Think baths bigger than your flat is the best it gets? Think again. ShortList reports from the cutting edge of hospitality
About an hour’s drive north of New York City, in Stamford, Connecticut, is Starwood Hotel’s harbourside HQ. And alongside what is presumably an industrial-strength HR team, a vast accounts section and a huge number of executive bathrooms is the research and development division, where hospitality-obsessed specialists plan the rooms you’ll be visiting in the (not-so-distant) future. ShortList was invited to have an exclusive peek – and saw all of this.
The chain has big plans for the humble carpet. Linking it to your smartphone, for instance, so when you step out of the lift, under-carpet lighting directs you straight to your room door. Pop a room service tray in the corridor and your floor messages housekeeping to pick it up. Step off your bed in the middle of the night and the carpet will sense your full-bladdered tread and fire up accent lighting in the bathroom to help guide your way.
Scary fact: your future hotel will know nearly as much about you as your mum does. Well, sort of. Starwood’s SPG app will push a wireless key to your phone or smartwatch so you can head directly to your room (check-in is for losers). Once there, it knows precisely who’s in residence, so will set the lighting and air-con to your pre-prescribed ‘just so’ levels. Films you’ve been streaming on your chosen device will continue on the in-room TV, and you can set the lighting to dawn gently in the morning before your alarm goes off. Sensing you’re up, the espresso machine will also conveniently ping on.
Right now, Starwood’s Aloft hotel in Cupertino, California boasts the world’s first Botlr: a robot butler/companion which delivers toothbrushes, towels, toilet rolls or anything housekeeping can cram into his flip-top head direct to your hotel room door. Botlr gives a cheery whistlibleep goodbye and trundles off on its next task. You tip it with thankful tweets, obviously.
Rolling out by the end of the year are mirrors for more than merely admiring yourself in. Developed by Panasonic Connected Solutions, they are touchscreen infotainment stations offering weather, scores and news which you can pull down to expand and read. Eventually you’ll be able to sync your phone, so your schedule will pop up alongside new emails and messages, to make life even easier.