Innovation is everywhere in accommodation at the moment and expect that trend to continue this year, from disrupting start-ups to major hotel players introducing the latest technology.
It seems everyone is talking about Mobile. Companies are developing mobile-first strategies and travel management companies are frantically trying to keep up with the pace of change. It was perhaps inevitable a hotel chain would develop an innovation around the smartphone. And so it is that Starwood Hotels and Resorts has launched its SPG Keyless mobile entry system. This is only available to Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty members, and allows them to skip the front desk and head straight to their rooms. By enabling Bluetooth on their smartphone, guests can open the SPG app and hold their mobile device up to the door lock. A green light will indicate that entry has been granted.
The keyless technology will be rolled out in the coming months to Aloft, Element and W hotels around the world, with the aim of 150 properties having SPG Keyless installed by the end of 2015.
Many products have hit the markets for travellers over the past year, including apps, and self-booking and expense management tools. However, Lastroom has found a niche in this crowded market by targeting small- and medium-sized businesses. It’s a cloud-based travel expense management tool with a simple-to-use website that lets you search and book thousands of rooms worldwide; then, it produces a complete booking history, instant invoices and up-to-date, real-time data reporting.
The data element includes future trips, average cost per trip, total costs, length of stay and expense reporting; and, to make it even more attractive to small businesses, it’s free. In 2015 Lastroom will also be integrating the air module into the system thanks to an agreement with GDS-provider Amadeus.
Thistle Hotels ‘Choose Your Own Room’ service
Guest staying at any UK Thistle hotel this year could have the opportunity to take a virtual online tour of actual rooms and then book the one they desire. The ‘Choose Your Own Room’ facility is live at the group’s Thistle Euston hotel. After booking a room, guests receive an email with a link to take a 360-degree tour of the property’s rooms, including the view. Should they not be happy with their room, they can simply request to tour another and then select the one they want. Rooms are automatically allocated shortly before check-in should no self-selection take place. Thistle claims the service is a world first and, if the Euston pilot is a success, the group plans to roll out the scheme throughout its 31 UK hotels, including ten in London.
CEO, NH Hotels
Gonzalez is in charge of rolling out NH Hotels’ new service ‘High Tech Made Easy’, designed to provide guests with “cutting-edge technology for high-impact, high-performance meetings and events”. This offering includes interactive 3D holographic technology that NH claims is an industry first. NH’s meeting rooms are being equipped with new video conferencing technology, which can support up to 250 virtual attendees on one call. It’s already operational at the NH Madrid Eurobuilding hotel and expected to be rolled out across the group this year. This technology makes it possible to be ‘present’ at an event as a 3D hologram when a person can’t physically attend. As companies look for ways to cut travel costs but still maintain a global presence, this could provide a solution. Expect holograms of keynote speakers beamed live across NH events in 2015.
Jo Layton, MD
The Apartment Service (TAS)
2015 could be a busy year for Layton and the serviced apartment sector, if growth continues at the rate it has done over the last 18 months. According to the Global Serviced Apartments Industry Report, 77 per cent of British business travellers now stay in serviced apartments. Layton joined TAS at the start of 2014 from Bridgestreet and has spearheaded the TAS Alliance, which unites members under a single representation, distribution and marketing platform, enabling corporates better access to independent serviced apartments. The Alliance already represents more than 14,000 apartments around the world.
Layton, among others, has been a key supporter of the Association of Serviced Apartment Providers’ (ASAP) recently launched quality accreditation programme, which aims to establish an official set of standards for the sector.
Airbnb featured on the 2014 Hotlist, and it proved to be quite a year for the sharing accommodation site. This time last year, the website was becoming a leisure travel phenomenon, and we predicted it could have an impact corporate travel booking.
This was proving to be a sound prediction when the site announced a partnership with spend-management firm Concur, so travellers who use its Trip Link service could book Airbnb properties directly and have their expense reports automatically pre-populated in Concur. It also introduced a site specifically for business travellers to help them search and book accommodation and manage expenses. Corporate travel now accounts for 10 per cent of Airbnb’s business. Buyers were also heard voicing their concerns with the site and its impact on corporate travel at many industry events during 2014 – with the firm increasing its focus on business travel, it easily merits its inclusion on this year’s list.