Hoteliers are installing interactive displays, videowalls and lighting automation to elevate branding, deliver entertainment and communicate travel information.
By Brad Grimes
When famed science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke said in 1973, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” he likely had not considered how future hotels might use technology to create a sense of wonder and excitement among guests. Even with his futuristic outlook, it would be hard to predict that hotels would one day be adorned with wall-sized touch screens or augmented reality experiences, and provide guests the ability to wirelessly control their rooms’ lighting and television with a smartphone.
The fact is that technology now pervades every aspect of daily life and affects every industry. In response, leading hotels have begun integrating advanced audiovisual (AV) technologies to provide services and experiences that live up to travelers’ expectations, while also differentiating their locations from competitors.
Creating a Deeper Connection
Marriott’s Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel sets a high-tech tone before guests even enter, thanks to a four-story LED clock atop the building that changes every second, showing 86,400 images every day. The eclectic shapes and colors enhance the city skyline, while a replica clock located just above one of the hotel’s entrances mirrors the content in real time for guests to view up-close.
Once inside, guests interact with digital artwork projected along the walls of a corridor that span an entire city block. The display doesn’t change on its own — it uses 3D cameras, motion detectors and reflective wallpaper to respond to human movements, creating an interactive wall that imbues guests with a unique high-tech vibe. It’s the kind of experience selfies were designed for.
The hotel also partnered with local New York lifestyle publication Time Out New York to launch the “Discovery Portal,” a digital concierge that allows guests to explore local sights and events in a fun and engaging way. Just beyond the interactive corridor, the hallway opens up to reveal a large curved display with graphical “buttons" projected on the ground in front of it.
Guests step on the buttons to select the time of day and distance they want to travel, which displays content showcasing local restaurants, live music, shopping and more. Once it appears on the interactive screen, guests can access more in-depth information with just the point of a finger using the portal’s gesture-recognition technology.
According to Justin Etheridge, Executive Vice President of Time Out North America, the highly localized publication shares a common goal with the hotel: helping visitors experience the best local entertainment.
“The Discovery Portal Powered by Time Out is an evolution of that mission, an outstanding interactive feature for guests who want to ensure they make the most of their time in New York,” Etheridge says.
When a Hotel Feels Like Home
Most hotel lobbies and public spaces are incorporating advanced features like touchscreens for navigation, weather, and tourist information, but many hotels are also focusing on the in-room environment, recognizing that guests often want more than just a place to sleep.
“Our guests are saying that they want to connect their devices,” says Mari Balestrazzi, Hyatt Hotels Vice President of Design. “We want all of our televisions and sound systems in guest rooms to connect to your devices so that you can watch your own content and listen to your own music. We need to facilitate you having your own personalized space.”
At Hyatt’s Regency-branded locations, each room now includes a 65-inch HDTV, which Balestrazzi says received incredible feedback.
“Our guests are loving it,” she says. “They like watching whatever they brought with them, along with what’s available on cable. It feels like an all-encompassing experience. It makes the stay in the guest room feel a bit more special, with the same high-quality image and scale they have at home.”
Hyatt is also experimenting with tunable LED lighting in guest rooms and, with a focus on wellness, is studying the effects different hues can have on jet lag, circadian rhythm and mood. Tunable white and color lighting are also on the rise in the hotel’s public spaces, especially in meeting rooms, whether programmed by the hotel or adjusted by guests.
“We found that customers really like the ability to change the color of light in large ballrooms and meeting spaces because they can customize the experience for their event,” Balestrazzi says. “They can make colors that are on-brand for them.”
However, it’s not only the large hotels that are benefiting from integrated audiovisual experiences; boutique hotels that place a premium on design and style are also getting in on the AV action.
Making an Entrance
At the Sofitel Paris Baltimore, a 19th-century townhouse hotel located near the Eiffel Tower, a recent renovation added a thrilling new guest experience: a 100-square-foot interactive “Welcome Wall” in the entrance hallway.
“Because they were renovating the hotel, the owners wanted to create something new and exciting that would make a statement every time a guest returns, and I think the digital Welcome Wall really achieves that goal,” says Alexandre Simionescu, Managing Partner and Creative Director of Float4, designers of the Welcome Wall.
“It’s not meant to be subtle. It’s meant to really attract attention and initiate interaction in a way that is not invasive. After their interest is piqued, guests notice that it’s interactive and are excited to actually touch the wall. The Welcome Wall is there to break the ice.”
The wall showcases playful artworks that respond to human movements while also offering a photo booth and virtual concierge where guests can explore Paris with an interactive map. Any guests wishing to create a personalized walking tour can use the map, in coordination with hotel staff, to generate a two-hour long tour that can be downloaded onto smartphones and used as a guide through the city. The size of the wall attracts guests, the interactivity keeps them involved and excited, and offering useful technology instills positive memories of the hotel brand.
An Audiovisual Future Brighter Than Ever
Hotels of all types can use cutting-edge audiovisual technologies to provide memorable interactive experiences, specialized local information and personalized entertainment options. These enhancements are increasingly necessary to meet the expectations of guests who are bombarded daily by new technologies. Whether they visit a hotel for business or leisure, today’s travelers appreciate novel experiences and remember brands that offer more than just a place to rest their heads.