Hotels of the future: Virtual reality, customized wardrobes

Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

One of the biggest stories in luxury since the most recent recession has been that of its evolution from opulence to experiential travel.

And that zest for those unique, once-in-lifetime, immersive experiences will move to new levels in the years ahead via virtual reality, or VR, technology, fantasy escapes and amenities like customized in-room wardrobes developed with 3D printed technology, according to futurist Faith Popcorn.

A well-known author, trend spotter and founder of the marketing and consulting firm BrainReserve, Popcorn was commissioned by InterContinental Hotels Group: For the 70th anniversary of its eponymous luxury brand, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, she was asked to put together luxury travel trend predictions for the next 70 years.

A rendering of the InterContinental Songjiang, a property currently under construction in the Songjiang District of Shanghai in an abandoned quarry.
A rendering of the InterContinental Songjiang, a property currently under construction in the Songjiang District of Shanghai in an abandoned quarry.

According to InterContinental, Popcorn focused on guest experience, service, destinations and hotel design.

“Consumers will be craving immersive experiences which will allow them to indulge in luxury in both a physical and a virtual sense,” Popcorn said. “By harnessing virtual reality and the constant flow of personal likes, dislikes and bio-data, hotels will be able to provide guests with once-in-a-lifetime experiences seamlessly and spontaneously -- or so it will seem.”

Among the adventure and amenities Popcorn envisions:

“Clanning” experiences, i.e. using VR technology to enable travelers to share adventures in real time with friends and family around the world.

Customized wardrobes, in which hotels partners with fashion brands to use 3D printer technology to develop clothing based on guests’ personal tastes, online shopping habits, size and local weather conditions.

Fantasy escapes, which will provide guests with game-like environments for extreme, previously unattainable experiences, including living out dangerous scenarios in a safe environment.

As for room and hotel design, Popcorn says that by 2086 as space itself becomes the ultimate luxury, virtual reality will evolve interior design so that it can be tailored to guests through holographic wall art and fully adjustable interiors.

Additionally, she says, with 70% of the world’s population expected to be living in urban environments by 2050, the design and structure of luxury hotels will change dramatically to include architectural solutions such as ‘building down,” or underground. And Popcorn posits that luxury hotels will create different wings or rooms that offer a range of cultural experiences from around the globe.

While the predictions are just that -- predictions -- InterContinental also said that for the more immediate future it has partnered with Tara Bernerd, a London-based interior designer who specializes in luxury hotel design, to develop a new design philosophy for its hotels.

The collaborations, said Simon Scoot, vice president of global brand strategy, “further ensures the InterContinental brand remains at the forefront of luxury travel.”

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