HotelTech

Designing a Hotel with Technology at its Heart

22nd February 2020

Throughout the last 10+ years, there has been a new type of hotel emerge. A hotel that brings forward the idea of “Affordable Luxury”. In fact, that very statement was coined by the innovative hotel chain CitizenM.

Since CitizenM burst onto the European scene in 2008/2009 with their first hotel in Amsterdam, actually, Schipol airport Amsterdam, they have grown considerably, every hotel centred around the idea of affordable luxury.

Of course, what happens when you get something so right? You get imitators. As the old saying goes, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery”. In this case, I’d say that’s very true.

As I’m sure regular readers will know by now, this is a hotel technology & travel technology blog. So what I’m certainly not here to do is call out those who are imitating the success of CitizenM. No, as I don’t think that is much use, plus you can draw your own conclusions.

No, we’re going to look at what CitizenM did so right to create this affordable luxury. By designing a hotel with technology at its heart.


A Hotel Technology & Travel Technology blog by HotelTCS. Every week we cover topics concerning Technology in the Hospitality Industry. Looking at subjects such as IPTV, HSIA, WiFi, GPON and IoT, we give you the insider info on Smart Hotels and Intelligent Hotel Deployments. Subscribe below for updates!


Hotel corridor

Designing A Hotel for Luxury with Technology

Launched by two industry veterans, CitizenM was over 3 years in the planning. However, once the first site was open, it was clear their decisions were correct.

As I mentioned before, one of the biggest focuses of CitizenM’s idea was enabling Affordable Luxury. If we’re honest, this is something many of us are looking for. The key here was how could they break the mould, the norm, and achieve this.

Delivering luxury hotels is not easy, however, it is achievable. There are many hotels out there doing it now and doing it very well. The challenge they presented themselves with was delivering that same level of luxury (or feeling) but at an affordable price.

Designing A Hotel – The Traditional Approach

They knew the traditional approach would not work for them. It was not the approach of a new brand. A brand that targeted a new age of traveller. In fact, opening at a time when the Millennial generation began travelling independently.

The full-service/luxury model is not what was required here. Butlers, footmen, and concierges were out. Team members and Hotel technology were in.

Entertainment system

Breaking the Mould in Hotel Design

It was just deploying technology for the sake of it though. Every deployment had to have its place. A clear use-case that contributed to the mantra of affordable luxury.

However, by far the most groundbreaking part of the technology deployment was the integration.

For years when designing hotel technology we have been getting systems to talk to each other. API’s (Application programming interfaces) have been used for some time to enable this. CitizenM’s approach was different. They decided to get every system to talk to just one piece of middleware.

Having the control and integration of the system handling in one place was the genius of this design. No longer waiting for multiple systems to amend API’s and develop the required integration. Now, it was centralised by design.

I’m not here to go into the in-depth technical details of the solution, just the theory. But what a theory!

Designing Hotel Technology Right

Getting the right Hotel technology blend can be a minefield. This is something HotelTCS can help with.

As well as the middleware, that enabled some of the Hotel Technology marvels, they took some steps that the guests could actually see.

The traditional front desk is gone. Team members are there, but they support you to check yourself in at terminals. The personal touch is not gone, instead it augments the technology. Let’s not forget, this is hospitality after all, and our guests expect that!

Ever checked into your room and looked for an iron and ironing board to prepare your shirts for tomorrow? You find yourself phoning down to have one sent up, or using an iron in the room that has seen better days?

It was clear neither of these approaches granted affordable luxury. The answer? Ironing rooms on each floor. Giving guests what they need, but encouraging the social aspect as well.

Male on mac and smartphone

My favourite by far was the lack of a gym. Now, before you jump to conclusions, this is not my way of avoiding a workout.

No, this illustrates CitizenM’s more abstract way of thinking. Who says you can’t work out without a gym?

Using the TV system they enabled guests to not only cast their own workout videos and podcasts to the TV for an in-room workout but also enabled workout videos on the TV for those that didn’t already have favourites!

Think Video On Demand in hotels is dead? CitizenM didn’t. They could see that guests still wanted to consume content, and made it as easy as possible, and affordable. The last time I looked, the uptake was over 2 movies per room per day. Conclusive to say the least.

They really did bring so many great ideas, the above just being a sample of my favourites. They pioneered content casting in hotels. The WiFi was always free. The Lobby became a co-working space before people even knew that’s what they wanted.

Free WiFi HSIA

So, Are you Designing a Hotel?

Hopefully, the points above give you something to think about in your hotel design. Maybe you are designing a hotel, and want to bring affordable luxury to your guests through technology too. Bringing the right team together and think outside the box.

Building technologically advanced hotels is a favourite subject of mine and one I am so passionate about, as it’s an easy area to see money wasted by very simple mistakes.

Also, if you love IoT, we’ve looked at this not once, but twice before! Read, enjoy, comment and share!

Hotel Technology Design

Here at HotelTCS, we are experts in Hotel Technology and brand standards. If you are involved in hotel construction and want to know how we can help you avoid costly mistakes, contact us now. Maybe you need someone to help you understand how to get the right Hotel Technology for your guests. HotelTCS can help.

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You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Reddit for our favourite Hotel Technology content.

You may also enjoy some of our other articles, such as “A Hotel is Just a Building”, “Can Intelligent Hotels find their voice?” and “The Fate of Hotel HSIA”.

This Blog is also fortunate to be featured on the Feedspot Top 200 Hotel Blogs. Take a look at all the featured blogs!

Latest From HotelTCS


About The Author

James Harrison is a technology consultant who’s main focus is how hotels use technology in the Guest room.

James has a passion for both technology and the written word, producing regular content on technology in the hospitality industry. Connect with him for more insights – LinkedIn.


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About HotelTCS

HotelTCS brings years of experience in technology solutions for the hospitality sector to your team. With global coverage, HotelTCS can provide consultancy and on-site engineering resource to ensure that your hotel has the technology it deserves.

HotelTCS can help you avoid costly mistakes and determine the exact requirements, to ensure your clients have the technology experience they deserve.

Creators of VLOG and BLOG content dedicated to the Hospitality & Travel Technology Sector. Contact us if you need help with your content! Using our experience and knowledge in this sector we can create content for you.

Is Personalisation Dead in Hospitality?

14th January 2020

If reports are to be believed, a personalised service in hotels could soon be the thing of the past, but is this the right direction of travel?

In this post we are going to take a look at how guests expect to feel special in their stay, brand loyalty, how technology plays it part and why hotels should think twice before considering generalisation.

Read on to find out more.


A Hotel Technology & Travel Technology blog by HotelTCS. Every week we cover topics concerning Technology in the Hospitality Industry. Looking at subjects such as IPTV, HSIA, WiFi, GPON and IoT, we give you the insider info on Smart Hotels and Intelligent Hotel Deployments. Subscribe below for updates!


Is personalisation a Key Part of the Hotel Experience?

It’s 2020 and here we are discussing personalisation. Something that’s been with us in hotels for a long time.

The question is, have we ever got it right? Have we been doing it wrong for so long that it doesn’t matter anymore? As part of Digital with Simone Puorto on FunnelTV, we recently discussed “Is Personalisation Dead in Hospitality”. A section of the discussion is on the Hospitality tech Vlog by HotelTCS below.

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So, according to a report by Gartner, 80% of marketers will stop investing in personalisation by 2025. This is primarily due to a lack of return on investment. How will this affect hotels?

Downward trend graph - The way personalised service in hotels has been heading!

What is personalised service in hotels?

The personalised experience has long been part of any hotel stay. “Welcome back” at the front desk, “Greetings Mr Harrison” on the TV, a room near the lift (Ok elevator, I’m British you know).

These are all things we have taken benefits from, and all examples of personalisation. So, if these things add to the experience, why are hotels not seeing the ROI?

The Difficulty of Data

When we are talking about personalised service in hotels, the first thing we have to consider is data.

Data security is critically important. Whatever part of the world you reside in there are rules around how data should be handled and extracted, and quite rightly so.

Simone hits on this point in the video, that there are many challenges involved with extracting data from a system and securing it during the extraction and transfer. So much so, we end up with a culture of not allowing data out of systems. We have started to create silos.

Padlock - Silos and locked down ecosystems prevented personalised service in hotels

Personalised Service Driven by Expectation

By 2020 personalisation has become commonplace. In fact, for many years now a personal experience, especially in hospitality, is the norm. Brands have built loyalty schemes purely to capture data to enable a unique experience that would keep guests coming back.

As a guest, we expect this. We expect it so much we are no longer wowed by it.

Our name on the TV? Big deal. The concierge answering the phone with “Good evening Mr Harrison”, so what? Always sparkling water in my room instead of still? of course!

This normalisation and expectation leaves the average guest needing more to be wowed.

Now, this is not to say they wouldn’t notice if it was taken away. They would. It’s more to say that these things are the starting point, ground level if you will.

Taking a personalised service to a new level is what makes us feel special, and why wouldn’t hotels want this for their guests? We need to develop a personalised service in hotels and go big if we want to make a statement.

Mihai hit’s on this point in the video, “People want to feel special, and you can’t generalise someone and make them feel special”. How very true. Many of us want that rock star experience, even if it is only for a minute.

A flaming guitar - The rock star experience is part of personalised service in hotels.

Personalisation from a New Generation

Before you get worried that this is yet another post about Millennials and Gen Z, I can assure you it’s not.

No, now there is a new generation of software providers. New services. New cultures. Those who are ‘open to being open’ – My favourite phrase.

These solution providers are not necessarily providing software that is revolutionary in itself (for the most part). It is more about the way they choose to deliver the solution.

Software as a Service (SaaS), cloud software etc have all been with us for some time. Any new solution brought to market will be developed on a service model, this is expected. The winning formula is that these companies are open to being open.

An open door. Being open to being open is a big part of personalised service in hotels.

Eating Serial for Breakfast

It’s not that long ago that I was designing solutions for hotels that interfaced with the on-premise property management system (PMS) via Serial. The on-premise PMS being a server in the basement.

We kept it this way as we had our own silo. All the data on a physical box under lock and key. Safe and secure. Except we soon learned that this wasn’t entirely true, it just seemed like it was.

Over the years these solutions migrated to cloud hosting and service-based models, but still, there was a reluctance to allow anything friendly in or out. This could easily lead to the feeling that personalisation is dead in hospitality.

While this slow adoption occurred, our new generation came to the market. Small, hidden and fighting, but there.

While they struggled to make major inroads with the big chains, they found success in other areas. This drove the adoption of the being open to being open mindset.

Suddenly companies did not have to wait 6 months and spend upwards of $20,000 USD for an interface to a PMS.

Through solution-wide adoption of open API’s and strict adherence to local data protection rules, it was finally a time to ditch the silos.

So, Personalisation in Hospitality is Dead then?

Well, it certainly looked like it was dying, but in my opinion, no.

As I said above, personalisation can bring the rock star experience. The rock star experience that keeps bringing people back. While this might not work in every area of life, this is a winner for hotels. This is why hotels continue to invest in loyalty programmes.

Far be it from being completely out of hotels by 2025, I see the next 5 years as key. 5 years to move from the average personalised experience to one that really is key.

In a more open world, your stay and preference data can be used to create the ultimate stay. An ultimate stay that you want again, and again, and again.

View the HotelTCS VLOG post covering this here.

This Blog is also fortunate to be featured on the Feedspot Top 200 Hotel Blogs. Take a look at all the featured blogs!

Latest From HotelTCS


About The Author

James Harrison is a technology consultant who’s main focus is how hotels use technology in the Guest room.

James has a passion for both technology and the written word, producing regular content on technology in the hospitality industry. Connect with him for more insights – LinkedIn.


Sign Up

Join our mailing list to be the first to read our latest articles.

Enter your email address below to receive our weekly newsletter covering the latest in Hotel & Travel Technology




About HotelTCS

HotelTCS brings years of experience in technology solutions for the hospitality sector to your team. With global coverage, HotelTCS can provide consultancy and on-site engineering resource to ensure that your hotel has the technology it deserves.

HotelTCS can help you avoid costly mistakes and determine the exact requirements, to ensure your clients have the technology experience they deserve.

Creators of VLOG and BLOG content dedicated to the Hospitality & Travel Technology Sector. Contact us if you need help with your content! Using our experience and knowledge in this sector we can create content for you.