Is the Australian hotel industry ready for what’s coming? The foreseeable future will bring more international tourists and increased tourist spending. In some cities, whilst the number of hotel rooms being developed is thought to be excessive, the rapid development of new stock is being outpaced by projected industry growth.
But it’s not just a question of having enough rooms to look after all these guests; there is a demand for notable guest experiences with innovations that matter to people. For a dose of perspective, let’s take a look at three hotel concepts that stand out.
Hiroshima in Japan was already a great place for cyclists, and it got better with the opening of Hotel Cycle in 2014. A repurposed maritime warehouse, the hotel is designed to be cycle-friendly from head-to-toe. Dining outlets and common areas are in the mix and there is also a shop for hired bikes, new gear, and repairs. Being a repurposed warehouse, the interiors are wide. Ramps are fitted throughout the property, and guests can ride directly to reception, or to a window to purchase drinks and sandwiches.
The genius of this idea is that travelers with a penchant for exploring the city on a bicycle can use their own hotel grounds without dismounting; right up to the point where they hang the bicycle on custom rack in their comfortable guestroom. It’s a fitness-positive idea that flows directly into urban exploration. There should (and probably will) be more hotels like this.
This brand is going on twenty years old, with its first property opening in Los Angeles in 1999. Recently, Sansiri, a Thai real estate developer, invested AUD $80m to give Standard Hotels an international footprint. So, what’s the fuss about?
The architecture and interiors shape shift to distinct localities with undertones that are warm, modern and intelligent. The Standard also offers a changing menu of events, which have included a sleep-in cinema where guests “camp” on high-end mattresses to watch films with food and beverage service. The company’s North American properties also have a “ring your rep” phone booth that connect guests to offices of congressional representatives. Overall, the feel is subversive – the hotel name is presented upside down, even on the entrances to the properties themselves. This playfulness, combined local flavour and a commitment to high standards, explains the international push.
Autonomous Travel Suite
The Radical Innovation Awards are an annual contest for the most compelling and disruptive hotel concepts. The 2018 contest drew from a pool of 50 international entries, and gave the grand prize to a concept called Autonomous Travel Suite (“ATS”). It’s only an idea, but it’s getting noticed.
Running on solar power, a mobile guestroom arrives at your place of departure. The unit is a self-driving vehicle, fitted with working, sleeping and washroom facilities for a comfortable journey and maximum use of travel time. You actually use this vehicle as both your hotel room and your method of transport to your destination. Once there, you can either park somewhere individual, or you can even dock at an ATS “parent unit” where you join with other ATS vehicles and form a larger unit, using their F&B and leisure facilities as required.
Naturally, all controls, bookings etc are done online so there is minimal disruption once you arrive. The people behind the concept think that it could significantly impact business and leisure trips that are 8-10 hours away by road. The barriers of security and technology seem high, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be climbed – and a seamless transition from transport to guestroom is hard not to like.
Why pay attention to hotel innovators?
There are always new ideas that stick and others don’t – but paying attention to the impetus behind these innovations is useful. The Standard offers a sophisticated hotel experience with a playful and subversive twist. The Hotel Cycle has built fitness, local exploration, and a popular subculture directly into its DNA. Autonomous Travel Suite is a bold vision that could become practical before we know it.
As Australian hotels and developers position themselves to capture more of the growing market share, innovation is a valuable currency. Of course, it may not be possible to emulate these concepts outright; but they can provide clues to a smooth, flavourful, and unique guest experience.
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