8 Hotel Industry Trends for 2022
Tech lounges, robot maids, digital concierges, fancier fitness centers and more
by Jen Murphy, AARP, January 13, 2022
Guests at the Hotel Trio Healdsburg, a Marriott hotel in Sonoma County, California, may be surprised when the extra towels they requested get delivered by a 3-foot-tall robot named Rosé. The hotel’s social distancing ambassador, Rosé can be summoned via the hotel’s app to bring guests everything from linens to wine.
Over the last two years, COVID-19 has forced the lodging industry to adapt and innovate. For many hotels, that's included more fully embracing contactless technology like remote check-in; designing work-friendly spaces for customers who want to combine business with leisure travel (“bleisure,” as it's known), thanks to remote working arrangements; making room cleaning optional, for a variety of reasons; and beefing up programming to attract travelers who — after enduring lengthy lockdowns and travel bans — are now looking for richer experiences they can share with family and friends. And, yes, some have even introduced robots like Rosé.
Kate Cummins, a clinical psychologist, worked with Hilton Hotels & Resorts to examine how the pandemic has affected travelers' mindsets and behaviors. The findings, released in November in a report called “The 2022 Traveler,” captured four main trends: a desire for technology-aided efficiencies such as digital keys, wellness offerings beyond standard gyms, activities that delve into passions such as art and cooking, and more concern for sustainability and community efforts. Here's more about the ways hotels are catering to a new era of travel.
1. More tech-enabled conveniences
“I’ve been impressed by the astronomical pace of technological innovation within the hotel industry over the past 18-plus months,” says Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Robots double as bellhops at Marriott and Hilton properties throughout California, and they’re also being used to sanitize some hotels. The Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, for example, now uses Xenex LightStrike robots, which feature germ-zapping UV light technology, to clean the property’s rooms and public spaces and even to disinfect luggage.
Matt Schuyler, Hilton’s chief brand officer, has seen unprecedented adoption of contactless digital offerings on the Hilton Honors app, including digital key, room selection, and digital check-in and check-out. Hotel Indigo, a boutique brand from InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, uses artificial intelligence (AI)–powered digital concierges at its properties as an alternative option to face-to-face encounters. Rather than go to a concierge desk for recommendations, guests can communicate via text message 24/7 with a chatbot that can suggest everything from the hottest restaurants to top live music spots.
In New York, the Gansevoort Meatpacking hotel recently installed Google Nest Hub units in every room. With the technology, guests can use simple voice commands, such as “Hey, Google, ask the hotel for extra towels,” to make common service requests and use the Assistant feature to make restaurant reservations and get up-to-date COVID-19 information for the area.
2. Rooms made for working remotely More leisure resorts are being designed to accommodate nomadic workers. All of the rooms at Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites in California, which opened in April 2021, feature modular dining tables equipped with power outlets that can double as workstations, while the lobby’s tech lounge serves as a contemporary coworking space with speedy, free Wi-Fi and long bar tables with power stations for charging gadgets. At Gravity Haus in Vail, Colorado, guests can book one of four work pods (private rooms with desks) for digital meetings between ski runs or hikes.
3. Pampering family pets According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 23 million American households have acquired a pet during the COVID-19 pandemic. As people begin to travel again, they’re bringing their furry friends along, and hotels aren’t just accommodating the pets, some are rolling out the red carpet. Doggie butlers at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, for instance, will keep your pet company when you're at dinner or a show. They'll even text you photos of your pup for added peace of mind.
In Rhode Island, the Ocean House and its sister property, the Weekapaug Inn, expanded their pet amenities after seeing a 75 percent increase in pet stays from 2019 to 2021. They now treat four-legged guests to plush dog beds, collars, treats and a toy to take home. Their pet concierges can recommend pet-walking routes and coordinate local grooming appointments. (For more, read our story on pet-friendly destinations.)
4. Enhanced fitness facilities Hotels are nixing windowless gyms and dusty treadmills to meet guest demand for upgraded workout rooms. As part of a just-completed $16 million revamp, the Marriott Kansas City Overland Park doubled the size of its 24-hour fitness center to 1,500 square feet and added floor-to-ceiling windows and four Peloton bikes, which are fast becoming hotel gym staples.
Mint House, a residential-style hotel brand with properties in 11 U.S. cities, put Mirror interactive home gyms in all its rooms. When turned off, the devices look like full-length mirrors. When turned on, they stream fitness classes. And the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach in Florida has partnered with 1Team Fitness, a Florida-based fitness retreat company, to offer private trainer–led activities such as beach bootcamps, TRX System sessions and kickboxing.
5. Personalized, immersive educational experiences “People want to be educated,” says Anne Scully, a partner with New York–based travel agency Embark Beyond. “And they want the experiences individualized.” Scully says artist-led painting classes, chef-led cooking classes and one-on-one sessions with storytellers who share cultural knowledge are popular new offerings at many properties.
An expanded cultural center focused on sharing the story of Nainoa Thompson, an esteemed Native Hawaiian navigator and president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, is at the heart of a recently completed $80 million revamp of the Outrigger Waikiki Beach in Oahu.
At the O2 Beach Club & Spa, a new all-inclusive resort in Barbados, a local experiences ambassador can arrange educational classes that immerse guests in island life. Experiences might include learning how to prepare local recipes, a steel-pan drum lesson or a tutorial on how to play dominoes like a local. With the pandemic driving interest in the outdoors, the Montage Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina’s low country added a resident naturalist to its staff who educates guests on local flora and fauna through guided tours that focus on everything from foraging to bird-watching.
6. Expanded wellness offerings
“The pandemic has changed the definition of wellness, broadening the way we think about nurturing the mind, body and spirit,” says Andrew Barnard, deputy managing director of BodyHoliday, a wellness resort in St. Lucia in the West Indies. “With self-care proving to be a main motivation for travel, we’ve unveiled new immersive programs focusing on holistic nutrition and strengthening respiratory health and the immune system.”
The hotel employs a team of reflexologists, osteopaths and detox Ayurvedic therapists and features a menu of unique therapies, such as mental health programs that assist with work-from-home burnout.
The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea in Hawaii recently partnered with NextHealth, a health optimization center that focuses on preventive programs, to offer guests customized IV therapy treatments and biomarker tests that measure everything from thyroid health to vitamin D levels. And MGM Hotels in Las Vegas, including the Mirage Resort & Casino and Park MGM Hotel & Casino, have introduced a Stay Well room category that features an air purification system, a vitamin C shower infuser, warm white light and an in-room app accessed by phone or TV that streams wellness classes from the Cleveland Clinic, a renowned academic medical center in Ohio.
7. Reconsidering daily room cleaning
Many hotels are now making daily room cleaning service optional. Some cite environmental concerns as their reason for doing so; others, the pandemic. The Best Western hotel chain, for one, notifies customers: "For guest and employee safety and well-being, daily housekeeping service is by request." Many are also contending with staffing shortages. The owners of Aerie House, a seven-room B&B in Provincetown, Massachusetts, say they were forced to eliminate daily housekeeping services last summer because they couldn't find workers for the job. (Besides the general worker deficit nationwide, the pandemic halted the usual influx of young people who come from Europe on J-1 student visas to work at summer hot spots like Cape Cod.)
8. Focus on sustainability
Hotels are doing more than saving water and going plastic-free, they’re also focused on supporting their local communities, says Amanda Ho, cofounder of Regenerative Travel, a booking platform for independently owned hotels dedicated to social and environmental impact. Member hotel Tranquilo Bay Lodge, on Panama’s Bastimentos Island, restructured its business model so that 97 percent of its business costs flow back into the local community, while Blue Apple Beach in Cartagena, Colombia, established the first glass recycling plant on the Colombian coast. Not only does the hotel recycle its own bottles, but it also sends an electric trolley around the city to collect glass from other hotels and bars.
Freelance writer and editor Jen Murphy contributes to a variety of publications, including Condé Nast Traveler, Outside, Travel + Leisure and The Wall Street Journal.
Original article can be found at AARP.org Link:https://www.aarp.org/travel/travel-tips/lodging/info-2022/hotel-industry-trends.html