Hotels. Will we even have them in twenty, thirty, forty years? Maybe by then we’ll only be traveling virtually? Or maybe we’ll be flying from place to place with our own individual hotels, landing wherever we feel like? Who knows?
Actually, that’s not a rhetorical question: A study by Villeroy & Boch has some pretty clear ideas on how future hotel guests will live and think. According to the results, our future will be shaped by seven mega-trends. Globalization is probably at the top of the heap. “People are collaborating all over the world, accessing shared digital workspaces from wherever they are. A global culture is developing, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Business meetings and dinners on the other side of the planet are already becoming commonplace for a lot of people.”
The second megatrend: urbanization. According to the study’s calculations, three-quarters of all human beings will be living in cities by 2050, which means space will be tight. As the study puts it, “mobile hotels, floating hotels, even hotels suspended in the air on wires will soon become part of our reality,” and many of those hotels will be so big that they could house entire towns themselves. Sounds crazy, right? But it’s happening already. The First World Hotel in Malaysia has 7,351 rooms, making it the largest hotel in the world. That record won’t hold for much longer, though: when construction finishes on the Abraj Kudai in Saudi Arabia, it’ll have more than 10,000 rooms!
You might think that gigantic hotels will end up reducing their guests to faceless numbers, but the study’s third trend— the “individual we”, striving toward self-realization even as we assimilate into groups—suggests otherwise. Car-sharing and co-working spaces are reflections of this trend, and modern hotel lobbies exude a “living room” charm that caters to modern guests’ seemingly contradictory desires. Demographic change is another megatrend. Guests are getting older, so barrier-free access and health-and-wellness options are becoming more of a focus. And hotels of the future won’t get far without acknowledging the megatrends of smart homes and digitization. Future hotel rooms will cater to our every whim: the temperature we want, our favorite music, customizable lighting, and modular furniture to fit our needs. We’ll be calling air taxis, our preferred mode of transportation, to bring us there. Looming over everything is the seventh megatrend, sustainability, simultaneously restricting and inspiring us. Vegetable gardens on the roof and walls are just one of the many ways hotels of the future will make themselves more appealing to guests!
So what exactly does all of this mean for future hoteliers? “New types of urban hotels that re-combine work and leisure are popping up all over the globe,” the study says, citing future expert Oona Horx-Strathern. Hotels will become second homes—which is great news for anyone who operates hotels or serviced apartments. Digitization will help them serve guests even more effectively and create deeper ties to the company. It might include augmented reality, offering virtual views of whatever guests want to see, or taking them on virtual field trips. Or how about sensors that can tell what mood a guest is in, whether someone is bored, stressed or even ill? Or maybe we’ll have flexible hotels that can be re-shaped to fit guests’ needs, like converting a bedroom into an office or turning a staircase into a convenient ramp. At the other end of the scale, there will be a thriving market for modern hotels with a “digital abstinence” ethos: tune out the rest of the world for a little while and just relax.
Hotels of the future will really have something for everyone – even for people who would really prefer to stay home. “You’ll be able to bring your own mobile apartment along and dock it to the hotel,” the study says.
And the room-service robot will deliver your food piping hot from the printer.