How Luxury Hotels Are Upping Their Digital Games

High-tech rooms and immersive apps are among the latest digital innovations for hotels

February 17, 2024 11:39 pm
High-end hotels are upping their high-tech games to stand apart from the crowd
High-end hotels are upping their high-tech games to stand apart from the crowd
InsideHook, using DeepAI

You’ve been traveling for 20 hours, and you’re exhausted after arriving at your hotel a dozen time zones and a few continents away. All you want to do is relax, clean up and begin immersing yourself in the loving, luxury embrace of the property you booked. Imagine that with the simple touch of a button you could dim your bathroom lights, turn on a soothing soundtrack of music from an array of built-in speakers, and set a do not disturb signal for your room all at the same time.

Voilá, you have a personal slice of serenity available right at your fingertips. It’s not a piece of hotel fan-fiction, but a real feature offered to guests at The Peninsula Tokyo via a specialized “spa button” built into the large soaking tub in each guestroom.

“This has especially been favored by many of our guests, allowing them to create their own in-room spa ambiance and ensuring a relaxing and interruption-free time,” says Amane Toyoshima, the marketing communications coordinator at The Peninsula Tokyo.

The spa button is but one part of a comprehensive in-room digital experience that demonstrates how high-end hotels are upping their high-tech games to stand apart from the crowd. “The Peninsula is a pioneer and industry leader in the research and development of innovative guestroom technology, as the world’s only hotel company that has its own research and development facilities to design, build and customize equipment to serve its guests,” Toyoshima says.

For instance, an in-room weather interface shows the current temperature outside, sure, but also the humidity and the wind. Speakers throughout the room can be toggled to play pre-programmed internet radio stations, and a valet call button provides a near-instant response from a dedicated service team. Guests even receive portable wifi devices to take with them around town should their phones not be equipped with international data.

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“The Peninsula brand has made its name from their excellent hospitality and service, and the Peninsula Tokyo specifically is aligned with the Japanese fascination of technology, embracing this very character in the guest rooms,” Toyoshima says.

Guests might book a stay at The Peninsula Tokyo for any number of reasons, such as a prime locale overlooking the Imperial Palace Gardens from the edge of Ginza, or its elaborate multistory wellness center, featuring an indoor pool, full thermal suite and signature treatments such as chi healing. The hotel’s 24th-floor restaurant and bar Peter brings in guests for wagyu tasting menus, along with craft cocktails and exclusive house labels of whisky. But it’s the little things that turn guests into repeat, long-time clients, and the aforementioned digital details go a long way.

At other properties around the world, a bit of technology may deliver the type of breathtaking “wow” moment worthy of a bucket-list style destination. At Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi, incredible sister resorts in the Maldives well known for their lavish offerings, enormous rooftop villas are loaded with creature comforts.

The most memorable of which may be a push-button retractable bedroom roof that reveals a world-class stargazing opportunity overhead. Listen to the soft sounds of the gentle crashing waves beneath you, while looking above at one of the world’s clearest night skies, creating an unexpected and indelible memory delivered via a bit of electronic assistance.

A bit of technology may deliver the type of breathtaking “wow” moment worthy of a bucket-list style destination
A bit of technology may deliver the type of breathtaking “wow” moment worthy of a bucket-list style destination
InsideHook, using DeepAI

Taking Digital Features Beyond the Room and Into Your Hand

New high-tech features aren’t limited to the in-room experience, either. A number of luxury hotel groups have launched their own apps to provide guests, particularly frequent visitors, with an intuitive, value-added experience.

The Four Seasons app provides a detailed guest itinerary, showing the room reservation along with any meals, services or add-ons that were booked to go along with the stay. Prior to checking in, guests may receive a message in the chat interface asking if they need any help booking arrival transfers or perhaps reserving a table.

It’s also a home to input personal preferences, such as any specific requests for room type, bed size or pillow variety, along with favorite interests. If you prefer to explore a local destination via wine tastings or cooking classes, or you’re more of a wellness traveler or nature enthusiast, the hotel will know it. To go along with all of that, you’ll be able access your prior stays, a fun tool for tracking how many properties you’ve been to and in which locales. It’s one of the ways Four Seasons is able to create strong brand ties and customer loyalty.

The Six Senses app allows you to pre-order meals or schedule airport transfers, or to plan for unique experiences during a stay. By pairing the app to your room with a digital code, guests receive access to a live chat with their GEM, or Guest Experience Maker, who provides bespoke, butler-style service, along with options such as room service menus and activities to book.

At the Six Senses Rome, that might be something such as a behind-the-scenes city tour with exclusive access to some of its most famous sights, or an aperitivo session or cooking class. Or perhaps it’s coordinating a visit to the hotel’s marble bedecked subterranean spa, benefiting from the millennia-old traditions based upon mineral-rich waters via a Roman bathing circuit, alongside modern wellness treatments ranging from biohacking to sound therapy. Create a custom program for a quick visit or a comprehensive, multi-day wellness journey, all via the app’s interface.

While having an app on your phone is a wonderful way to make the most out of a visit both before and during a stay, in other instances, you’re traveling to put your phone down and stash away its shackles to the office and responsibility. The best of both worlds may be when a property provides guests with a simple cell phone to carry around on property, enabling you to ring up or message staff when you need something without toting around that devilish device that’s home to your emails and to-do list.

Lock your cellphone up in the safe, but bring the property’s cell phone with you to the beach so you can call up your personal butler. Request your favorite breakfast in bed for the morning or make an emergency margarita request when the idea of leaving your lounge chair is simply too much work amid a blissful day of R&R. It’s something I’ve seen recently at properties such as the Mandarin Oriental Canouan and the Banyan Tree Buahan in Bali.

Then there was the Surprise of the Day room phone feature at the Centara Reserve Samui. Once per day, at any time, guests push the dedicated button on their phone to be connected with an operator who sends over a surprise snack assortment. Did they need to go through such an elaborate process to offer you a complimentary amenity? No. Did it brighten up my day and serve as an anecdote I retell on a regular basis? You betcha.

These are the small touches that make a huge difference, and offer a memorable level of service that will keep you coming back for more. “The Peninsula’s brand-wide philosophy is to provide user-friendly, intuitive technology that enhances the comfort and hotel experience,” Toyoshima, of The Peninsula Tokyo, says.

But don’t take her word for it. Or mine. Press that spa button and see for yourself.


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