Students design hotels of the future? How times change…

Students design hotels of the future? How times change…

Accor's Novotel competition shows that students can actually be useful. Sometimes.

Accor's Novotel competition shows that students can actually be useful. Sometimes.

Is it me, or are students getting cleverer?

When I was at university, days were usually spent drinking cheap beer in the park, playing football (badly, after all that beer) and trying (and generally failing) to impress girls. Lectures were an inconvenient interruption, and coursework was usually crammed into a manic session the night before deadline.

But now, it seems, students are actually becoming useful. Last week Accor revealed the results of a competition held to reinvent its Novotel brand. The company gathered groups of students from several universities in Asia, and asked them to come up with new ideas for the ‘Hotel of the Future’.

Are students getting cleverer?
Are students getting cleverer?

If that project had been given to the Leeds Met University’s tourism management class of 1999, we would’ve no doubt taken the project to the Headingly Taps, had a few pints and come up with ridiculous suggestions like all-day happy hours and celebrity wrestling matches, before forgetting about it completely.

But Accor’s students actually came up with some pretty decent (and sensible) suggestions. In fact the overall winning entry was an Indian hotel school that devised smartphone app (NOVA – they even gave it an acronym!) that integrates voice recognition technology into hotel operations. Which is all very commendable I suppose, but when you ask a student to invest the ‘Hotel of the Future’, don’t you want something a little more exciting?

I was imagining something a little more ‘Jetsons’, like personal high-speed chutes connecting each room to reception, or robot housekeepers, or gravity-free glass swimming cubes. Instead, the most exciting idea we got was moveable walls.

But I suppose that’s the nature of the world nowadays. The grand space-age inventions of yesteryear have been replaced by a series of gradual, low-key innovations like mobile apps, which are now driving the hotel industry forward. Hotels are now experimenting with mobile room keys, iPad menus and entertainment streaming – innovations that are gradually evolving, rather than revolutionising, the industry.

So perhaps it’s a good job the class of 1999 never did get asked to restructure the hotel industry. We’d’ve never finished it on time anyway.

Mark Elliott
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Mark Elliott
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