Our eight best picks of new product innovations

Read our roundup of eight hottest travel developments and products

Hen-na Hotel Reception

1. Ahead of its time with hotel robots

The Henn-Na Hotel chain of hotels across Japan employs robots for pretty much all of the day-to-day operations.

Operated by the HIS Group travel agency, the first hotel in the chain opened at the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki Prefecture in 2015 but the idea of being welcomed by a seven-metre-long Tyrannosaurus Rex has obviously hit the spot with guests and the company opened its third property in Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, on August 1 last year.

Now the company also has designs on the overseas market and is rumoured to be looking to open in Shanghai and Taipei in the not-too-distant future.

2. A hotel that transforms, literally

In Malaysia, Ansa Hotels & Resorts developed a hotel concept for its second brand, thelivingroom Hotel, and it looks revolutionary.

Thelivingroom is a three-star, limited-service hospitality concept which, when rolled out in 2H2018, is expected to boast “new ways of serving guests”, such as a flexible check-in service round-the-clock, allowing stays for a full 24 hours upon check-in, which is amazing for a three star.

The most pronounced differentiator, however, is its innovative use of in-room space. An example: a full-sized queen bed that, when not in use, can be reclined and made to disappear behind a wall, revealing a study desk. Add to that a three-seat sofa that opens up into a double-decker bunk bed.

Each room, at only 25m2, is smaller than the usual 30-35m2 rooms in city hotels, and can fit four people comfortably.

Kudos also goes to Ansa for its idea of recruiting non-working mothers to work on four-hour work shifts to support the hotel operations.

It is only a matter of time before we see more hotels adopting some of the practices of thelivingroom Hotel.

3. Dark sells at this prison-themed hostel

A hostel made to feel like a prison may not be everyone’s idea of Best of the Best, but it certainly gets top points for creativity.

In August, Sook Station in Bangkok raised furore as a prison-themed hostel that “turns travellers into inmates”. Reportedly, it has nine cement-walled rooms – each appropriately small and dark – with bunk beds and sliding doors made with thick bars.

Evoking an authentic prison experience, the hostel is said to offer guests striped pyjamas and the experience of having their mugshots taken. This may however be one of the rare places in the world where detention cells come with Wi-Fi access and air-conditioning.

Sook Station is located at 45-49 Soi Sukhumvit 101/2, Bangkok.

4. Passion Tribes and its surprising tour initiations

One of the campaigns under the Singapore Tourism Board’s and Economic Development Board’s new Passion Made Possible brand, Passion Tribes presents a list of new and revamped tours that revolves around authentic local experiences, such as a next-generation hawker food tour, a vintage Vespa tour through heritage gems and a business-focused tour of Singapore’s old and new industries.

The campaign also supports tours provided by hotels, such as Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa’s colonial and war tour in the island of Sentosa.

5. Movie Animation Parks Studio ushers the rise of Ipoh

More than letting visitors get up close and personal with movie characters they know and love, Movie Animation Parks Studio, the 21ha theme park in Ipoh which opened in June last year, provides a reason for visitors from Kuala Lumpur travelling to Penang by road to stopover in Ipoh.

Case in point: some agents who used to sell Ipoh as day trips have turned this theme park, touted as Asia’s first movie animation theme park, into a one-night itinerary in Ipoh. Some also extend the itinerary further by combining it with the nearby Sunway’s Lost World of Tambun theme park.

The theme park showcases international animation characters from DreamWorks Animation and The Smurfs alongside local favourite animation character BoBoiBoy and Stunt Legends, billed as South-east Asia’s first car & bike live stunt show.

There are more than 40 attractions, based on both international and local characters, in six themed zones. Mr Peabody and Sherman, The Croods and other characters from DreamWorks Animation come alive in The Dream Zone.

6. Changi’s new terminal gets in the FAST lane with automation

Singapore Changi Airport’s Terminal 4 (T4) went live with new end-to-end check-in and security technology when it officially began operations on October 31. This makes T4 the country’s first terminal to offer fully automated departure processes for passengers. Termed Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) – but of course – the system runs automated check-in kiosks and baggage drop, as well as uses biometric data for immigration and boarding. This marks a critical milestone for the airport as these new technology, systems and procedures are likely to shape the future of air travel in the destination.

7. GoUmrah.travel go

GoUmrah.travel could be the one-stop travel booking answer for Muslim pilgrims.

Launched in October last year, the website offers the flexibility to customers to book their own Umrah trips – including the components of flights, hotels, transfers, visits to holy sites and Islamic attractions, meals, travel insurance and visa processing.

Developed and maintained by Sutra Travel & Tourism Management Group, the portal also handles visa application and processing for Umrah pilgrims all over the world.

8. The unprecedented change at Walled City of Intramuros

The Walled City of Intramuros, probably Manila’s most popular attraction, was given a sprucing up at a scale never seen before.

Fort Santiago’s Paseo de Soledad has reopened with new landscape and lighting, while Plaza Moriones now has new flowering trees skiritng its sides and a fountain at the centre.

The refresh is a work-in-progress, with CCTV cameras, restrooms and more trees to follow. Also opening this year are the Rajah Soliman Theatre, dungeons and several reception venues.

These followed a general clean-up of Intramuros, relocation of informal
settlers in batches, concealing overhead cables and banning certain transportation.

This feature is part of TTG Asia’s January/February 2018 issue, read more here

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