Wearables As The New Payment-Enabled Room Keys


Pod-style lodging is breaking the hospitality mold by combining the best of hotels and hostels — and serving guests who want a middle ground between the two styles of properties. While “capsule hotels” arrived on the scene in Japan in the 1970s, they are now arriving in North American markets such as Canada. And they can provide travelers with a less expensive alternative to expensive hotels and hostel in expensive locales.

In the Canadian ski resort of Whistler, for example, the Pangea Pod Hotel is gearing up for its opening. That property will be opening in a town where a three-star hotel at the peak of the season in the center of the village can run around $1,000 CAD.  And hotels such as Pangea Pod don’t seek to compete with those properties, which have amenities that consumers paying that price point might want. “There’s just a huge portion of [the] market… that don’t come up to Whistler today because there’s nothing available for them, and that’s the market we’re trying to speak to,” Pangea Pod Hotel Co-founder Russell Kling told PYMNTS.com in an interview.

The idea is not to compete with existing properties but to grow the existing pie. As it is, Kling believes that there is a huge gap between a cheap hostel and the next rung up the ladder. And with his hotel he seeks to bring this new group of people to the market and not necessarily take customers away from competitors.

Four Key Elements

For pod hotels, Kling sees four key elements: location, privacy, design and price point. With location, pod hotels such as Pangea seek to be in the center of town. Pangea, for example, seeks to target customers who want to “roll out of bed and walk three minutes to the gondola,” Kling said. This customer might want to go out, shred some snow, come back to shower and go out to enjoy a burger on the town. So for Pangea, “location was one key element that was non-negotiable,” Kling said.

Beyond location, Kling believes that privacy is a key element for pod hotels. The pod hotel customer doesn’t want to be in a tiny single bed and see everyone. That customer wants something more, certainly, but he or she doesn’t need the hundreds of square feet of space that a hotel provides. With Pangea, Kling seeks to adapt and improve upon the capsule hotels in Japan – that are larger and lined with wood. And, with that, Kling aims for incredible design.

Kling spent time and resources on interior design because he wants to create the feeling of a boutique hotel. While Kling said that Pangea went to town on the décor and the fixtures, it’s able to make the spaces affordable because it is only charging guests for the space that they need. As a result, the property aims to charge less than a hotel but more than a hostel.

Taking The Best From Hostels And Hotels

The Pangea property seeks to be an upgrade from hostels, but it borrows social elements from them. That’s the biggest strength of the hostel business, according to Kling. In fact, “that’s how I met my wife…in a social space in a hostel,” Kling said. The idea is that travelers who visit the property might not be single, but they might be traveling solo, so they might want to meet people when they travel. To that end, Pangea plans to set up an environment for socializing by using long family-style tables, for example. With those tables, Kling hopes to move away from those small coffee tables designed for two, where a person might take out a laptop or an iPad and nobody feels comfortable approaching him or her.

At the same time, Pangea wants to use technology to eliminate the pain points of a hotel and replace them with guest-friendly technology. Check in, for example, can be one particular problem for hotel guests, who might be stuck waiting in line just to get their room keys. Pangea is working on tech that allows guests to walk up to a kiosk and check in – and within minutes walk through the steps to find their reservation, add on items, upgrade or extend their stays. Pangea could be part of a growing trend in the kiosk space, as the PYMNTS Unattended Retail Tracker reports a 30 percent increase in consumer spending when ordering through self-service kiosks.

In terms of payments, Pangea plans on giving guests wristbands that can help them have a cashless stay. They could use the wristbands to purchase a drink at the bar, for example, if they so choose. “It can be a cashless society, if you want it to be,” Kling said, adding that guests can still pay in cash if they chose. Essentially a room key, the wristbands also allow guests to access the property at night. “We try to create the environment if you don’t want to carry anything, all you need is your wristband,” Kling said.

For now, Kling wants to perfect the experience before bringing it to other cities. And it’s not purely a ski resort area plan limited to places such as Whistler or even Vail: Kling believes the business is scalable and can serve any market, whether it’s a city or a beach area. And, when the time comes, he might seek another location – perhaps in Canada. But Pangea shows that the concept has the potential to spread beyond Japan or Asia to locales all over the world.