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image of woman in hotel with virtual reality headset

Part 54: How virtual reality can transform the hotel experience

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

GTHD

A GUIDE TO HOTEL DESIGN PT 54:
HOW VIRTUAL REALITY CAN TRANSFORM THE HOTEL EXPERIENCE

Agnieszka Wilk, Co-Founder & CEO of Decorilla Online Interior Design, reveals how virtual reality (VR) can transform hotel design and the hospitality industry…

Even before we were stripped of many fundamental aspects of our regular lives due to the pandemic, virtual reality (VR) was rapidly evolving – the launch of Google Cardboard, Facebook’s Oculus Rift, and Samsung’s VR headsets triggered VR technologies’ inevitable move to expand beyond serving the gaming and entertainment industries.

Since then, VR has created a bespoke, immersive interior design experience for the hotel industry’s players and designers. After 2020, the value and relevance of VR to a variety of professional settings has solidified even more. Many more interior designers are also realising the power of visualisation and its functions for remote collaboration on projects.

Over the last few years, we have witnessed the technology being incorporated into the guest experience at hotels. Plus, with travel greatly diminished, the ability to simulate an environment using a headset, will become a big part of travel and tourism in the future too. However, less is known and discussed about how VR can benefit hotel designers. How does it work? Will it increase profit margins? How can we leverage it? Let’s dive in. 

Hotel owners should invest now to save later

Virtual reality is a computer technology that combines hardware and software to generate realistic images, sounds and sensations in order to immerse a user in a simulated three-dimensional environment. Using a headset that projects an image through goggles, users are able to see the projected image from a full 360-degrees. 

Integrate this technology into the interior design industry and it’s possible to create beautifully designed spaces that are affordable. Hotel owners and designers can instantly see the visual and financial implications for changes to their plans, saving hours of time and money.

Picture this; a boutique hotel owner wants to make design changes, has tight deadlines but can be indecisive. These upgrades will decide how their hotel will look for the next 10-20 years. With the help of VR and 3D rendering, top designers, regardless of location, can develop a clear idea of what they need to create this specific ‘contemporary chic’ interior. The hotel owner chooses from various photos of interior design spaces to decide on their preferred styles and favourite brands, as well as having direct input in the design process to move walls, change fabrics, and upgrade the carpets. Plus, the price bracket is dependent on the amount of design concepts required and the experience of the designers. 

This all prevents costly mistakes as the spaces can be viewed before they exist, which also allows hoteliers to build trust with the partners they are working with. They can make this investment early on to avoid misunderstandings and save more money later… and it’s all accessible through a mobile phone or goggles.  

A new Dimension for the client-designer relationship

Building trusting relationships is one of the major success factors in the work between designers and their clients. With transparent insight, they can overcome imagination limits and boost a client’s experience. 

Designers aspire to sell their vision and show their clients the high-end products that are trending. However, hotel owners may struggle to visualise proposed designs with basic 2D renderings of their 3D projects, and therefore may not get on board with the idea. With VR, designers are able to share their thoughts clearly so the clients feel informed and comfortable, without ever needing to go on site. 

Everyone who has refurbished or designed a hotel from scratch has reached that point where they could no longer imagine how all the textiles, pieces of furniture, or material would fit together. With VR, clients are guaranteed to be captivated; they can almost feel the materials, see how the light falls, check how the room works and figure out if a desk really fits in a particular corner.

Additionally, if designers create avant-garde hotel designs and pitch to their clientele using VR, the individual hotel owners can use the 3D renderings as marketing collateral. This could increase room sales and boost hotel revenue through enticing guests – they’ll know what to expect as the rendering of the rooms and communal areas would be identical to their potential holiday lodgings. 

Of course, it is worth remembering that this is a contentious subject with interior design studios in 2021 spending more than ever during pitch phases – a line will need to be drawn at some point to establish how much tech should go into the client pitch in order to not only make it a fair but also to keep the window open for the designer to introduce new ideas/fabrics/furniture once the pitch has been won. There are arguments out there to suggest that VR and too much tech will eliminate this luxury. 

Image of woman walking with VR headset on

Image credit: Unsplash/Stella Jacob

In regards to the consumer-facing experience, the “try before you buy” VR experience for potential hotel guests is already a tried-and-tested model. Hotels such as The Marriott IndyPlace provide virtual tours which allow guests to explore the rooms so they know what they are buying into and this has dramatically boosted conversion rates. The same could work for designers and their clients. 

VR offers a memorable and immersive experience where designers can brainstorm with hotel owners in a 3D environment – they can see their furniture and items to scale, spot mistakes before they happen, zoom, rotate and save time regarding quotes for contractors and suppliers. Not to mention the sustainability factor; VR minimises waste and surplus material. 

How can interior designers embrace VR further in 2021?

Let’s take one of the latest trends in the hospitality business: Home furnishing brands moving into the hotel business as design sources, partners or property owners. In other words, using a specific brand to set a design aesthetic in hotels. Many interior designers have already crossed into the hospitality industry like Kelly Wearstler with San Francisco Proper, or Roman and Williams with Guild Freehand Hotel.

The theory behind the trend is that customers will stay in the properties, have a unique hospitality experience, love the furnishings and want to mimic the look in their own homes. A handful of these hotels even supply a catalogue in the rooms to allow for fast and easy product discovery which some believe “connotes a sense of quality and luxury”. Normally, if we go to a hotel and like the decoration, furniture and accessories, we never dare ask where they are from, and we never find out. 

If these selected hotels had a VR section on their website for virtual tours, there could be an added feature allowing customers to click on any item they loved in their room; the shabby-chic chairs, fringed lamp shades, and those ridiculously comfortable king size beds, and find out exactly where they are from. 

The hotels would seem like a real-life catalogue and spaces to shop. Hotel design would immediately become more accessible for different types of interior designers too – they could pull items out of a hotel room and place that mid-century sofa, Pop Art painting, or geometric fabric into a design they are working on for a client on a VR application. It’s a powerful marketing tool for the hospitality designers, and ideal for residential designers too. 

High-end tech is not only changing the face of international hotel services for guests through virtual hotel tours, enhancing the relationship between hotel and visitor. It is also allowing designers to set themselves apart from their competitors and stay ahead of the curve. These innovations couldn’t be more topical as VR is on track to become an $80 billion industry by 2025. 

Main image credit: Unsplash/Vinicius Amnxamano

Image of blue and yellow modern room with close up of USB port

Part 53: Specifying USB charging sockets

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

GTHD

A GUIDE TO HOTEL DESIGN PT 53:
SPECIFYING USB CHARGING SOCKETS

Relax and recharge, as we speak with Hamilton Litestat’s Sales and Marketing Director, Gavin Williams, on how changing EU regulations will increase reliance on USB charging sockets, and why more than one type of USB port is needed to support devices and futureproof a hotel’s charging capabilities…

Today, ensuring your guests have access to the right electrical wiring solutions to recharge their devices is as important as them having a restful stay. Whether they are relaxing by watching a film on a tablet, or replying to important emails while on a business trip, those devices need to be powered appropriately.

Until now, block plug-in USB chargers have come as standard with battery-powered devices. In a move to reduce electrical waste and the impact this has on the environment, the European Union is looking to stop manufacturers from providing these with every device and move towards a standard USB-type charging connector. One of the first brands to make this change is Apple, which isn’t providing a charging unit with the iPhone 12. An increased demand for USB charging ports is an anticipated fallout from this. But not all USB connectors were created equal.

USB-A vs USB-C

The USB connector we’re probably most familiar with and is used in laptops and remote storage devices is the USB Type A, or USB-A. This has a reasonably large physical connector and offers charging of up to 2.5W. However, a new standard that enables significantly faster charging is on the horizon – the USB Type C, or USB-C. USB-C is physically much smaller and, more importantly, facilitates extremely fast data transfer of up to 10 Gbps and power transfer of 100W for rapid charging.

Unlike the early days of mobile phones where each brand had its own unique charging cable, USB-C is set to become standard across new devices. More than 700 technology companies, including Apple, Dell, Google, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung, have done away with the charging block and adopted the USB-C standard for upcoming products. Demand for USB-C charging ports is set to soar.

Image of luxury clean room with a usb charging socket close up

Image credit: Jonathan Borba/Hamilton Litestat

Charging ahead

Hotels looking to support all visitors and their varied power requirements will need to provide charging options for both legacy devices and the new standard.

Hamilton is supporting the industry with combined double switched 2.4A USB sockets that feature both USB-A and USB-C charging ports. Available in four stylish and versatile plate designs – Hartland, Hartland G2, Hartland CFX and Sheer CFX – and up to eleven finishes, these solutions deliver functionality of the future while ensuring interior style and design aspirations are achieved.

Double switched USB sockets sit perfectly either side of the bed in a guestroom for convenience and style. And with Hamilton offering a vast range of flexible solutions in those plate designs, lighting and other functionality can be delivered with coordinated plates throughout the guestroom.

Since you’re here, why not read Hamilton Litestat’s recent case study, featuring Hotel Indigo Bath?

Power up!

However, faster charging needs more power more rapidly and there are still restrictions on the charging capability from a 13A socket. To deliver the higher rate of charge for high-capacity devices, such as the new MacBook Pro or iPad Pro, a Euro Module is required. Hamilton has recently launched a 45W Type C / 18W Type A Euro Module that is designed to deliver additional power, ensuring power-thirsty devices can charge at full capacity, ensuring guests will never run out of power.

The Euro Module works particularly well in bespoke plates, designed to meet the requirements of the international traveller. Often positioned alongside desk/dressing table areas, guests have everything they need to work, relax, and recharge.

For hotels looking to support their guests in the long term, Hamilton’s USB charging products provide stylish transitional solutions. Supporting legacy devices, along with providing the power needed of the latest high-capacity devices, all guests will be able to both work, relax and recharge without any worries.

Hamilton Litestat was a Session Sponsor at Hotel Designs LIVE in February 2021, and is also a loyal Recommended Supplier. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here

Main image credit: Edelle Bruton/Hamilton Litestat