Replaced by the Great Imbalance

Hotels are becoming the center of the universe for a much larger ecosystem that involves branding, retail, and entertainment products.

While Gucci, Lamborghini, Absolut and Dior all represent premium brands, they each have something else in common. They lack a sense of place. Premium hotels attract a customer base that all top brands are eager to align themselves with.

This has led to the current “shopfronting” craze, but slick storefronts displaying premium brands are often not authentic enough for the raw, real-world experience being demanded by today’s selfie-shooting bucketlisters.

For this reason, the well-balanced hotel operations of the past are being replaced by the great imbalance. Yesteryear's cookie-cutter approach to designing hotels is being swapped out for one-of-a-kind designs that highly leverage the strengths and identity of the local community.

As a case in point, the Radisson Blu Hotel I stayed at in Minneapolis was attached directly to the Mall of America, and the lobby was filled with unusual coworking spaces as a way to leverage the indoor work/play environments needed to offset Minnesota’s harsh winters.

5.) Reinventing the Sharing Economy Hotel 

As sites like Airbnb, Crashpadder and TravelMob continue to grow, and the sharing economy becomes engrained in our everyday thinking, it’s easy to envision many kinds of virtual hotel operations made up of condos, small houses, and various kinds of living units spread out around a city.

Naturally these will vary considerably, but we will soon see Virtual Marriotts, Virtual Hiltons, and Virtual Radissons adding to their hotel mix. Many will do this to dampen the proliferation of Airbnb and sign exclusive rental agreements on the best units.

Starting with a “front desk” operation located near a high traffic intersection, the operation will have both physical and online presence. Each unit will have to meet a set of standards, and all housekeeping, maintenance, and insurance will be handled by the hotel company.

For the premium hotel, the appeal of this kind of operation is that there will be very little investment in bricks and mortar, and owners of the rental units will receive a percentage of each night’s stay.

At the same time, running a distributed hotel operation comes with its own set of problems. Telling guests their room is still a 20-30 minute drive away, responding to late night maintenance calls or noise complaints, or providing any kind of room service will be problematic.

For most it will be a relatively easy brand extension, without the capital outlay, and it will enable them to quickly enter markets they currently don’t exist in.

6.) The Emergence of “Magic" Payment Systems

When Disney’s MagicBand technology first appeared, it was like the unveiling of the first iPhone. The digital world made its first major inroad into the theme park business in a significant way. 

Disney has made a $1 billion investment in the MagicBand system, so don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.

Similar to keyless car entry, MagicBands store tickets, hotel keys, debit and credit card information and can be used anywhere just by tapping a sensor.

With their embedded RFID chips, MagicBands also enable Disney to track guests as they move around the park, send special alerts when wait times for rides get too long, and even address children by name or wish them a happy birthday.

A similar type of magic bands for hotels will enable guests to access their room, track their workouts in fitness centers, buy drinks at the bar, attend a concert, go shopping, rent a car, book an excursion, or even pay for a taxi with the flip of their wrist. The ease of making a transaction will increase overall sales dramatically.

MagicBand is very much a precursor to the face-recognizing smart-room technology described in the Anticipatory Hotel Scenario above. But a Radisson Blu MagicBand, as example, will have the ability to extend the hotel’s influence far into the local community, and even across country lines. 

Final Thoughts

Smart home technology is baby-stepping its way into our lives, and at the same time, elevating our expectations for hotels. In fact, we expect hotels to be ahead of the curve. For them, this whole upgrade begins by creating a new operating system capable of incorporating smart hotel features far into the future.

None of this will be easy. Every new master plan will begin to feel totally outdated six months after it was first discussed, but someone will figure it out.

These six trends will indeed seem radical, upon first glance, to the hoteliers of today. But this kind of technology is coming, and it will happen much sooner than we think.

Personally, I can’t wait.

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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Readers Respond

Item #5 - Reinventing the Shared Economy Hotel -- If you have ever been to any mountain resort in Colorado you'll find that this business model has been in place since the late 1970's. Through it's acquisition of Steamboat Resorts a few years back Wyndham Hotels became the first major player in this market with it's Wyndham Resorts division. In this area the future came many, many moons ago. By TJP on 2014 06 27
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