Social media’s impact on hotel design
Social media’s impact on hotel design
27 APRIL 2016 7:37 AM

As hotel designers, it is crucial to understand how guests’ use of social media can affect our hotel clients and then respond through design.

It’s no secret that social media has dramatically shifted the way the global hospitality industry does business. With more than 1.5 billion Facebook users, 305 million Twitter users and 400 million Instagram users, it is safe to say that social media isn’t going anywhere.

As more travelers turn online to share their experiences, write reviews, post pictures and seek out travel information and deals, social media has evolved into a tremendous marketing opportunity for hoteliers to increase their bookings, generate guest referrals, improve hotel reviews and boost brand awareness.

More than eight in 10 online travelers in the United States are active on social networks, 73% of which log onto a social network daily, according to Phocuswright. And, more than half of American travelers who access the internet via their phones use it to update social networks with trip-related posts. 

As hotel designers, it is crucial to understand how guests’ use of social media can affect our hotel clients. How can we give travelers experiences that have the potential to go viral? How can we turn guests into advocates for our hotel brands?

Play up the location
Location, location, location. Today’s travelers want to feel as if the hotel they are staying in celebrates its place in the world. Use the geographic location of your property to your advantage. Incorporate the local culture and surroundings as key elements in your hotel architecture and design.

For example, decorative throw pillows were incorporated into the guestrooms at the Onyx Hotel in Boston, a Kimpton boutique property located near the TD Garden (the venue for the Celtics and Bruins). Featured on the guestroom throw pillows is the phrase “Wicked Smaht,” a nod to the movie “Good Will Hunting,” the distinctive Boston accent, and the city’s reputation as the premier college town in the United States.

These “only-in-Boston” throw pillows have their own hashtag, #WickedSmahtPillow, which has generated hundreds of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts among guests. Conde Nast Traveler even featured the pillows earlier this year in an article titled “This hotel room accessory might be the most Boston thing ever.”

The pillows have become so popular that the Onyx has added them to its minibar menu to accommodate what it says has been huge demand for take-home versions. Pretty powerful stuff.

Make it easy to shoot and share
Modern-day travelers are armed with their smartphones. Give them ample opportunities at your property to shoot and share. And make it simple. Guests are more likely to post about their trips while actually traveling than when they get back home or to work, according to the Phocuswright survey.

Located on Boston's waterfront, The Envoy Hotel boasts the Lookout Rooftop and Bar, which provides striking views of the city's skyline. (Photo: Group One)
The recently opened Envoy Hotel is listed as one of the 30 most Instagrammed places in Boston. Located on the city’s waterfront, this hotel boasts the Lookout Rooftop and Bar*, which provides striking views of the Boston skyline. Playing up the view, the rooftop lounge offers guests various gathering points and movie screen projection amenities. It’s the perfect place to snap a picture of the city’s incredible and iconic views using the hotel hashtag, #EnvoyLookOut. 

Give guests ‘wow’ moments
Travelers want to have an experience. Guests are never more primed to share content or photos than when they are in the moment experiencing your brand. Impress them. Give them “wow” moments that can be easily shared and “liked” by their friends.

One such example lies in the Residence Inn by Marriott Fenway – Boston, which capitalizes on the incredible views of Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox. The hotel features an indoor swimming pool and terrace on the rooftop with partial views of Fenway Park and the city’s iconic CITGO sign, a landmark of the Boston skyline since 1940.

The event terrace at the Hotel Commonwealth in Boston overlooks Fenway Park. (Photo: Group One)

Another example: The Hotel Commonwealth completed an expansion in 2015, adding 96 hotel rooms and more than 12,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting and event space. To commemorate the hotel expansion opening, the hashtag #HCreimagined was crafted. It was used throughout all of the hotel’s expansion announcements, advertising and social media campaigns. As the official hotel of the Boston Red Sox the property features the Fenway Park Suite, which is packed with authentic memorabilia. Guests staying in the suite are just 507 feet away from the famed “Green Monster” and will hear the roar of the crowd on game day from the private balcony while sitting on original Fenway Park seats—instantly shareable.

The bottom line
Exploding in popularity as one of the main ways travelers of all ages interact with brands and communicate with their friends while traveling, social media is certainly not a fad. For the global hospitality industry this means considering the use of social media in all aspects of the process: design, customer service and marketing.

Play up your location and the qualities of your property and its environment; make it easy for guests to share content and photos in real time; and give them those wow moments that will make sharing a no-brainer.

Have a little fun while you’re at it. Social media is designed for creativity, self-expression, and engagement. The more you embrace the use of social media by guests and how it can play a critical role in how travelers engage with your hotels, the better off your brand will be.

Harry Wheeler AIA, NCARB, LEED is a principal at Group One Partners, Inc., an award-winning hospitality design firm based in Boston that specializes in architectural, interior design, and purchasing services for hospitality properties. Wheeler is a registered architect in 10 states and a member of numerous architectural, lodging, and marketing associations. For more information visit or email Wheeler at

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

*Correction, 29 April 2016: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong name of The Envoy Hotel's rooftop bar and reported it operated year-round.

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