Futuristic stopover: hotel technology

New hotels are constantly coming up with new ways of setting themselves above the competition. Vision takes a look at where tourists might be staying in years to come

The race to be bigger and better is hotting up in the hotel sector. And if Dubai’s iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel is anything to go by, guest satisfaction is paramount. Famously built on a man-made island, the self-proclaimed ‘world’s most luxurious hotel’ is also among the tallest in the world. (The recently opened JW Marriott Marquis Dubai holds the record for the tallest building solely used as a hotel.)

Man-made islands, though, are so last century – who needs them when you can build underwater instead? The Water Discus Hotel proposes to do just that, if and when it gets built in Dubai. Designed by Polish company Deep Ocean Technology, the flying saucer-like structure rests on five legs, with an underwater section that can be submerged up to 10 metres below sea level. Its modular design allows it to be moved if needed.

Perhaps the most outrageously out-there idea for a new hotel is the proposed Mobilona Space Hotel in Barcelona. It will have a zero gravity spa, a vertical wind tunnel and fully immersive technology in rooms – a few rungs up the luxury ladder from extra cushions on your bed.

“The space hotel blends the latest technology with state of the art design to simulate any place on earth or in the universe,” claims Mobilona CEO Jerome Bottari. Although construction’s yet to begin, there’s already talk of bringing the concept to Dubai and other cities.

Not everyone – included Barcelona’s Mayor – is convinced by the idea. “I actually think hotel technology is becoming too clever,” says British travel journalist James Ellis, co-editor and founder of your-hols.com. “Who needs a dozen different mood lighting combinations and a puzzle of buttons to turn them on and off?”

Ellis believes that it’s real, rather than virtual, space tourism that is likely to be the thing of the near future, as commercial flights beyond the atmosphere become evermore likely. “A real space hotel will not be too far behind,” he says.

Back on planet Earth, Ellis rates the Conrad Rangali Island hotel in the Maldives as his most unusual, and luxurious, stopover. A traditional resort with stilted villas, its underwater restaurant provides stunning views of the Indian Ocean.

“New hotels don’t need to have a technological gimmick to succeed,” says Ellis. “There’s nothing wrong with the space hotel concept, but I think people are now looking beyond luxury for luxury’s sake. Value for money is key in the travel industry – even for the richest people.”