Travelers who checked into certain Holiday Inn Express, Hilton, and Marriott rooms have been noticing something different recently. The desk in their rooms is missing.
Well, “missing” depends on whom you ask. The furniture choice was intentional, as many hotels have introduced desk-free rooms and more communal working space. The thinking is, millennial travelers don’t want clunky desks.
But sportswriter Dan Wetzel wasn’t pleased by the lack of a traditional desk-and-chair setup when he checked in. He blogged his frustrations, and the post, Who Took the Desk from My Hotel Room, went viral, sparking a passionate outcry in defense of the hotel desk.
Okay, so it wasn’t “The Dress” level Internet drama, but it showed that travelers feel pretty passionate about what hotels are offering. On the flip side, lodging companies are constantly tweaking their amenities to keep up with what they think we want. Minibars are now stocked with locally sourced products, concierges chat with travelers via text message, and some rooms even have a discrete stash of condoms.
Some of these features may seem over the top, but others can really fix the pain points of being away from home. If you’re hitting the road soon, here are seven hotel features you probably never asked for, but could really start to love.
Sure, you meant to work out on that business trip. But lugging all your gear for a quick overnight can feel excessive. Westin’s solution: borrow it! The chain has been loaning New Balance shoes and workout clothing to guests for a number of years. Even Hotels recently raised the bar, loading every room with fitness equipment like yoga mats and exercise balls. You can queue up instructional videos on the TV and get your workout in without leaving your room. If you’re really on a training regimen, TRYP hotels by Wyndham have fitness rooms—no, not a public exercise room. These bedrooms come with bikes, treadmills, and elliptical machines right next to the bed.
Games and entertainment
If you can’t join your fellow lobby mates, beat them. In their quest to lure millennial travelers away from the Airbnbs of the world, hotels are expanding their offerings beyond the standard lobby bar and swimming pool to include games. Hilton’s newest brand, Tru, has a “play” area with games like foosball and pinball. The Edition, Miami Beach’s swankiest new hotel that sits a mile up the beach from WeWork Lincoln Road, comes equipped with a bowling alley and an indoor ice skating rink. On a less competitive note, movie theaters are sweeping the hotel world, with new resorts from London to the Bahamas opening in-house cinemas.
A study by Hotels.com found that among business travelers, free Wi-Fi was a deciding factor in choosing a hotel for almost half of the respondents. But many hotels, especially those at higher price points, still charge guests to connect. If getting online from the room is a top priority, here’s a tip: many hotel loyalty programs include free Wi-Fi. Membership is free, so if you check in and join, you can save the $15 a day.
The way things are going, those plastic keycards will soon be a thing of the past. So will forgetting said keycard and locking yourself out. As will returning to the concierge desk because your card got demagnetized.
Many hotels are adopting new keyless ways to access your room. Chains like Marriott and Starwood are starting to configure their smartphone apps to serve as keys at some locations. Just scan your phone and the door will open. Don’t want to lug anything? The design-forward Alma Barcelona uses fingerprint technology to admit guests to their rooms while the ultra-exclusive Cloud Nine suite at Boston’s Nine Zero Hotel (not far from WeWork South Station) takes security a step further and uses a retina scan for entry.
Don’t feel like chatting with the bellman or room service? Some hotels are de-humanizing their guest services. There’s the “Yobot” at New York’s Yotel, an assembly-line style robotic arm that sorts and stores guests’ luggage. Or the “Botlr” a robo-butler at the Aloft Hotel near Apple headquarters in Cupertino. The R2D2-like devices roll around the hotel and deliver things like toothbrushes or other requested items to guests in rooms.
In Japan, a whole hotel staffed almost entirely by robots opened this past summer. Henn-na Hotel has check-in robots at the front desk (one of which reportedly looks like a velociraptor), luggage porter robots, and even in-room robots that control the lights or set your alarm.
Hotels want in on the Netflix & Chill game. This summer, Marriott rolled out streaming services across many of its hotel brands, including Courtyard and Renaissance. You can log into your Netflix, Hulu, or Pandora accounts and pick up your queue where you left off. A number of hotels, like the robot-populated Aloft Cupertino, have Apple TVs hooked up in the rooms.
USBs and plenty of outlets
Sometimes the simplest amenities are the most important. While some hotels are probably still rue the day they purchased all those iPhone 4 docking stereo clocks, others have pivoted to keep up the changing world of chargers. Bedside USB ports and outlets are popping up at new and remodeled hotel rooms from Courtyards to Le Meridien Hotels. Say goodbye to searching for an outlet or charging your phone in a corner on the opposite side of the room.