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What will the hotel of tomorrow be like?

Hotel guests are becoming more and more demanding and the world of business and leisure travel is changing rapidly. Few hotels are adapting their off ering to respond to this, however. The Finnish Hotel of Tomorrow project, coordinated by HAAGA-HELIA, off ers an innovative insight into what hotels could do.

HAAGA-HELIA is Finland’s largest private educational institution of its type and has over 10,000 students studying hotel and restaurant management, business, tourism, sports management, journalism, IT, and vocational teacher training. Some 25% of students spend a semester or two studying at a partner university or working as an intern abroad; and close to 1,000 students, representing over 90 nationalities, are enrolled in its degree programmes. Students, lecturers, and corporate partners have the opportunity to take part in a variety of RDI projects, which are currently focused on three strategic themes: service concepts and sales, new business models and technologies, and new learning solutions. Around 30 large collaborative RDI projects are under way, including the Living Lab-based ‘Finnish Hotel of Tomorrow’ (FHOT) project.

A glimpse into the future

The idea behind the FHOT project (www.fhot.fi) has been to create new hotel room concepts by bringing together technology and service companies, researchers, students, and business and leisure travellers to brainstorm and experiment with new types of solutions. By giving people from widely diff ering fields the opportunity to sit down around the same table and bounce ideas off each other and innovate for real-world needs, the project wants to leverage expertise in everything from nanotechnology to travel planning.

Two hotel rooms have been created at the Best Western Hotel Haaga in Helsinki to give people a glimpse of what the hotel rooms of the future could look and feel like. One of these has an ecological focus and the other a more technology-driven one.

For HAAGA-HELIA and its students, the Finnish Hotel of Tomorrow project is already opening up new insights into how the hotel business of the future can best be managed and developed. For the hotel industry, the project off ers an environment for exploring new technical and operational service enhancements.

A key overall goal is to help develop new, competitive business models that can promote the hotel industry as a whole and benefi t those in the industry with only a limited RDI capability of their own. The potential to test service and technology innovations on real guests and integrate their feedback into further product and service development work is a major plus.

Two concept rooms have been developed as part of the Finnish Hotel of Tomorrow project, one focusing on links with the natural world and the other on adaptive guest technology. RFID technology, for example, is being used to tailor in-room music, lighting, and colours to guests’ personal preferences.
> Lauri Tuomi, Ari Björkqvist
(Published in HighTech Finland 2010)