Pets, Pelotons and zero-proof cocktails: Hotel trends we’re expecting in 2022
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Hotels are constantly evolving, but their core purpose mostly stays the same: to give travelers a place to make a temporary home. While timeless in theory, the walls around a hotel bed are constantly being refreshed with new paint, new technology and new schools of thought about how to best serve travelers. Hey, even the bed changes over time.
As we look forward to 2022, there are a lot of things we can expect about hotels to be different, from the way we literally open the door to the food and drinks we eat while staying.
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And as we continue to live through the pandemic, we find that COVID-19 has altered the way hotels function as well.
To give you a little insight into how hotels are changing, we’ve pulled together a list of some of the changes we’re most excited about or feel like will be most notable in the coming year. While we can’t predict everything, our team is constantly out in the world looking to see how hotels are evolving and we’ll keep you updated throughout the year as we experience them firsthand.
Until then, here’s what to be on the lookout for in 2022:
Goodbye hotel keys
If you’re like me and love to save your hotel key after a trip as a souvenir, you’ll be disappointed to hear that physical hotel keys might finally be a thing of the past. Over the years, many hotel brands have added digital keys to their apps, including Hilton and Marriott. The technology isn’t necessarily new, but as hotels are constantly upgrading their technology and working to reduce physical manpower, digital keys and check-in are on the rise.
In fact, earlier this year Hilton made it possible to even digitally share a room key. For Hilton alone, the digital key service, which launched in 2015, has helped eliminate 125 tons of plastic waste.
Now even Apple is involved. The tech giant is teaming up with Hyatt to introduce hotel keys into the Apple Wallet so guests can get into rooms and other areas that require key access using their iPhones or Apple Watches.
Alongside digital keys, hotel rooms themselves are becoming more integrated with hotel apps, and soon it shouldn’t be uncommon to be able to set the temperature and lighting of your room before you even walk in for the first time. At many hotels, guests can already request room service or extra towels directly through the app, and those features will only grow from here.
This is a trend to watch over the next year, especially as we adapt to a more digital world where our phones are proof of vaccination, credit cards, airline tickets and more.
On-site COVID-19 testing
It’s wild to think that we’re basically two entire years into the global COVID-19 pandemic. If you told me in January of 2020 that I’d be basing my hotel searches for future travel around how easy it is to have a giant Q-tip stuck up my nose, I’d say you were crazy. But now, as we all know, that’s a reality.
As we continue to live with COVID-19 and countries decide to stay open and allow travel with health and testing restrictions, it’s safe to assume that more and more hotels will offer guests easier ways to meet those specific demands.
Many hotels around the world are already offering on-site testing, like the Curacao Marriott Beach Resort, which has a testing faculty open to guests from 7 a.m to 11 a.m. Guests staying a minimum of four nights get a free COVID-19 test with a one-hour result upon departure.
Other hotels around the world are offering guests DIY testing or helping to arrange appointments at local testing centers or clinics. And while I’m sure this isn’t something we’ll have to think about forever, it is nice to know that your hotel has your back just in case testing requirements change while you’re away or if you simply start to feel unwell. As testing becomes even easier and more available around the world, hotels — at least in popular destinations and resort areas — will probably continue to help offer this service to attract travelers in the constantly evolving COVID-19 climate.
Pets are the star guest
During the pandemic, chances are you or someone you know adopted a pet. In fact, adopting a dog in New York City in the last two years has been almost impossible. When travel started ramping up again, hotels realized that people wanted to travel with their four-legged friends in tow. For many hotels that meant changing policies to allow pets at all; for others, it meant building out entirely new programs specifically catering to people with pets.
According to information shared by Hilton, 23 million U.S. homes welcomed a new pet during the pandemic, and of those homes, 65% said they were interested in traveling with their new fluffy friend. Even further, Hilton’s No. 3 booking filter in 2021 was “pet-friendly.”
Hotels are responding by offering special packages that include everything from the basics — like a dog bed and food and water bowls — all the way to luxury pet menus created by chefs at in-house restaurants.
As we continue to blur the lines between travel and work, hotels are realizing that Fido has to be considered, too. Next year, as we’re still being marketed work-from-anywhere packages and long-term stays, expect to also see hotels try to lure in those of us committed to vacationing with man’s best friend (or a cat, I guess).
Wellness, fitness and beyond
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past two years, it’s that prioritizing our mental and physical health is key. Wellness trends are nothing new in the hotel space, but they’ve really taken on new meaning over the course of the pandemic.
Next year, expect to see a whole range of new health and wellness offerings at hotels dotting the globe, and not just in the destination hotels already dedicated to relaxing and unwinding. From in-room meditation apps to on-screen guided workouts, hotels are trying to bring a sense of clarity and well-being directly into your room.
In the last year, I was shocked by the number of hotel rooms that had in-room yoga mats (though I’ll be quick to admit I never used them). Other hotels are introducing state-of-the-art equipment into rooms as well, like Mirror, an all-in-one digital workout system that doubles as, you guessed it, a mirror. To me, that’s a brilliant system because it has a dual purpose in the room. If you haven’t seen one yet, don’t be shocked if you do in the future.
Outside of the room, fitness centers are taking on new roles, offering group classes like yoga and Pilates as well as breathing and meditation classes. And in terms of equipment, hotels are responding to the high demand for systems like Peloton, where guests can log on and continue their fitness journey just like they would at home. I think Pelotons, and the like, will be the norm in hotels moving forward; hopefully, they can just come up with a better system of reserving them throughout the day.
Food and drinks options will be more specialized
From the news I’ve been getting over the months from hotels about food and drink service, it’s clear that hotel brands are realizing that travelers care more about food than ever before — and in a bunch of different ways.
For the health-conscious traveler, hotels are introducing options that are gluten-, dairy- and meat-free. For example, Marriott recently announced it is rolling out new healthy options to over 3,000 hotels, and the menu includes build-your-own bowls of yogurt or oatmeal with healthy toppings like pumpkin seeds and coconut flakes. At Aloft hotels, Beyond Meat breakfast sandwiches and Oatly oat milk are now available.
In the bar space, plenty of brands are taking on new measures to help people who are living the “zero-proof” lifestyle, meaning they’ll imbibe on a mocktail or nonalcoholic beer or wine. Hyatt is introducing a new program called “Zero Proof, Zero Judgement,” at a handful of hotels, including the Alila Napa Valley and Thompson San Antonio, to build a specialty cocktail program that forgoes alcohol.
Sustainability (and housekeeping)
I’ve written about this over and over again, but sustainability will continue to be a key factor driving changes at hotels and informing decision-making up the chain of major hotel brands. There are obvious ways that hotels will continue to implement sustainable changes, like removing plastic products in bathrooms, moving to digital hotel keys (as mentioned above) and making food and beverage options more environmentally friendly.
Just last month, IHG CEO Keith Barr said to grab those little bottles while you can, because he doesn’t expect them to be around much longer.
But for us, the sustainability movement has also become a point of contention. Not because we don’t care about the environment, but because it seems many hotel brands are using sustainability (along with the pandemic) as a means to forgo even the most basic housekeeping.
In terms of sustainability, we’re fine sleeping on the same sheets multiple nights in a row and reusing our towels, but we’re hoping next year hotels will actually come in each day and remake our beds instead of just empty the trashcans. It’s part of the luxury of staying in a hotel, and as I wrote before, hotels aren’t our homes — and that’s exactly why they shouldn’t end daily housekeeping.
There are a lot of exciting things to look forward to next year when it comes to hotels. Personally, I want to take my dog (the corgi pictured above) everywhere, including an all-inclusive resort. And while I’m not personally too into wellness, I think next year I’ll lean more into the trend to see if it helps take the edge off the wild world we’re all living in.
I’m excited to see how the digital shift makes travel more convenient, but I hope hotels don’t start to lose the personal touch that makes them special. I try, as much as possible, to engage with the people who make the place I’m visiting special, and if my iPhone is the only one I talk to, I wonder what else it takes away from the experience.
Now it’s time to start planning where you’ll head first next year. If you find something interesting, let us know. And, as always, we’ll be doing the same for you.
Featured photo courtesy of the Napa Valley Marriott.
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