Essential Retail recently flew across the pond to attend NRF 2017 and stayed at the funky and functional CitizenM hotel in Times Square.
After a 12 hour journey from South London to Times Square, I arrived at Citizen M jet-lagged from the time difference, car-sick from a heavy-footed cab driver and thoroughly dishevelled from sitting in cattle class for eight and a half hours.
I sighed deeply when I spotted the self-service check-in desk, thinking I could hardly remember my name, never mind typing out all my details. Could I not just shove my passport and credit card under the nose of the closest human being? Luckily one turned up and helpfully showed me how to use the touch screens, which were admittedly very, very simple. Two seconds later I was tapping a contactless room key against the computer to assign my room number and speeding up in the lift to level seven.
Everything about my room had been designed with a city traveller in mind. Completely different from the hotel rooms of old, where you struggle for half an hour to find a plug socket for your smartphone, only to find it as far away as possible from the bed. And then you realise have to disconnect the only lamp in the room to free up the socket – who needs light when you have the glow from your smartphone to illuminate the room?
Nope, CitizenM’s rooms consist of a bed of gigantic proportions up against the window taking up the entire width of the room and around a third of the total space. Not to mention USB charging points and plugs galore. The heart of the room is an iPad mini docked on the bedside table which controls everything from the blinds to the mood lighting – choose from business, party, romance, movie and more, and with the latter sit back and watch the lights change colour and dim, the blinds automatically close and the TV switch on, so you’re all set up to watch your movie from the comfort of your oversized bed.
You can even control the TV using the tablet, change the channel, turn up the volume or watch two new release movies per day for free, all with the tap of the screen. But my favourite function is the Apple TV integration – quickly connect your own iPhone to the network and you can stream (thanks to the super-fast Wi-Fi) your own programmes onto the flatscreen on the wall.
Throw in highly instagrammable objects and instructions – the Do Not Disturb Sign says: “Don’t come in, there’s someone naked in here” – and you have a rather funky and truly modern hotel.
The only thing which was missing from this techy experience was being able to use by smartphone as my room key – maybe next time?