Check in, log on and blog with Room 213

Its difficult to imagine the hotel of the future, but for some industry experts it is only a matter of time before guests are clicking themselves to sleep.

Opinion, Comment & analysis, Hotel

Imagine this: you check into your hotel room in under a minute, just pausing to swipe your personal card under a reader which automatically tells you your room number.

By the time you have walked to the room, all the television stations have been altered to your favourite settings, the room lights have been adjusted to suit your mood and the temperature is on the same setting as the last time you stayed at the property.

After you settle into your room you log on to the internet to see what is happening, and you can instantly see various groups from around the hotel.

Rooms 215, 438 and 119 have decided to go on a sightseeing tour together, while rooms 213, 108 and 435 are going shopping this afternoon.

Others are simply chatting online to the hotel concierge, who is offering tips on the best restaurants in town and the latest special deals for theatre shows that evening.

If it all sounds a bit too much like Star Trek, think again ” innovations like this will be coming to hotels sooner rather than later according to Movenpick Hotels and Resorts vice president technology Middle East and Asia Roger Macfarlaine.

Macfarlaine is currently investigating the next generation of technology for future hotels, with properties that will not only know who you are and what you like, but also be able to change the hotel to suit your individual needs.

And yet while many hotels are concentrating on the latest gadgets and trying to predict the next big thing, the truth is that the Middle East lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to the uptake of technology by hotel guests.

Recent results from the Middle East Hotel Business Guest Survey 2008 by BDRC shows that the use of the internet to review availability and make reservations in the region is well behind all other regions of the world.

Figures for 2008 show that the numbers for people looking and booking online has dropped back to 2006 levels, and while the increasing trend of technology uptake continues, the Middle East is a region that is slow to adopt.

Make no mistake, the region has access to the latest gadgets, and ostensibly the high net worth individuals in the Middle East are keen to be seen with the latest and best. It is just that, in pure functionality, technology is yet to be adopted as a major part of daily life in the same way as it has been in other regions.

This may be a blessing in disguise for hoteliers in the region, however, as they are able to watch the trial and error of implementations at international properties and gauge the return on investment before handing over the cash.

Because eventually, hoteliers will need to be handing over the cash for large investments in technology for their properties. And if the past is anything to go by, it will be sooner rather than later.

Chris Jackson is the editor of Hotelier Middle East.

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