Oct 5, 2023 - Economy

Now trending at hotels: Sleep, wellness and "bleisure"

Illustration of a hotel door with a "do not disturb" sign in the shape of an arrow

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Post-pandemic travelers prioritize a good night's sleep, healthy lifestyle amenities, and "smart" rooms with lots of technology — and they're combining business with pleasure in a trend known as "bleisure," Hilton says in a new report.

Why it matters: As hotel chains continue to recover from COVID-19 lockdowns, they're trying to take maximum advantage of the ongoing "revenge travel" trend with updates that suit modern tastes.

  • That means "connected rooms" with Peloton bikes, "pillow menus" and in-room tech that you can control with an app.
  • It also means nightstands with wireless charging pads, digital room keys instead of plastic cards, and copious bedside outlets for all your tech.
  • Want a mocktail? Hotel bars are stocking up on healthy snacks and booze-free options, and offering "cocktail edutainment" for Gen Zers who want to dabble in agave distillates.

What they're saying: "Right now is probably one of the most interesting times in the history of hospitality" because of guests' newly emerging priorities, which include wellness, sustainability and local experiences, Hilton's chief brand officer Matthew Schuyler tells Axios.

Driving the news: Hilton's third annual report on travel trends identified four major themes predicted to guide people's travel spending in 2024:

  • Sleep: Our desire to rest and recharge has Hilton adding white noise machines, blackout shades, enveloping headboards and high-thread-count linens to its rooms.
  • Technology: Our thirst for "connectivity and personalization" will translate to more robust online booking options — and more electric car chargers on hotel properties.
  • Experiences: Guest cravings for local food and flavors has Hilton amping up its menus and offering local cultural experiences (and, of course, pickleball courts).
  • "Bleisure": People are tacking vacation days onto work trips, to visit friends locally or enjoy some tourism.

Methodology: Hilton and Ipsos surveyed 10,000 travelers from nine countries, assembled 60 video "diaries" from U.S. travelers, and interviewed dozens of "Hilton travel experts" to compile the report.

At left, a view of the interior of the "ball drop room" at the Tempo by Hilton Times Square; at right, a sample bathroom from the same hotel.
At left, a view of the interior of the "ball-drop room" at the Tempo by Hilton Times Square; the famous ball can be seen glowing in blue. At right, a sample bathroom from the same hotel. Photos: Courtesy of Hilton

Zoom in: Schuyler took Axios on a tour of the new Tempo by Hilton Times Square, which opened in August.

  • It's the first of hundreds of Tempo-branded hotels that Hilton is planning, all meant to cater to guests' interests in a healthy lifestyle and local flavor (in this case, the mosh pit — er, excitement — that is Times Square).
  • You can reserve "wellness" rooms with a Peloton and a Theragun, or the "ball-drop room" with a direct view of the silver orb that falls on New Year's Eve (starting at $700 a night for non-New Year's Eves).
  • The rooms feature designer wall hooks, oversized showers, and Bluetooth speakers in the bathroom so you can listen to your music and podcasts while you primp.
A hotel room with a Peloton in it, at left; at right, a row of newfangled coat hooks.
A "wellness" room at the Tempo by Hilton Times Square includes a Peloton and other devices; rooms also feature designer coat hooks. Photos: Jennifer A. Kingson/Axios

Gone from the rooms are carpets (too hard to clean), single-use toiletries (too wasteful) and closets (because "80% of our guests actually live out of the suitcase," as Schuyler put it).

Added to the rooms are kinetic art screens (which greet guests by name), designer toiletries (in "white vetiver" from boutique brand Apotheke) and large trash/recycling baskets — which have proved a bit too popular.

  • "The guests keep stealing them," lamented Kevin Morgan, global brand head for Tempo by Hilton, during the recent tour. (Fair warning: You will be charged.)
  • Those larger trash cans are necessary because guests tend to order meals from food delivery apps, Schuyler said.
A hotel room wastebasket with one side for recycling.
Forget about pocketing the mini-soaps — today's hotel guests are going for the wastebaskets. Photo: Jennifer A. Kingson/Axios.

The big picture: Persistent interest in "revenge travel" has all the major hotel brands pushing the refresh button and adding capacity, technology and amenities.

  • Hyatt announced in September that it's doubling down on its "lifestyle and luxury" offerings, with "more than 30 planned hotels and resorts in the Americas region through 2025."
  • Marriott described a three-year growth plan that will have it adding 230,000-270,000 rooms.
  • Ritz-Carlton just announced a big new marketing campaign with the tagline "Leave Better."
    • It's meant to express "how travel across the brand's hotels and resorts can become a catalyst for personal evolution," the company said in a release.

The bottom line: The more comfortable the hotel, the happier you'll be spending money there, the thinking goes.

  • Rooms at the Tempo "have been engineered to make sure that you have all the comforts of home while you're experiencing the adventures of travel," Schuyler said.
  • "A lot of science and engineering went into this product to get us to this point."
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