Cutting Edge
Business Traveler|April 2017

From robot concierges to emoji room service, technology is transforming the guest experience

Jenny Southan

Not so long ago, I stayed in a hotel that had automatic fragrance dispensers in the rooms – on entering, I was greeted by a cloud of perfume so strong it nearly knocked me out. The window didn’t open so I had no choice but to crank up the air conditioning, unplug the offending pump and leave it in the corridor. That night, the bedside tablet refused to turn off, its screen keeping me awake with its ghostly glow.

Unfortunately, many hotels get tech wrong. I am reasonably competent at turning on TVs, but there have been many times when I have had to request maintenance to come and help me connect it to my laptop via a media hub, or sync it to the DVD player. I’ve struggled to find out what number to dial to reach reception, how to log on to the WiFi or to turn out all the lights. These seemingly simple tasks can become incredibly frustrating and fire up a terrible rage against everything electronic.

By this summer, all 4,748 rooms and suites at the Wynn Las Vegas will have an Amazon Echo speaker, allowing you not only to play music but to control the air conditioning, lights, curtains and

TV with voice commands interpreted by Alexa, Amazon’s built-in personal assistant. It sounds great, but I fear I would be the person who ended up screaming at it to close the curtains because it didn’t understand my accent.

Hilton has designed an app for your phone that can be used to check in and open your room door, while the Four Seasons Toronto has in-room iPads allowing you to order a burger and fries at midnight without having to speak to anyone. Lucy is the Virgin Hotel in Chicago app – tap the screen to request extra pillows, laundry pick-ups, meals or turndown service. At the Zetta in San Francisco, a new wellness program utilizes brain-sensing Muse headbands for guided meditation.

Here’s a selection of hotels and brands that are leading the way when it comes to technology. They are not scientifically ranked and we don’t guarantee that you won’t lose your cool when trying to engage with them, but the digitization of real-world environments isn’t going away so you may as well embrace it. According to the Institute for Global Futures, by 2060 we will all have access to DNA mobile payments, 3D printers and beds that have the ability to preprogram our very dreams…

1. HILTON MCLEAN TYSONS CORNER, VIRGINIA

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