Hotels of tomorrow – smart is not enough

The hotel industry is facing challenges. How can it cope with this change? We discussed Hotels of tomorrow with Katharina Aguilar, Co-founder of 7places and Frank Dittel, founder of DIA – Dittel Architekten in Stuttgart.

The pressure within the hotel industry due to the proliferation of hotels and hotel-like accommodation is increasing, as are the demands of guests. Do individual, tailor-made hotel concepts have prospects of success in an increasingly difficult market environment? How can hoteliers lead their own hotel into the future? What can architecture achieve using smart technology?Dittel Architekten and 7places have been dealing with the subject of hotels of tomorrow for years and, due to the demand, are expanding their focus to digital networking and the smart home. Katharina Aguilar explains that digital networking is still in its infancy in hotels. The hotel industry includes a lot many smaller companies that do not have in-house IT expertise. These are often not well placed to make innovations within their structure.

Private or business?

For Frank Dittel, there are huge differences between the classic private traveller and the business traveller. Both have different interests. These could become even more disparate in the future. For example, standardisation is playing an increasingly important role for business travellers. »After a 10-hour meeting I am full to the brim with information and want to spend the evening in the hotel as simply and efficiently as possible.«

»I want to be able to check in quickly and effectively, get into my hotel room and order what I need for a relaxing night,« explains the architect. The classic leisure traveller, Schäfer continues, wants something else though. They want social interaction and are looking for a special experience.

They demand individualisation and personal fulfilment, want to express themselves. A stay in a beautiful hotel becomes a thing you can adorn yourself with by sharing these special experiences on social media.

Dynamic room concepts

Katharina Aguilar, responsible for digital business at Dittel Architekten and Co-founder of 7places since August 2019, sees a growth in aspects of adaptability: »We have identified a demand for dynamically usable spaces. What was a lobby in the morning may then be used in the evening for show cooking or similar events and during the day may be a conference room. In general, it is important to consider how hotels can quickly adapt to new requirements in order to respond to changing needs. Some incorporate this dynamic into their business model. Of course, not all hotels will be able to rely on dynamism; those with a strong, unique and regional identity will instead look to their consistent and ever-present quality as hosts.«

Smart Hotel
No need for a desk in the hotel room, but a universally usable table that can be everything. © Martin Baitinger

Longing for new stimuli

According to the two planners, the typical hotel amenities have to be looked at anew. A good 3-star hotel, for example, has a desk with a plug socket on the wall. If you look at what is happening in the office today and see what modern working environments look like, you can see that the typical business traveller is not sitting at their desk all the time. They are in a meeting in the conference room, having a discussion in the lobby and conducting their business in a host of different ways. If you transpose this to the hotel industry, the three square metres that a desk in a hotel room takes up may become redundant.

For Katharina Aguilar, it is clear that hotels should also offer facilities that hotel guests would otherwise not have. For business travellers holding a meeting, the hotel can offer technology that the traveller’s company does not provide itself.

The hotel industry has to reinvent itself

This creates new business models for hotel operations. The hotel industry has to reinvent itself and stand its ground against new competitors such as airbnbor Hotel Tonight.

According to Dittel Architekten, the use of smart technologies must not be viewed in isolation, but in interaction with architecture; with renovation, analogue materials and surfaces you can feel. We asked Katharina Aguilar and Frank Dittel how a hotel can adapt to the personal preferences of its guests. The preferred room temperature, the music preferences for background sound, the personal sleep and wake-up times, your personal perception of good lighting can be easily communicated via digital networking, for example via smartphone, so that the hotel technology can react dependably to this.

Katharina Aguilar: »We think that people do not think so much in ergonomic terms, but rather in categories of individualisation. There is obviously a longing for new stimuli. A room can »know« who I am; it adapts to me and knows when I am coming. This room is then just the way I like it as soon as I arrive. In this way, hotels can continue to differentiate themselves in the future.«

Service remains the most important factor

Frank Dittel expands on the possibilities: A hotel can display a personal greeting on the walls using sophisticated lighting in your favourite colour and offer you a personalised lighting scheme. They could provide you your favourite drinks and have the smell of your favourite scent in the hotel room. In this way, your hotel generates pleasant, positive experiences using a range of media. Surfaces can be changed with light. The purely functional aspect of »bright« or »dark« lighting is now less important. There has been no sensitivity to this until now. This is also a bridge to smart technology and digital networking.

A hotel must radiate: Welcome!

According to the two architects, light is of central importance for the architecture of a hotel. Circadian light, for example, can be used to recreate the natural moods of daylight. People who spend their whole day in windowless conference rooms lose their sense of time and need longer rest periods. The lighting mood in event rooms can change during the course of the day and support people with their biorhythm. Individualised lighting moods can also ease the effects of jetlag.

With these kinds of smart and digital offerings, guests are relieved of the frequent ergonomic demands of modern technologies. However, they believe that personal contact, service and advice will remain essential and cannot be replaced by digitisation. Hotels should show that every guest is truly welcome and will enjoy his or her own personal experience.

Source: md Magazin
Author: Rolf Mauer

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