August 1, 2014 5:23 pm

Travel updates: Hilton hotels, the Savoy and a camera-drone

Phone-operated door locks, wildflower walk through central London and a new technology that could revolutionise the filming of outdoor sports
Squadrone System’s Hexo+ drone

Squadrone System’s Hexo+ drone

Virginia Guests at Hilton hotels will soon be able to check in online and use digital floor plans and photographs to select their exact room. The technology, which the Virginia-based group is claiming as an industry first, is due to be rolled out to more than 4,000 hotels in 80 countries by the end of this year. From 2015, the group plans to move a stage further by fitting door locks that can be controlled by smartphone, so guests can check-in and enter their room, as well as later paying and checking out, without ever visiting the front desk. Similar phone-operated door locks already exist in other hotels, but have never been introduced across such a large group. “Travellers can use their smartphones as boarding passes to get to their seats on an aeroplane, so it is only natural that they will want to use them as a way to enter their hotel rooms,” said Christopher Nassetta, chief executive of Hilton Worldwide. To use the “digital lobby”, guests need to sign up to Hilton’s loyalty programme; they will be able to select a room and check-in from 6am the day before they arrive at the hotel. Other hotel groups are exploring similar schemes, in part as an attempt to encourage guests to use their loyalty schemes and book direct, rather than via a third-party online agent.

hiltonworldwide.com

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London The Savoy hotel, which opened on August 6, 1889, was once known as the capital’s premier venue for the most decadent parties imaginable – one, still talked about 99 years later, involved flooding the courtyard so guests could sail in gondolas, and a baby elephant carrying a 5ft cake. But the hotel, now managed by the Canadian Fairmont group, will be celebrating its 125th anniversary this month in rather more modest, even worthy, style – by encouraging guests to take a wildflower walk through central London. The hotel has produced a map with a route connecting existing gardens, parks and green spaces where wildflowers might grow. The idea is that other organisations will want to take part by planting wildflowers on their land, and thus provide more habitat for bees. Guests who complete the walk will be given a packet of seeds.

fairmont.com/savoy-london

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Grenoble New technology could revolutionise the filming of skiing, mountain biking and other outdoor sports. Existing helmet-mounted mini-video cameras record what the user sees, rather than showing them in action, but Squadrone System, a French start-up, is working on a camera-carrying drone that will let individuals shoot aerial footage of themselves as they ski or ride down the mountainside. Instead of being controlled by a separate cameraman, the company’s Hexo+ drone, which is due to be shipped to the first customers in May next year, uses Bluetooth and GPS to automatically follow its owner’s smartphone. The idea came out of a weekend start-up conference in Grenoble last November, and Squadrone founders include Xavier de Le Rue, a renowned professional snowboarder. In June the company sought $50,000 via the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, but when the application closed last month, backers had pledged more than $1.3m. Hexo+, expected to retail for around $850, isn’t alone – at least two other companies are also working on “auto-follow” drones.

hexoplus.com

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