Hyatt hotels offer hypoallergenic rooms

While down pillows and duvets add a plush decor to hotel beds, allergy sufferers find this added perk a nuisance and not a luxury. Hypoallergenic pillows and non-fragrant amenities can be requested from any hotel guest, but would it be easier to just designate a few rooms in the hotel as “hypoallergenic rooms”?

Hyatt thinks so, which is why the hotel company announced their “allergy friendly rooms” across its brand of hotels.

The rooms will be priced at an extra $20 to $30 per night, but will be free of dust mites, which live and multiply in bedding, carpeting and upholstered furniture. The move comes as Hyatt and other hoteliers look to capitalize on the growing number of allergy sufferers. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 54 percent of Americans are sensitive to at least one allergen, which results in sneezing, itching and in some cases, asthmatic attacks. The presence of odors, mold, dust or animal dander can be harmful to those with severe allergies.

To help alleviate the suffering for some travelers, Hyatt is relying on Pure Solutions, a privately held New York-based company that claims it can remove 98 percent of bacteria and viruses from hotel rooms. With this new partnership, Hyatt plans to designate a total of 2,000 rooms at 125 Hyatt Resort, Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt and Andaz properties across the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean as hypoallergenic rooms available by the end of 2010. If the rooms prove to be popular, Hyatt will pay to expand the program.Just how will Pure rid the rooms of allergens?

“Pure’s technicians first take apart the air-handling system in the room, disinfect the parts, treat them with an agent to ward off moisture and add a tea tree oil cartridge that releases a natural anti-microbial agent. After disinfecting every surface in the room, Pure “shocks” the room for two to three hours with highly concentrated ozone to kill mold, bacteria and other unwanted organisms. They then spray carpets, curtains and surfaces with a bacteriostatic shield, Brault said, which lasts up to two and a half years and bonds with bacteria on a molecular level.”

The rooms are also equipped with medical-grade purifiers that eliminate dust, odor and small particles; beds and pillows are encased in microfiber that is impenetrable to dust mites, and allergens in the pillow feathers are removed.

The idea and effort behind these rooms are worthy of accolades but I have to wonder: Why not just do it for all rooms? Surely, everyone would appreciate breathing a little easier at night.

To find a hypoallergenic room, visit

New Wisconsin hotel smoking ban: big fines, no choice

Wisconsin has just cracked down on smokers from out of state. It’s only the second state with a smoking ban that applies to every hotel room in the state. This differs from most smoking bans, like the one in Kansas, in which the properties can allow smoking in a certain percentage of guestrooms. Michigan is the only other state with a hotel smoking ban this severe.

The hotel business in Wisconsin wasn’t thrilled about the legislation and did push against it. The greatest challenge, however, seems to be convincing the guests that it’s not a scam – that the ban is actually the law. It’s a lesson worth learning, for guests, because the consequences are severe. Notes USA Today:

Wisconsin’s roughly 2,000 hotels post signs declaring their building a non-smoking facility. They’re also requiring guests to initial a statement promising to comply or face paying a fee. Hotels are charging penalty fees anywhere from $100 to $300, she said.

[photo by ell brown via Flickr]

10 high-tech innovations invading the hotel world

Earlier this month, Melanie listed a couple of hotels that are investing in new technology to keep their guests pampered. As Melanie so correctly points out, guests are no longer content with an iPod dock. In this list, you’ll find ten ways hotels are adding new technology to their rooms, and how it can help make your stay more enjoyable (or more complicated.)

Whether the new technology makes it easier to book a room, stay entertained in your room, or make you more comfortable, all investments made by hotels should be applauded, especially when so many chains do the opposite and cheapen out.Mobile apps

Making the move into the online application world makes sense for hotels – they make their money off selling rooms, and the easier it is to book a room, the more money they’ll make. Many of the large hotel chains already offer mobile versions of their web site, but some have commissioned their own mobile application.

Being able to open a mobile app, locate the closest hotel and book it right on your device saves the hotel the cost of phone agents, and makes for happier guests.

Self service check-in kiosk

I’m in love with these new self-service check-in terminals. Thanks to these, I walk into the lobby, swipe my card, and get a room key. All without having to wait in line for the front desk. I’m not entirely sure how I can get a key with four taps on a screen, when the front desk staff seem to require five minutes staring at their screen to perform the same task, but I secretly hope more hotels introduce these new terminals as soon as they can.

Internet phones and feature phones

VOIP and feature phones take the boring hotel phone way beyond its original purpose. At some properties, these phones also offer the news and weather, assist with in-room dining choices and let you read email.

With all this information at your fingertips, you also no longer need the in-room hotel guide, which obviously saves the hotel a ton of money (and countless trees). Of course, as with all new technology, there will be people who’d rather keep things the old fashioned way, but the geek in me loves large screens and more buttons.

Loaner ipad and ebook readers

Sure, a lot of what goes into the “loaner iPad” is just marketing, and it does look good when publications mention your hotel chain and show people how hip you are, but there is also a convenience aspect involved.

I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to book a hotel that has free loaner iPads or Amazon Kindles, but I’d certainly not say no if one were offered for the duration of my stay.

Other hotels are using the iPad as a way to provide their concierge service with more up to date information, mobile maps and other mobile resources.

Faster internet

Lets ignore the pains of paying for Internet for a moment, even when you get free Internet, the speeds are often horrid. Many hotels installed their Internet infrastructure in the early 2000’s, and haven’t changed anything since. The problem with this is that Internet usage has changed in the past decade. In 2001, most people just wanted to grab some email and write a document. Nowadays, we are getting on a VPN, watching streaming video and checking out stupid Youtube clips sent by coworkers.

Bottom line is that the infrastructure in many hotels is not up to the task. Thankfully, some hotels understand this, and replace or upgrade their systems. In the photo above, you’ll see what a great hotel Internet service looks like. This example was made at the Hotel Arista in Naperville.

Online check-in

Surprisingly, the hospitality industry is playing catch-up with the aviation industry, and this in a world where the aviation industry is usually years behind the rest of the world. Online check-in is slowly appearing at some hotel chains. The advantage of this is that you can make sure the hotel keeps your room booked, even if you don’t show up till midnight. Some chains are even experimenting with online room selection charts, just like airlines let you pick your own seat. So, next time you had a bad experience with a specific room, you can avoid it well in advance.

Room access innovations

Hands up if you have ever walked to your room, luggage dragging behind you, only to discover that the damn room key doesn’t work…

Without exaggerating, I’d say that I experience this in one in ten stays. So, I’m happy to see that some hotels are innovating in room access technologies.

The Hotel On Rivington in New York installed RFID card readers on their doors, which means you no longer need to fiddle with your keycard – just wave the carde in front of the door, and it’ll unlock. No risk of wiping it with your mobile phone, or putting it in the wrong way.

Starting this year, several Holiday Inn properties will start a trial with smartphone operated door keys. With this system, your room key will be sent directly to your mobile phone, and you’ll be able to unlock your door without the need for a key.

HDTV and plug panels

I love connecting my own device to the hotel TV – it gives me a way to escape the mediocre programming and dreadful hotel promotional channels, and watch whatever I want. Thankfully, some chains understand this, and make it easier than ever to connect my own gadgetry to the TV. Hilton’s Homewood Suites and Hyatt Place properties are good examples of hotels that have innovated here.

Thankfully, not all hotels put HDTV’s in their rooms without adding HD content – many properties are investing in HD programming, and even offer HD video on demand. Some chains even offer interactive hotel guides on the TV, once again replacing the old hotel guide binder.

Social media initiatives

Hotels are in love with social media – and who can blame them? They follow their customers and offer them what they want.

Now, not all chains are as active as they should be, and some limit their activities to mentioning their latest press releases. Others have dedicated social media staff members who monitor all the various outlets, put together promotions and communicate with their guests. Examples of hotel chains that understand social media are Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Affinia, The Charles and Kimpton hotels.

Many of these companies also have dedicated Twitter and Facebook pages for individual properties. Following their pages won’t just keep you up to date on the latest press releases – many chains also post “secret” deals to their social media followers.

Media panels

I first came across these new media panels at a Courtyard by Marriott, and most recently also noticed them at Aloft by W. The panels are touch sensitive TV’s that offer news, weather, travel information and local information. They are perfect if you need to locate a quick bite to eat, without having to dig up your laptop. Even if you don’t really need the information, they are just fun to play around with.

Chicago hotel opens hypoallergenic suite

Allergies be damned at The Four Seasons Hotel Chicago! The luxury hotel just unveiled its new suites, including the Hypoallergenic Suite.

The suite comes complete with hardwood floors, special bedding and toiletries and shades instead of curtains, to help reduce dust and allergens.

Lest you think the suite is full of plastic couch coverings and synthetic materials, enter Pierre Yves Rochon, the designer of the allergy-free hotel room who ensured that all guests staying in the suite are treated to the same luxury amenities as all the other rooms. In addition, the guest room – which features stunning views of Lake Michigan – is cleaned with allergenic free solutions, ensuring a clear stay.

What do you think? Would you choose a hypo-allergenic room over a standard room, if the price was the same?

Hotel room upgrades on the cheap with “Nor1” online service

During one of my summer Mattress Runs, the hotel booking process offered something any frequent guest loves to see – the option to request a paid upgrade. Since I had never seen this offered at this particular chain, I decided to dig a little deeper into the feature. As it turns out, there is a third party company behind the service called Nor1.

Nor1 lets hotels generate extra revenue by upselling unused rooms to existing guest reservations – the process is extremely simple and takes place during the reservation. For a fee starting under $10, hotels can “upsell” guests a larger room, suite, balcony or other upgrade. In my case, I was offered an upgrade from a standard room to an executive king room for just $9 – well within the amount I’d be willing to pay.

Since the hotel assigns upgrades themselves, you don’t know whether you actually get the upgrade until you arrive, but you also won’t be charged unless you are actually upgraded.

Sadly, as with many technologies, this service looked better online than it did in reality. Upon arrival at my Hyatt, nobody had any idea what I was talking about, and claimed they had never heard of the service. I’ll put it down to “growing pains”, and hope that Nor1 starts offering these paid upgrade options at more hotel chains (along with some training for the front desk staff).

According to their site, Nor1 currently offers upgrades with Kimpton, Country Inns and Suites, Hilton and several other hotel chains. Their technology isn’t even limited to hotels – the system is able to do upsells on rental cars, airlines and cruise lines.