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December 15, 2011

IT and eco design – wrapping up the top hotel innovations of 2011

Innovative design concepts in IT and eco-design are at the heart of cutting edge hospitality. To wrap up 2011, Rowan Watt-Pringle takes a look at some of the most innovative IT concepts and eco-design strategies in the global hotel industry.

By Daniel Garrun

Innovative IT solutions – the cloud

Indian software provider HMS Infotech, which focuses on developing innovative solutions for the hospitality and travel sector, boasts an all-inclusive offering that is taking the hotel industry by storm, called the Hotelogix hotel management system – a simple, easily adaptable cloud-based property management solution (PMS) already active in more than 30 countries around the world.

"Touting itself as an ‘eco-vision hotel’ based on eco-design concepts, the Hacienda Chichen has a very low construction density."

According to Aditya Singh, CEO and co-founder of Hotelogix: "The hospitality industry is leaping to cloud-based applications because of its unique ‘anytime anywhere’ access – which every hotelier needs today – and tremendous infrastructure savings, efficiency and ease-of-use benefits."

Rick Sternitzke, Swisscom Hospitality Services Chief Technical Officer, explained further that cloud-based software – which moves existing property operations from the physical world and centralises them in the virtual realm – has been a long time in the making: "The hotel is by definition a complex IT construction. Most system environments have evolved intermittently rather than systematically (and most hotels) are probably running a combination of 1980s, 1990s and more current technology."

Sternitzke went on to qualify this: "However, our industry is changing. Almost every class of application and their associated software is changing to a web-based model. It is conceivable that only internet-ready software might exist a mere five years from now."

Coyle Hospitality’s research team, meanwhile, highlighted some of the innovations being adopted by New York’s luxury hotels, thanks to reports in February from the company’s hotel mystery shoppers.

The world-renowned Plaza, for example, now offers every guest an iPad from which they can make reservations, explore destination guides, communicate with the concierge and much more besides.

The Hyatt, meanwhile, offers hypo-allergenic rooms, providing comfort for asthma sufferers thanks to a medical air purifier.

There are numerous examples of technology driving innovation in hotels, not least in the field of eco-design. From wireless thermostats that save energy and costs by automatically adjusting room temperature when someone leaves or enters, to adopting electronic communications instead of using vast reams of paper, eco-friendly technology and designs are ever-increasingly coming to the fore.

Eco-design concepts

As Sarah ALEXANDER from US non-profit Zero Waste Alliance pointed out in a study on green hotels, increasing tourism places added strain on the environment, meaning eco-design concepts will play an increasingly central role in the hospitality sector, while "environmentally responsible business practices … harmonize (sic) tourism and environmental sustainability."

Alexander went on to assert that: "The most costly and wasteful use of resources in hotels are usually in the consumption of non-renewable energy, excessive water use and the generation of waste."

This is mirrored in the fields as most hotels are adopting ‘green’ practices, with numerous examples of hotels around the world that have embraced a holistic eco-friendly design approach in unique and innovative ways. The following are just a few of these green resorts:

Alila Villas Uluwatu – Bali, Indonesia

Singapore-based Woha Designs, which boasts a worldwide reputation for innovative tropical environment designs, incorporated a number of Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) principles into the design of Alila Villas Uluwatu in Bali.

Director Richard Hassell highlighted just a few of these ESD measures, such as the use of local materials during construction and water conservation through a combination of soaks, rain gardens and greywater recycling systems.

As Hassell pointed out, because ESD has been built into the resort from the beginning: "There will be a strong combination of the built fabric and on-going operations side working together to reduce the long term ecological footprint of the resort."

ARIA Resort & Casino – Las Vegas, USA

The Aria Resort in Las Vegas boasts cutting edge architecture from leading architects Pelli Clarke Pelli, with all 4,004 guestrooms enjoying substantial natural light thanks to panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows.

"’The Cloud’ will also help simplify the holiday experience as well as optimise eco-considerations."

Aria has received LEED Gold Certification from the US Green Building council, as well as the highest level of recognition from the Green Key Eco-Rating Program (the largest international programme evaluating sustainable hotel operations), but perhaps its crowning glory is the Crystals shopping district at the new CityCentre development in Las Vegas.

Crystals – winner of a Gold Design and Development Award from the International Council of Shopping Centres (ICSC), recognising cutting-edge properties and outstanding, innovative designs – features a multifaceted glass canopy imitating the intricacies of a quartz crystal and focusing the abundance of natural light in Nevada into its three-level experiential environment.

Hacienda Chichen Resort – Yucatán, Mexico

The Hacienda Chichen resort boasts numerous green design features and initiatives, priding itself on both environmental and community sustainability (99% of staff, including management and owners, are rural Mayan people). Novel design concepts include man-made wetlands that both attract wildlife and help purify and recycle used water.

Touting itself as an ‘eco-vision hotel’ based on eco-design concepts, the Hacienda Chichen has a very low construction density, dedicating just 0.8% of its 300-hectare grounds to constructed areas. More than 80 hectares is devoted to a Maya Jungle Private Reserve, sustaining native fauna and flora.

"According to Aditya Singh, CEO and co-founder of Hotelogix: "The hospitality industry is leaping to cloud-based applications.""

The resort is also based on recycled building materials. In a unique historic example of repurposing, it was built by Spanish Conquistadors using Mayan temple stones in the 16th Century, and recycled materials have been used whenever possible ever since.

Other hotels based on innovative eco-designs include The Scarlet in Cornwall, England, where the hotel roof is made up of plants that assist with insulation and provide a habitat for a variety of wildlife, as well as the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers in Denmark, which was named the World’s Greenest Hotel in 2010.

The 85-m high hotel’s façade is made up of solar panels, while the exercise bikes in the gym help to supply the building with electricity.

It is likely that technological and eco-design considerations will continue to converge as hotels worldwide seek to reduce their carbon footprint while at the same time providing cutting edge technology to provide guests with an unforgettable experience.

‘The Cloud’ will also help simplify the holiday experience as well as optimise eco-considerations. However, Sternitzke warns that integrating this technology is not devoid of difficulties, and concluded: "Cloud Computing is sure to come to hospitality but it will arrive slowly. While the concept has been successfully tested by new hotel brands, to whom it has given a head start, most hotels are not in a position yet to simply move certain systems above property level."

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