Ten years after the great internet boom and bust, technology keeps on changing – and changing our lives with it. That's particularly true in the hotel sector, where everything is changing: from the way we book to the way we order dinner; from the entertainment console in our rooms to the check-in desk (or its absence).
I remember the days when you needed crocodile clips to harness your laptop to the internet by linking it directly to the phone wires. Well, that's changed, with wi-fi access highly available – though not always freely available (which is why we launched the Free WiFi Touchdown Campaign), and not always without needing to ring downstairs for the router to be re-set! But some hotels also provide free WiFi terminals in the lobby, like the Apex City of London pictured below with its cute duck mascot.
You used to get a miserable little clock radio next to the bed, with a single tuning dial. You could spend hours twiddling it, trying to get anything more than static, or the Polish business news. Now, you'll find most hotels offering a digital radio which gives you a huge variety of stations.
You'll probably also find an iPod dock in most hotels, so you can bring your own music – and many also offer a number of CDs you can play over the speakers (however, it would be nice to see a bit more help for those of us who have non-Apple mp3 players!).
And of course TV has changed totally. Flat screens are in (even in some of the cheapest hotels in London, like Tune Paddington pictured below) multichannel is in and programme guides are in so you can actually plan what you want to see – no need for a copy of the Radio Times.
Some hotels are going even further. Just this week I came across two snippets that intrigued me – OPUS Vancouver is now offering iPhones in every room, with free calls in both directions and pre-programmed lines to all the hotel's departments, while the Newcastle Indigo has replaced the Gideon Bible by the good word on Kindle for a limited period trial. I wonder how many London hotels will follow suit?
Check-in is becoming an automated experience – completely so at YOTEL, one of the world's most innovative hotel chains. Some hotels like Andaz Liverpool Street, have a traditional check-in but minus the desk – staff use portables so you can sit on a comfy sofa while you're checked in. Others offer smartphone door access, so if you've got your mobile, you won't need a keycard; and even wireless concierge services so you can Blackberry, Instant Message or tweet the concierge desk from wherever you are.
What's missing? Well, speaking as someone who likes to turn the mobile off and relax – I do wish hotels would have a prominently signposted mobile dead zone where I can hang out.
credits: Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel, London Hotels Insight blogger Timea, YOTEL.