Friday, December 20, 2013

Google Business Photos: A Virtual Hotel Tour

Ever been to a hotel that just doesn't measure up to it's pictures? You can only see so much from traditional photo galleries, which can lead to guest disappointment. Google's new development promises to give guests a 360 degree view of hotels, making for a truly revolutionary experience.

Google Business Photos are almost as realistic as actually being inside the hotel. Professional photographers take the photos and use panoramic technology to create a 360 degree view. The photos pop up when guests search using Google maps. Hotels will also have the option to add links to the photos as well.

Guests click on arrows that allow them to "walk" through the hotel - seeing different rooms and getting the full experience. Since the photos are taken by Google and not the hotel itself, it gives hotels more credibility because Google is an impartial third party. Being able to see what the hotel looks like beforehand allows potential guests to trust it more.

2014 is going to be a year of innovation, and this could be one of the most exciting developments. Virtual tours could easily become a requirement for hotels who want to compete, and stay current. Seeing a 360 degree view of your room before you even walk through the door would make choosing a hotel much easier and revolutionize how people pick hotels.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2014’s Travel Hotspots

With the new year fast approaching what’s more exciting than seeing what the new hot spots are for 2014?!? From Myanmar to Tallinn, there's something for everyone. Here are a few that make our list of destinations sure to be sought after in 2014…

Myanmar is seen as a potential hot spot, but restrictions over the past few years make the country less than friendly for tourists. However, 2014 may mark a huge change in tourism as Myanmar plans to use tourism to increase employment and income in the country. Myanmar is on our list for hot spots in 2014 due to its natural beauty including its’ ancient city of Bagan and scenic rivers and lakes.


Lake Myvatn, Iceland is one of the best places to view the Northern Lights in the world. Scientists predict that the first few months of 2014 will provide some of the most spectacular Northern Lights to date. The remoteness of Lake Myvatn makes it the perfect place to observe this colorful, natural light display without any other light interference.


Tallinn, Estonia is a gorgeous, old town located on top of various tunnels that run through the city. In 2014, these tunnels will become available for tourists to use. In early 2014, Tallinn will be opening a Titanic exhibit which will host fancy galas and dinners inspired by the doomed ship.  Tourists can also check out the seaplane harbor museum, which has several seaplanes on display.


2014 is sure to be an interesting year, with new places to travel popping up every day who knows what the new hot spot will be!

For more information please visit

Friday, December 13, 2013

Expected Travel Trends for 2014

As 2013 draws to a close, it's only natural to wonder what the trends of 2014 will be - which hotels are going to stay on top and what new technology will emerge. Conde Nast Traveler has released their predictions for up and coming trends in the hospitality industry for 2014.

South America is anticipated to become a top tourist destination because cool new hotels are popping up everywhere from Peru to Chile, even Columbia is becoming more tourist friendly. The world cup will be held in Brazil in the summer of 2014 as well as the Summer Olympics in 2016, which is a huge tourist draw. The relatively inexpensive travel between South American countries increases tourism for surrounding countries as well. 

Business people want comfort and luxury when they travel, as well as a space to work efficiently in. Hotels are converting meeting rooms to pop up offices, with more of a trendy Starbucks atmosphere instead of a boring cubicle. Both Marriot and Westin recently launched programs offering this. Many other hotels are beginning to offer "microstays" - renting out rooms for businesses to do work in on a daily basis, or in some cases by the hour.

Hotels will become more photogenic – we previously mentioned Starwood and InterContinental hotel companies paving the way for hotel based Instagrams. Great service and great food isn't enough; it has to be great service and great food that also provides a great photo op. More and more hotels are following this trend to engage with future guests in a modern way.

Itineraries will be designed visually, rather than in list form. Today’s world is increasingly visual so this step only makes sense. Peek, a website that plans tours and activities allows you to plan your perfect day by dragging images onto a timeline. The Four Seasons offers Pin.Pack.Go, where you make a Pinterest board related to your upcoming trip and an expert at the hotel pins additional ideas to it. These and other ideas like them help to create a personalized experience for each guest.

2014 will be an exciting year with new hotels popping up around the world and hotels becoming more and more visually appealing. It's impossible to say for sure what the trends of 2014 will be, but if it continues as expected, 2014 will be a great year for both travelers and the hospitality industry.

For more information please visit

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Instagram: A Necessity for the Hospitality Industry

In an increasingly digital age where many people gather information from social media posts, it is essential for hotels to have a strong online presence. While many hotels have Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is often over looked since it has only recently gained popularity. However, being able to easily share photos with millions of people is essential for hotels as it offers future guests a more in depth look at what their stay at a certain hotel would be like.


Starwood Hotels and Resorts is one of the first hotel companies to begin showcasing its Instagram profile for all of its 1,500 worldwide properties. Starwood is integrating the more than 40,000 pictures shared on its Instagram by creating Guest Galleries on the websites for all nine hotel brands. Guest Galleries are organized into brand-specific categories, such as Fashion for W Hotels, Move Well for Westin, and Family Traditions for St. Regis. This offers guests a more direct look into what staying at certain properties would be like.

InterContinental Hotels Group is another large company promoting its Instagram with its Discover IHG program. Guests are encouraged to take a picture at any of IHG’s 4,600 hotels and use the hashtag #DiscoverIHG to win rewards points. This allows guests to interact with hotel brands on a new level not previously available.                                                                                      


Instagram goes beyond simply reading previous guests’ thoughts about a certain hotel on a review site. Why take someone’s word for it when you can see it for yourself before actually visiting.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Resorts World Bimini: Escape to the Bahamas

Resorts World Bimini is a 750 acre property in the Bahamas that is currently expanding to include a luxury hotel, the Marina Hotel, this upcoming spring in 2014. This new addition is one of the largest construction projects in the island’s history. Due to the vast size of the property, the hotel is expected to create over 450 new, permanent jobs for locals on the island. Resorts World Bimini’s marina is also the largest in the Bahamas.

The Marina Hotel plans to include 350 guest rooms, a rooftop lounge, two restaurants, and a contemporary meeting area. All guest rooms will have modern furnishings and offer great views of Bimini Lagoon. The hotel will also provide direct access to the casino located on the property.

This sprawling property is sure to have something for everyone!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Heyday: Social Media Goes Private

Ever want to remember a moment, but don't want to share it with your Facebook friends? With a lot of information being public today, apps offering private sharing options, such as Whisper and Snapchat, are gaining popularity. And now there's Heyday, an app that lets you privately chronicle your digital life.


Heyday is a smart phone’s version of a journal - it collects the photos you take on your smart phone and uses them to create a digital snapshot of your life. Your location is automatically detected and saved, along with a time stamp, allowing you to know exactly when and where you took the photo. Heyday also allows users to jot down notes or tag people in videos and photos. The app organizes photos automatically in the order you took them, and has 18 photo filters. If you choose to tag a friend, you can view a timeline of all the places you've ever been together. And even more exciting is that Heyday defaults to a private setting.

Heyday may be the perfect blend of public and private sharing that today’s consumers are looking for. It lets you be private when you want to and share when you want to be social, making it a truly innovative idea!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Is 3D Chat the New FaceTime?

Being able to see whoever you were speaking to while on the phone using FaceTime, was considered a major accomplishment. Now imagine having the ability to actually interact physically from a distance. Soldiers could hold their newborn baby, parents could comfort a homesick child, or doctors could give a medical exam without ever leaving their office. Tangible Media is in the process of developing a new technology called inFORM Dynamic Shape Display, that can do just that!

The screen shows the user’s face and upper body just like a normal call, but the user’s arms and hands are recreated below the screen. The technology uses a tabletop covered in small white squares that rise up to form a 3D image. Picture the child's toy that has pins in it where you put your hand in to form an image - only far more advanced.
A projector on the ceiling beams down light to give the display color. Daniel Leithinger, one of Tangible Media's top scientists, says "when you move your hands, not only do you have the shape of the hands, but you also see the color, the texture of the hands.”  You can actually see and feel a 3D image of the person you are talking to!

If this idea has staying power it could change the way we communicate… again. It’s still in the early stages of development, but this could be one of the biggest ideas of 2013. Being able to actually touch things from miles away is incredible and seems like something out of a science fiction novel, but it could be how we all communicate in a few years!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Winter Wonderland Hotels

The winter season is fast approaching, and with it comes winter sports, sledding, skiing, and snowboarding. With that in mind we got to thinking - what better place for all that than the French Alps?  From hotels and location, the French Alps have so much to offer including exceptional hotel service and an environment offering something for nearly every traveler. Here are a few of our favorite accommodations opening this December…

The L'Apogee Hotel is set to open on December 11, 2013 and will have something for everyone. From a kids club for youngsters, to a top of the line spa, this hotel is bound to suit the needs of all guests regardless of age and interests. The hotel’s bistro style restaurant, Le Comptoir de L’Apogee, will be run by Michelin starred chef, Yannick Franques. And for those who want something more indulgent than a standard room guest’s can stay in a five bedroom suite complete with a spa and home theater. 

The Hotel Koh-I-Nor will be the hotel located at the highest altitude in Europe and will offer direct access to the skiing paths. The property will feature a large luxury spa and balconies that offer breathtaking views. The hotel will have sixty-three rooms as well as a restaurant run by Michelin starred chef Yoann Conte. This hotel opens on December 6th, 2013.

The L'Heliopic Hotel and Spa is a new four-star hotel located at the center of the renowned Charmonix Ski Resort set to open this December. The property combines cozy luxury suites with modern design pieces, creating a unique look and feel.  The property will also have casual food and snacks served throughout the day and open their more upscale restaurant, Chamonix Mont Blanc, for dinner. 

So if you're looking for a winter wonderland escape, hop on a plane to France and be one of the first guests to stay at these incredible hotels! 

For more information please visit

Friday, November 22, 2013

Flat Screen TVs Are So 2012

OLED TVs are the latest in technology - they use less power, have more vibrant colors, and are overall more advanced than any other TVs on the market today. However, right now manufacturing them is both time consuming and costly. Only two companies (Samsung and LG) currently make them and the price is over $9000 each.

One company, Kateeva, is looking to change the high price and make OLED TVs easier to produce. Their idea is based off the concept of inkjet printers creating images by layering ink droplets on a surface. They plan to use a movable material to "print" the delicate materials used to make these OLED TVs directly onto sheets. Kateeva’s technology can print 6 OLED displays per sheet and can greatly reduce production costs.

OLED is a big deal, so if their technology is everything it claims to be, Kateeva is about to be the next big thing. Global sales for the OLED component are expected to skyrocket from $21.9 million in 2013 to $94.8 million in 2014, so it's clearly a growing market. The market for OLED TVs will likely reach $15.5 billion by 2020.

OLED could be the next big thing, but only if companies are able to bring down the costs of production and OLED printing seems to hold the key to doing just that. This time next year, stores could be offering Black Friday specials on new OLED TVs, but only time will tell!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bubbli: Life in 360 Degrees

Imagine being able to take pictures with a 360 degree view – a picture so life like it feels like you're actually there. Bubbli, a new app that was released this week, allows you to do just that. Traditional pictures are great, but they don't capture the entire scene like Bubbli can.

Other apps like 360 Panorama and Sphere 360 Camera have tried to do this, but Bubbli takes it to the next level by taking video images and sound with what it refers to as “bubbles.” The app then seamlessly fuses video and sound together to make one panoramic shot. One user describes Bubbli as "Like a panorama but better... You can see the sky and hear the sound." She took a "bubble" while at the Grand Canyon; giving her a truly 360 degree image to share with friends and family.

The app is free to download, but so far it's only available on iOS devices. Once you download it, simply stand with both feet firmly planted on the ground to get an optimal view point for the camera. Make sure to hold the camera at eye level, look straight ahead, up and down, and then left to right to create the best 360 degree view.

To make it even easier, the app has “gray spots,” which you follow in order to complete your bubble.  If the gray spot doesn't disappear on your first try, you can try to look up and down or left to right again. This app could revolutionize how people share pictures - why share a flat image when you can share a living, breathing 360 degree image?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hotel Tends: Including Guests in Hotel Design

As we mentioned previously, Marriott Hotels began experimenting with the idea of allowing hotel guests to be involved in the design and technology of guest rooms. Aside from Marriott, other hotel companies have started using this tactic to attract and retain guests who look for a more modern and personalized stay. Let’s take a look at those following this trend…

The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) directly reached out to its customers for help in redesigning its Holiday Inn lobbies. They asked 5,000 consumers about the kind of amenities, technology, and design they would like to see in their lobbies. IHG also asked students at the Savannah College of Art and Design for ideas in renovating its guest rooms at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. 

Starwood Hotels recently released its own design lab in Stamford, CT. Their design lab allows hotel guests, hotel owners, and employees to take a first look at new design elements in guest rooms and a look at the new technology Starwood is thinking of implementing. Guest feedback collected from the design lab is used by the company when redesigning guest rooms. For example, electrical outlets were added near beds and eco-friendly LED lights were installed in guest rooms in the company’s Westin hotels. 

Hyatt Hotels has been working on improving the guests’ experience and recently partnered with Chicago’s Gravitytank, an innovation consulting agency, to brainstorm ideas for a “hotel of the future.” Hyatt hosted “The World’s Largest Focus Group” this past September allowing Hyatt employees, regardless of their location, to lead discussions about travel via Facebook and Twitter. 

These are just a few hotel companies looking to take the next step in customizing the guest experience. What new, innovative ideas do you think hotels will come up with next to continue this trend?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Where the Girls at?

Today’s tech startup scene is thriving and while the industry seems to be extremely diverse in terms of new ideas and solutions it seems much less varied when it comes to these company’s founders.  Research indicates that nearly 65% of startup companies in 2013 have been founded by men. However, Chicago’s tech scene is encouraging gender equality in this industry with more women starting companies and groups to build a sense of community. This is proven true with 28% of startups at Chicago’s 1871 being founded by women.

For the female founded companies within the technology startup sector, being in the minority may prove challenging as founder of Everpurse, Liz Salcedo may have experienced. Salcedo’s Everpurse originated in Chicago’s River North neighborhood and is a small purse that has a charging mat built in allowing users to charge their phones simply by placing the device inside the purse. This seems like a great idea as finding somewhere to charge your smart phone when you’re not home can sometimes be an issue. While Everpurse is in high demand, Salcedo has said that her product has not received much media attention because she has been dismissed by multiple journalists since the product targets female consumers.

Other female entrepreneurs have also had trouble getting investors on board with their ideas or products. Like Salcedo and Everpurse, Amanda Yang’s idea for a startup company was overlooked. In 2012, Yang founded Clear the Path, an online store selling athletic apparel for cyclists that can be worn at work after commuting. Also based in Chicago, Clear the Path provides an innovative, new clothing style particularly sought after by bike enthusiasts and city commuters.
To encourage more women to work in tech, Melissa Pierce founded Chicago Women Developers three years ago. The group hosts classes and events focused on technology and coding. The sense of community provided to female members of this organization has been a big step forward to leveling the playing field within the ever growing technology startup industry.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Airline Trends: Electronic Devices Allowed During Take-off

With the holidays coming up, airlines are bound to be swamped with travelers flying across the country to visit family and friends. And once the flight takes off not only are travelers saying goodbye to wherever they took off, but also to having access to their mobile phones and tablets – at least that’s how things have been.  With new guidelines from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) many airlines will now allow electronic devices - even during take-off and landing as long they are in airplane mode.


United Airlines was the first to announce this new policy and JetBlue and Delta airlines quickly followed suit. American Airlines implemented the plan last Monday on November 4? And Virgin Airlines is still in the process of getting FAA approval.

Some restrictions still apply though; passengers can't make calls while in flight and smart phones must be in airplane mode. So while you can play games on your phone, you can't text pictures of the clouds to everyone in your contact list. Travelers still are unable to use their device during take-off or landing if it weighs more than two pounds. 


While you still can't text and tweet mid-flight, this is still a big step forward. Who knows, ten years from now you could be Instagraming pictures from 40,000 feet above the ground!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sharks and Suspended Suites: Dubai Hotels

Dubai is known for its decadence and its hotels are no exception. From the world’s highest suspended suite to a hotel with an aquarium for a ceiling, these hotels all compete by coming up with more and more creative ideas for hotel suites.

The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort features the Royal Suite - a sprawling 2,100 square meter suite, which is the largest in Dubai and one of the largest in the world. The decorating style is inspired by the gorgeous beach below with toned down collars and stone and driftwood details. There's also a spiral staircase, an outdoor pool, game room, and a spa complete with a sauna. 

The underwater suite at Atlantis the Palm has three floors which are separated by floor to ceiling windows, which gives guests a truly unique view. The room also has window views of a huge aquarium, which has 65,000 sea creatures, so you can fall asleep while sharks, stingrays and angel fish swim above your head. And of course the suite comes complete with a 24/7 butler.

The Grand Ski Chalet at the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates is across from Ski Dubai, which is one of the world’s largest indoor skiing resorts. The suite looks more like a home in the Alps with wood finishes than a suite in Dubai, one of the hottest places on earth. The ski resort also features penguins shipped in from Sea World.

The Abu Dhabi Suite at the St. Regis Hotel is the world's highest suspended suite. It won't open to guests until later this year, but you can see it now suspended 200 meters above the ground between the hotel's two towers. The views are phenomenal and the inside is just as decadent with 24 carat gold accents, leather wall tiles and sparkling crystals.

All of these hotels are dramatic and over the top, making them a once in a lifetime experience. If you ever get the chance to visit one of these, you too could be sleeping with sharks or skiing when it's 100 degrees outside!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Disconnect by Connecting

In today's world we are surrounded by technology all day, every day. When we are constantly glued to our smart phones, it can be hard to actually relax. With many people consumed by technology, a new website looks to use technology to help us relax instead of stressing us out. Calm is a free website and iPhone app that allows you to take a break whenever you’re having a stressful day without having to be disconnected from technology. was launched in 2012 by Alex Tew as a way to meditate, but the unexpected popularity of the website (reaching over 2 million views in its first day) has now led to the development of calm as a mobile app. Accessible from wherever you are, once you log on to the site or open the app, on screen instructions guide you to relaxation by telling you to close your eyes, take deep breaths, and listen to peaceful sounds. You have the option of selecting 2, 10, 15, or 20 minute sessions – whichever one you select, freezes the screen so you cannot click away or distract yourself with another website. could be the next big thing as technology is ubiquitous and we need to accept that and find ways to make it work for us instead of letting it contribute to our stress. Next time you're having a stressful day, go on after work or on your lunch break and you just might feel more relaxed!

For more information please visit

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

One Year Later: Hotels That Helped During Hurricane Sandy

A little over a year ago, on October 22, 2012, Hurricane Sandy formed off the Northeastern coast of the United States. This “super storm” left many travelers stranded and hotels played an important role in helping these travelers and nearby residents.

New York City was one of the areas hit the hardest by Hurricane Sandy. In Manhattan, the Soho Grand and Tribeca Grand hotels were able to bring power back and provide electricity and Wi-Fi to those who were literally left in the dark.


The hurricane seemed to hit the hardest on Staten Island. Here the Hilton Garden Inn opened its doors and 300 guest rooms to the more than 700 area residents who were left homeless. The property also worked alongside the Red Cross to provide cots for people to sleep in the hotel's ballroom. And it didn't stop there - Richard Nicotra, the hotel’s owner, raised $150,000 for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation for Sandy Relief. 

In Atlantic City, Caesars Casino donated food and supplies to Atlantic City residents. This casino  also partnered with the Architecture for Humanity’s “Restore the Shore” Fund to continue to help rebuild South Jersey. 

For more information on how hotels helped out during Hurricane Sandy please visit

Friday, November 1, 2013

Chicago & The Next Big Idea

Chicago is a huge city with millions of people, many of them with big ideas. This makes Chicago the perfect place for new startups to make their mark. Chicago is also home to The Merchandise Mart, the largest commercial building in the world and a premier location for businesses in nearly every industry. Within “The Mart” you can find 1871 – a nearly 50,000 square foot hub where web and mobile startup companies currently reside.1871 provides work space and access to mentors and educational resources to inspire the next big thing.

From an epicenter like The Merchandise Mart to educational institutions, Chicago is home to multiple “think-tanks”. The Health, Technology, Innovation Hub at the University of Illinois at Chicago is expected to open by the end of this year and will be a proof of concept center for research in biological science. The office and laboratory space is available for rent on a monthly basis allowing anyone to use the facilities, not just those associated with UIC.  They will also offer programming and educational seminars, taught by industry experts in diverse topics, such as navigating the regulatory process for drugs or raising investment capital.

A biomedical center is also planned to open in early 2014 in Chicago’s downtown area. While the exact location has not yet been determined, the plan includes a 25,000 square foot space focusing on bringing investors, industry representatives, and entrepreneurs together. The center will also be used for workshops and mentoring, and as a place where universities and companies can exchange ideas.

Chicago seems to be continuing its efforts to facilitate new and creative innovations – we just hope that the “next great technology” is by one of our neighbors!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Phonebloks: The Lego Style Smart Phone

How many times has only one part of your phone been damaged, requiring you to get a whole new phone? If your camera or speakers break, you're forced to buy a new phone even if everything else still works. Dave Hakkens’ new invention may be the answer to this annoying problem. Hakkens’ Phonebloks is a cellular phone with removable parts – think Legos.

Phonebloks has detachable components on both the front and back of the device. These parts can be upgraded or replaced individually allowing the user to pay for only the part they may need. The device is held together by a pegboard style case. The pieces fit into this case with a replaceable screen that is mounted on the front.

The device also allows users to customize their phone specific to the way they plan use it. Want to be a photographer? Get a high resolution camera. Music obsessed? How about a larger storage block so you can store thousands of songs? Users can also create their own blocks since the platform will be built on open software.

Since Hakkens put the video for Phonebloks on YouTube on Tuesday, the internet community has exploded with support for his idea. He plans to use a service called Thunderclap to send out messages on Facebook and Twitter about the phone. Already over 81,000 people have already signed up to help spread the word, showing that this idea might change the way we use and replace smart phones.