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Lodging, Gen Z-Style

Cihan Cobanoglu with students
Interim dean Cihan Cobanoglu (from left), with students Mike Rush and Michaela Cerce, Ritz-Carlton chief engineer Karl Behrens and student Nicolas Davila [Photo: Alex Stafford]

As part of a school project, a group of students at the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee is designing a "hotel room of the future." And they'll get to implement their vision at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota in a room where guests will actually stay — and then be interviewed about their experience by the students.

The students are still deciding what features to build into the room but hope to have it ready in about a year. Among the likely amenities are voice-activated TVs and energy-efficient devices, including one that senses when people are in the room and automatically adjusts temperature settings. Also planned: Carpet made from corn.

The project will be assigned work for hospitality technology students but will be open to all students in the hotel and restaurant management program on a voluntary basis. Students in multiple fields of study will participate; marketing students will promote the project, for example, and graphic design students will come up with a logo.

Each semester, students will evaluate guest feedback to make recommendations on which features to keep and which to switch out. They will also work to continually update the room with the latest technology.

The class exercise will provide useful information for the hotel industry and technology vendors, says Cihan Cobanoglu, USF Sarasota-Manatee interim dean of the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management. "This project is unique because there is no futuristic hotel room anywhere in the world where real guests stay and give feedback."