Great tucker, smart gizmos

<em>Illustration: michaelmucci.com</em>
Illustration: michaelmucci.com 

What are you looking for when you stay in a hotel? We bring you the latest in hotel trends from around the world.

It's a competitive business, the hotel industry. From how you check in to the brand of shampoo on the bathroom shelf, hoteliers have to pay attention to every aspect of the experience to even attempt to stand out.

A hotel in Britain replaced its in-room Bibles with Kindles pre-loaded with the text.

Here are some of the latest trends in hotels, from gadgets to dining.

 

Body scrubs and yoga mats

Wellness has become a huge focus for hotels, with properties investing millions upon millions in spas, health experts and in-room health services.

The InterContinental Group has gone as far as launching a whole new hotel brand, EVEN Hotels, specifically aimed at health-conscious travellers in the US. EVEN Hotels have in-room workout equipment such as a coat rack that doubles as a pull-up bar and fitness experts on hand to advise guests.

Menus focus on healthy meals, and guests can get free extras such as flavoured filtered water and mini-smoothies to start the day.

Swissotel is also targeting the health-conscious consumer, with services such as yoga and Pilates equipment that can be set up in rooms; customised jogging maps; and healthy meal options.

Many hotels around the world are also targeting travellers who have problems with sleeping, offering packages that include advice by sleep experts.

Hotels also continue to introduce and upgrade their spa facilities, with a recent Hilton survey of 6000 travellers finding that nearly half considered spa facilities an important factor in selecting a hotel.

The report found that hotel guests were increasingly savvy about spa offerings and products, while men were a growing market. Hilton says the key to providing spa services in hotels is having global consistency while also allowing for locally influenced treatments.

 

Gadgets, gadgets

Free internet is a sticky issue for hoteliers but it seems consumer demand is winning out.

A TripAdvisor survey of more than 9000 hotel owners and managers found that 77 per cent intended to offer free internet access this year; 12 per cent would charge a fee; and the rest would not offer it at all.

Some hotels have even started offering free wi-fi access in hotel vehicles that are used to provide transfers for guests.

Many upmarket hotels are now offering iPads for guests' use during their stay, while iPod docks have become commonplace.

A hotel in Britain, the Hotel Indigo Newcastle, recently replaced its in-room copies of the Bible with Kindle e-readers pre-loaded with the text.

Guests are also able to download one other religious text to the device during their stay.

An area of technology that has been slower to take off for hotels is mobile check-in.

Most major hotel brands now have mobile applications that allow guests to research and book hotels, but mobile check-in is just getting started.

The Bay Hotel Singapore recently became the first hotel in the island-state to offer mobile check-in, with guests also able to log their preferences before arrival and check out using a mobile device when they leave.

 

Feeling important

For luxury hotels it's all about personalised service, to make their cashed-up guests feel very important.

Starwood Hotels, for example, has abolished standard check-in and checkout times for its "elite" level loyalty program guests, giving them the room for 24 hours.

A guest who doesn't check in until late at night can have the room until the following night, rather than having to be out of the room at 10am.

The Pullman Auckland has introduced in-car check-in, so guests can complete all their check-in requirements while being chauffeur-driven to the hotel.

Guests leave the car with their room key already in their hand, so they can bypass reception and go straight to their room.

Valet services are also becoming a common feature for top hotels.

At the Hilton Surfers Paradise complex on the Gold Coast, a new penthouse suite comes with a "personal valet" who can manage any aspect of your (rather expensive) stay.

Stamford Hotels & Resorts is taking a technology-driven approach, introducing a mobile application that allows guests to "jump the queue".

The iGuest app, which will be rolled out for all of Stamford's Australian hotels, can be used to arrange services such as having a meal or drinks in your room when you arrive.

 

Dining that is fine

There was a time hotel restaurants were best avoided but now they can be among the best eateries in town. Celebrity chefs, Michelin stars and the best local produce can be found at many hotel restaurants worldwide. Hotels often have wine bars, tapas bars, brasseries and sidewalk cafes, not stuffy dining rooms.

The Hilton chain plans to open 500 new restaurants in the next three years, and is working with restaurateurs to bring new concepts into the mix.

Hyatt is concentrating on healthy and sustainable dining, using organic and local produce, and hormone- and antibiotic-free meats.

jane@janeefraser.com.au

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