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Chicago’s ACME Hotel Company is offering guests a perk not yet available at another property: The opportunity to try Google Glass. Since March 10, guests have been able to reserve the Web-enabled, interactive glasses—not yet available to the general public—for three hours a day.
The hotel is touting the technology as a way for guests to research the area’s landmarks, restaurants, and sightseeing spots. While for now it’s a bit of a gimmick (albeit a cool one), it is the kind of amenity that may become common as hotels personalize the guest experience through technology.
The technical revolution starts in the lobby, where more hotels are offering automated check-in through kiosks and tablet devices. As guests have become more comfortable with the self-serve options, companies keep developing more innovations.
Marriott Hotels & Resorts has started offering mobile check-in and checkout through its app. Available for Android and Apple devices, the service allows guests to register as early as two hours before they arrive and receive a notification when their room is ready. At checkout, the app will email guests a copy of the final bill—a particularly nice convenience for business travelers keeping track of expenses.
Another service that some guests want digitized is their daily newspaper. While many guests still enjoy reading the traditional printed newspaper, others want a digital option. The Wall Street Journal offers a product for hotels called The Wall Street Journal Digital Daily, which gives guests access to their content online. At check-in, guests receive a custom URL and code so they can access WSJ Digital on any of their devices. The content is available in nine languages. The idea is for hotel management to provide their guests more options for getting information in the most accessible manner.
Hotels also are providing news and entertainment options on in-room iPads, or e-readers like Nooks that guests can check out. These types of perks can work for any property such as extended stay hotels that want to offer comforts to ultra-luxury hotels such as the Burj Al Arab, a Jumeirah hotel that offers guests use of a 24-carat gold iPad engraved with the hotel’s logo. The Burj Al Arab loaded the tablet with virtual concierge services such as butler and housekeeping services, restaurant options, and the spa menu.
On a more realistic scale, the newly renovated Park Central hotel in New York added oversize touch screens for guests to use for navigating the property, news headlines, weather and other guest information. The hotel offers one in the lobby and another in the second-floor meeting space. Natalie Vachon, the Park Central’s marketing manager, said the amenity was particularly useful for international travelers who choose to disable their smartphones while in the United States and no longer have handheld access to the Internet.
Hotels are also using technology to entertain guests. As part of a renovation to the Wyndham Houston West Energy Corridor, the hotel opened Ten Bar & Lounge. In addition to common elements such as billiards tables and shuffleboard, the space offers Nintendo Wii, a move it hopes will attract not only hotel guests but local residents as well.