The Hotel of Tomorrow Project, a global think tank spearheaded by Chicago-based hospitality design and consulting firm Gettys Group, is making a big announcement this week. Since June, it has been developing concepts that aim to address the significant industry-wide challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The 325 participants include hotel owners, designers, architects, and hospitality educators, hospitality educators, and representatives hailing from a range of lodging companies and brands—such as citizenM, Four Seasons, Hilton, IHG, and Marriott.
“The COVID crisis has created a need for answers to questions hotels couldn’t answer on their own,” says Ron Swidler, Gettys Group’s chief innovation officer. “Our goal is not to figure out how to clean hotels better or how to create better signage but to find long-lasting solutions.” The group is releasing four bold ideas that could one day inspire future trends in hotel design.
This is the Gettys Group’s second Hotel of Tomorrow Project. The first think tank, which ran between 2004 and 2006, came up with concepts such as a robot butler (later put into use by Aloft) and the capability for travelers to choose their own guest room (which was ultimately adopted by Hilton).
Technology and personalization continue to play important roles in the 2020 project’s new concepts. BedXYZ, which is described by Gettys as an “optimized and gamified sleep platform,” involves a hotel guest room with engineered fabrics that control the bed’s temperature and clean the room’s air. Guests will be able to use smartphone apps to program lighting, scent options, sound cancellation, background noise, humidity, temperature, and bed firmness. Other possible features could include guided mindfulness exercises and physical wind-down programs.
The project’s Robot Alliance, meanwhile, envisions a deconstructed food and beverage experience in which autonomous robots serve guests wherever they choose to dine or drink inside or outside a hotel. These could range from a human-size robot, inspired by the Makr Shakr robotic bartender, that would make drinks from recipes created by a human mixologist, to small drones that could fly around taking orders that would be served by other robots.
The Outside In, Inside Out concept aims to convert hotel public spaces, such as meeting rooms or areas outside ballrooms, into “outdoor-feeling wonder-spaces where lighting, sounds, air quality, and smells provide the benefits of being outside,” the group says. These would contain at least one wall entirely covered with a terrarium housing real plants. (The back of the terrarium would include a video monitor that could display illustrations of flowering vines and wildlife.) All would be meant to entertain and calm guests and inspire productivity.
The fourth concept, the Hotel Rover, would be a self-driving adventure vehicle in which one to four guests could work, sleep, socialize, and travel. These would be rented to travelers by individual hotels or brands, replicating their guest room amenities. Travelers renting the vehicle could drive it to other hotels with the same brand, where they could recharge it and dine via room service. According to Gettys, this concept is intended to meet increasing demand for RV and glamping travel, which has become increasingly popular during the pandemic.
Of the new concepts, Swidler says, “These are meant to be inspirational. We don’t want things to go back to the way they were before. This is an opportunity to bring something new to the future guest experience.” Although, he adds, “[Right now,] travel is anxiety-ridden, we’re We’re trying to find ways of incorporating emerging consumer expectations and desires while extending what hospitality is great at: taking care of people and making them feel good.”