As the number of tech devices that guests travel with increases, hoteliers are finding creative ways to incorporate charging ports in casegoods as well as shifting away from traditional three-pronged outlets.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—A single guest can have up to three to four devices on them, and that number can multiply exponentially with couples and families, which means hotels need to have plenty of charging outlets for wherever guests will be, said Terri Ryan, VP of upscale operations, Cambria Hotels at Choice Hotels International.
This demand for more outlets also comes with ensuring that the types of outlets are up to the standards of the current mobile devices that guests are using.
Ryan said there’s more of a push for USB ports instead of the three-pronged outlets, and where they are located throughout the guestrooms and public spaces is also changing.
“You’re seeing lighting and casegood manufacturers including the actual charging units in their furniture,” she said.
In the past, outlets in guestrooms were hidden behind furniture, but now they need to be displayed so that everyone can see them, said Connie Jackson, senior project director at Wilson Associates.
Wherever a guest is relaxing, “we’ve got to have the ports there,” she added.
How ports are being incorporated into FF&E
Jackson said she’s working on the Hilton Americas-Houston and is doing a soft-goods renovation as well as replacing some pieces like the dresser and nightstand so data ports could be added for charging.
She added that gone are the days of putting extra outlets in the lamps because she saw lamp shades were getting damaged. As an alternative, she said Wilson Associates implemented a plate above each guestroom nightstand that includes a duplex outlet and two USB ports at a Montage property.
In addition to having charging ports incorporated into furniture, Jackson said Wilson Associates is also adding spaces in guestrooms that have built-in duplex outlets behind a locked door, which is either mounted in a furniture piece or in the guestroom closet.
“We find that the average customer who is traveling comes with their cellphone, they have their company cellphone and they have their iPad for entertainment and then they might even have their computer, so we’re trying to give them as many ports for charging as possible,” she said.
Within Cambria’s portfolio, which attracts the modern business traveler, Ryan said that easy accessibility for charging is key. In the lobby spaces, she said there are power ports built into the arm of the sofas. At the bars, there are purse hooks with charging capabilities adjacent to them.
There’s also a need for furniture to include charging capabilities in meeting rooms, she said, such as building outlets underneath the conference tables. Not only are these furniture options becoming more functional, they are also becoming more aesthetically pleasing, she said.
“Historically, you often saw the old extension cords run across the floor,” she said.
Jackson said part of the vetting process with vendors is making sure the furniture can supply everything from duplex outlets to USB to HDMI ports in meeting rooms.
At the Renaissance Atlanta Airport Gateway Hotel, Rottet Studio designed a lounge called the Studio Lounge for displaced travelers to relax and recharge, said Lauren Rottet, founding principal and president of Rottet Studio.
The area features a long walnut-framed sofa with built-in USB ports that charge devices, she said in an email interview.
“Charging stations have become an expectation in today’s world, especially when traveling,” she said.
Rottet said USB ports, at least for the time being, are universal with most devices, but keeping a “universal phone charger ‘squid’ is a good option to cater to all guests as it will cater to any device should a guest not have a USB adapter.”
She said there are a lot of devices which require many different charging sources, “especially if you consider those outlets from those overseas,” so it’s key to offer as many options as possible.
Keeping up with trends
Ryan said keeping up with the trends requires some future proofing as well as continuing education.
“Whether that comes from conferences or being involved on tech counsels … our design and construction team, they really operate in an environment of continuous improvement,” she said. “We’re always looking for new ways to improve what our offerings are. We work very, very closely with our franchisees and our guests; we constantly solicit that feedback to ensure we’re meeting their needs.”
Cambria has 40 hotels open now and will continue to work with their partners to pilot trends that make sense for travelers’ needs, Ryan said.
For example, she said one of the things the brand is looking at now is wireless charging options.
“That is simply a surface on a piece of furniture where that entire surface has the capability to act as wireless charging,” she said. “That’s something we’re going to be looking at.”
Jackson said for existing properties, it can be expensive to take outlets out that are behind the guestroom bed and relocate it to above the night stand. So in new-builds, the charging ports are now automatically added into the casegoods, she said.