Are smaller guestrooms the way of the future?
Are smaller guestrooms the way of the future?
22 FEBRUARY 2016 7:44 AM
Hoteliers are thinking small guestrooms in big cities. But will it stay that way?
I don’t know if Starbucks should be credited for starting this trend, but there seems to be a movement to increase the amount of social space where people can mix, mingle and “be seen.” 
Restaurants and bars are putting in community tables. Municipalities are creating sidewalk libraries, community gardens or multi-purpose urban parks. This movement has permeated the hospitality industry as well, as more and more hotel lobbies, breakfast rooms and lounges are redesigned to encourage and facilitate socializing.
Guests increasingly are using their hotel rooms to just sleep—seemingly, it’s no longer where they are choosing to work or watch television. The average size of a hotel room in the United States is about 350 square feet, but it is quickly decreasing. Most of the latest prototypes unveiled to target the new generation of travelers have much smaller guestrooms but vast public areas.
The Pod 51 Hotel on East 51st Street in New York City offers rooms that are as small as 100 square feet, but also offers out-of-room amenities such as lounges, bars and game rooms. Yotel has rooms in New York that start at 170 square feet, but the company boasts that it has the largest hotel terrace in New York City in addition to other bars and lounge areas. The Best Western Vib has guestrooms in the 250-square-feet range but also features a zen zone, work zone, game zone, media zone and even a Skype zone in the lobby and mezzanine.
While smaller hotel rooms might be the trend of today, will it be the trend of tomorrow? Hotels are long-term investments. Will smaller guestrooms enable the owner to be successful in the long run?
A lot really depends on the market and the targeted customer segment. In Texas, where everything is bigger and people are used to bigger guestrooms, it’s difficult to train guests to get accustomed to smaller rooms except in major cities such as Austin or Dallas. Also, if the hotel has a high mix of double occupancy, it will be difficult to succeed without larger rooms.
In major cities where real estate is very expensive, developers might have no choice but to go with smaller guestrooms to justify the project. Smaller guestrooms are already accepted in major cities such as Hong Kong, Japan, London and Paris. The key to success is to look for room designs that are highly functional. 
Chasing a narrow niche of customers is seldom a winning strategy. It behooves developers and owners to study the market and to invest in designs that have long-term viability.
David Kong is president & CEO of Best Western International and has served as the global hotel brand's top executive since 2004. Kong has also held leadership positions with KPMG Consulting, Hyatt Hotels, Omni International and the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and served for three years on the United States Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. More insight from Kong is available through his LinkedIn channel and the new Best Western Executive Blog “It’s Personal."
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