If you are interested in the hotel of the future, you are most likely to have heard of Hotel Schani Wien in Vienna. Due to open this spring and located close to the train station, this trendsetting property is the outcome of an intense collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering and Organization (IAO). hetras – which supplies the hotel software for the IAO's 'hotel of the future' project – has also been heavily involved in bringing this progressive vision to fruition. The person behind Hotel Schani Wien's public image is Anita Komarek. She answers 8 questions about Hotel Schani's technology, vision and co-working space on the hetras blog.
Anita, what are the very basics that a hotel of the future has to provide?
Well, it might be 2015, but cleanliness, quality service and friendliness are still top of the list of what makes a good hotel. It is also vital for guests to be able to feel at home. And what's really important: guests must be able to organize as much of their stay as possible in advance – i.e. book a room without any fuss, preferably by smartphone where they will have access to the best room rates via the hotel's website.
What's the role of technology in this?
It depends on the hotel's target market. It's perfectly fine not to offer guests anything in the way of technology if, for example, you want to keep it nostalgic. However, if your target market is business travelers or you run a city hotel and most of your clientele has a strong affinity with technology, it makes sense to provide for them accordingly. Today, time is one of our most precious commodities - so services like being able to check-in in advance, check out quickly, book a room in advance and being able to use your smartphone to open your hotel room door are highly valued.
What's the story behind mobile check-in and check-out systems, like the ones airlines have started to introduce?
If you are designing or building a new hotel these days, it is absolutely vital to take new habits into account. If people enjoy using their mobile devices, they should also be able to do so when staying in a hotel. I understand that smaller family-run hotels might not share that view, but these kind of facilities are absolutely vital if you want to establish a new hotel.
Does equipping a hotel with the latest technology pay off? If so, how?
It certainly does – no question! One of the advantages is that modern technologies free up hotel staff so that they can attend to a multitude of things. I.e. for us, modern technology also means that we don't have a traditional reception desk. Our Guest Service Agents are going to fulfill many roles – from working at the bar serving breakfast to working in the Co-working Space – and are a kind of modern concierge. Ideally they look to anticipate guests' every need by supplying information on attractions or events and providing high-quality customer service – because that's what it’s all about.
What makes a hotel with a vision different?
Creativity and openness. Having a vision means thinking beyond limits and not giving up just because some things aren't quite possible yet. To me, perseverance is also an important element when it comes to new projects – just because something isn't happening yet, doesn't mean it never will – sometimes we just need to give things time. Perseverance is definitely a big factor for anyone pursuing a big vision.
Your vision for Hotel Schani was "To make our guests' stay as pleasant and relaxed as possible using the latest technologies." So, what kind of a lifestyle awaits guests at Schani?
It is really important to us that our guests feel at home. We want anybody passing through our doors to instantly feel at ease. Our lobby will be a welcoming social space where guests can relax and meet, as opposed to a place people can't wait to get out of. Let me tell you about our Coworking Project. The lobby is designed as a space for local and traveling coworkers to meet, share desk space and knowledge in the spirit of the sharing economy. It is designed as a platform where people from a wide range of industries can come together and exchange knowledge and information.
That sounds like a lot going on … How is this going to work in real life?
What we have done is turn part of or our hotel's lobby into a fully operational Co-working Space. There will be a separate room with 20 work spaces and a meeting room, but we also have plenty of spaces right in the lobby itself where people can work and meet. All of our furniture and equipment is fully multi-functional: Our tables can be used for breakfast and work, whether upstairs on the gallery or in the separate area, and we have a beautiful garden ideal for relaxation. A space like this is particularly attractive to the increasing number of one-person businesses where the delineation between work and leisure no longer plays such a major role …
• The IAO in Stuttgart has been actively researching innovative concepts for the hotel industry since 2008. "The fascination of co-working" is just one of the many studies the institute has conducted over the past 8 years.
• Amongst other things, the guest surveys conducted as part of the 'hotel of the future' research project have shown that nearly half of all business travelers (46 %) (have to) continue to work once they are at their hotel. A lot of them would really appreciate it if hotels had public spaces or lobbies set up in a way that would allow them to work from there.