By Vicki Arkoff
While many hotels struggle to move into the 21st century—some still withholding complimentary Wi-Fi service and others furnishing rooms with outdated digital capabilities—smart hoteliers are bravely leaping into the future with their tech offerings. Here's a look at three particularly innovative luxury hotels with high-tech amenities and services.The Stanford Court, San Francisco
Northern California is at the center of the technology boom, so it’s no shock that San Francisco is at the forefront of US hotel innovations. What is surprising, is that it’s not happening in Silicon Valley, but rather at the top of traditional Nob Hill (aka Snob Hill), which was established by the Big Four railway barons at the turn of the century, and has more recently been ruled by the city’s wealthiest widows and socialites.
Now shaking things up is the 100-year-old Stanford Court which has been drawing a young demographic of business and leisure travelers to The City by the Bay thanks to its contemporary redesign and forward-thinking tech capabilities. Arriving guests can recharge their Tesla at the plug-in "Juice Bar" in the auto court’s prime parking spots, then enter the tech-friendly lobby to be greeted at check-in by iPads silently introducing the smiling staffers behind the desk. A huge screen at the concierge desk shows live-cam images of the street scene outside, including cable cars clanging up and down California Street. The open lobby features free Autobahn internet service and technology everywhere, such as the complimentary bank of MacBooks, iPads and iPad minis (those still exist?) available 24/7, and the Google Glass Explorer program. Over at Aurea Café, the restaurant features convenient touch screen menus and discrete electrical outlets in the base of the dining tables at every seat for guest laptops and smartphones.
Rooms have the usual tech-friendly amenities plus a unique touch: a notecard from the manager inviting you to text him directly at any hour, for anything, during the course of your stay. I couldn’t resist testing it out at 10 p.m.when I couldn’t find the TV remote control. Almost immediately he replied with “Good evening! Housekeeping usually places it on the TV swivel base after cleaning it each day.” He was right. All the above is a welcome sign of what’s to come at Stanford Court. In terms of what's to come, the property hinted that along with 2015 room renovations it will be introducing even more tech amenities such as a tablet or smartphone check-in process via a keyless entry app.
The Peninsula, Hong Kong
One of the most extreme luxury hotels ways to take technology to new heights is The Peninsula, Hong Kong. With the swipe of a screen, user-friendly Samsung Galaxy tablets with custom apps control the entertainment center (TV, DVD, video-on-demand, music channels, gaming), lighting, temperature, alarm clock, printer, broadband, concierge services, and in-room dining. Instead of picking up the phone to ask questions of the front desk or concierge, the system provides fresh data such as weather, as well as suggested sightseeing itineraries, and restaurant and spa menus in 11 languages. Forget to use the digital wall panels to close the blackout curtains and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign before crawling into bed? No worries. Just touch “close curtains” and room privacy indicators on the tablet on the bedside table, and it’s done.
The tablet system is revolutionary for in-room technology, setting new standards of guest personalization, yet it felt pleasantly friendly, efficient and intuitive when I had the chance to test-drive the system in my Grand Deluxe Harbour View Suite. It took me a while to figure out the entertainment system, but that was mainly because there were so many options. Other options include complimentary VOIP calls and Wi-Fi access. And the room is equipped with all the digital age amenities you could wish for, including dual-voltage (110V/240v) multi-pin electrical power sockets, smartphone chargers for all makes and models discretely housed inside the bedside drawer, a vanishing TV mirror in the bathroom, and a wireless printer in the living room desk.
Turtle Bay Oahu, Hawaii
Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s fabled North Shore offers nearly five miles of beachfront, two championship golf courses, a surf center, a wellness team of certified fitness experts and nutritionists in its state-of-the-art facility, and it’s the only property on the island with its own helipad and horse stables. So it’s little wonder that the sprawling Hawaiian resort is among the first in the Pacific to introduce advanced technology such as the Maestro iPad Xpress check-in. Designed to pamper guests with personalized service from the moment they arrive, Maestro’s mobile iPad solution is fully-integrated with Maestro PMS and updated in real time to perform all aspects of the traditional front office.
“Maestro’s iPad Xpress Check-In/Out lets us greet [guests] the moment they arrive and escort them personally to their accommodations without stopping at the front desk,” said Victoria Solis, Director of Guest Services for the 452-room resort. Its wireless capability goes beyond remote check-in and check-out by showing room options, upgrades, activities and amenities. It synchronizes data in real time and is a particularly-sharp performer for group check-ins to free up the lobby area. “[It] provides our team with the perfect opportunity to personalize a guest’s arrival experience,” said Solis. “We give guests a fun island greeting at check-in as we walk them across the property.”
Fittingly, the check-in technology works in tandem with the resort’s green roof project, the first of its kind in Hawaii to significantly reduce its carbon footprint in which 1,500 solar panels produce 8 percent of the resort’s daily electricity use. “Plus, we use the iPad Xpress’ electronic signature capture capability,” Solis concludes. “We’re a green hotel and we value not having to waste additional paper for registration cards.”