Hotel design takes cue from lifestyle concepts
03 OCTOBER 2014 5:58 AM
Global brands are paying attention to the lifestyle concept when it comes to designing hotels, according to panelists at the Hotel Show’s Vision Conference.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—Hotel operators across the globe are realizing hotel interior design cannot just rely on brand standards anymore, and lifestyle hotels going with the flow of modern technology are the name of the game, according to panelists speaking on the “Future trends interior design for hospitality, F&B and leisure” panel during the Hotel Show’s Vision Conference.
“The lifestyle hotel concept is taking off among major global brands. Consistency in design and brand is overrated and will certainly become something of the past,” said Andrew J. Fay, president & COO of the Gettys Group.
It is easier for an independent operator to sing the lifestyle mantra. Global operators, however, also have started to develop more lifestyle brands in recognition of millennial travelers, according to Fay, citing Hilton Worldwide Holdings’ Curio and Marriott International’s Autograph Collection as examples.
“Operators are cleverly tapping into this generation, combining these soft brands with (their) reward programs. As designers we work on the brand story, a journey to be lived by the guests,” Fay said.
While hotel guests used to appreciate global consistency, today they are expecting to land at their destination and step off the plane into a new hotel experience, according to Benjamin Piper, director of architecture at Perkins+Will.
“You do arrive in a branded property, but expectations are to see the unique details that define the place,” he said. “There is a genuine demand for more customized character design, responding to the site.”
Kempinski Hotels adds a sense of place to its properties, according to Kai Schukowski, hotel manager at the Kempinski Hotel Ajman. However, he said there still isn’t enough distinction between brands in the market.
“We embrace the local flair and surroundings, reflecting the hotel’s individuality, such as in our (food-and-beverage) offering,” he said.
“However, when you walk into a 5-star hotel lobby in Dubai, you often wouldn’t know which name was on top of the roof. We need to distinguish ourselves. We still have a long way to go to get the brand design/recognition sorted out,” he added.
This journey has to entail a highly personalized, experiential and flexible space addressing guests’ desire to leave with great memories, the panelists said.
“The millennium trends have a major impact on how we think about hotels. We have to use local materials, etc. Lobbies are becoming informal collaboration spaces, a complete blur between work, play and pleasure,” Fay said.
Piper said owners are already demanding a design that allows for space flexibility due to the synergy between the corporate world and hotels, where deals are made in the lobby.
Julia Monk, senior principal director of hospitality interior design at HOK, said hoteliers in the Middle East have been fearlessly trying out new designs, encouraging a new wave of thought globally to discard rigid models.
“We develop a unique vision together with our clients for each hotel project, the story in which local influences are married with the design theme becomes their marketing ploy. It not only meets brand standards, but is more experiential. The clientele is more philanthropic these days; they want social lobbies, for example,” Monk said.
Hotels aren’t chameleons, but Simon Turton, head of accessibility & design at Ebdaah, said they could be to a certain extent applying a good dose of practical thinking.
“You need good physical access for a variety of people, including the disabled with hidden extendable rails, removable shower seats and so on,” he said.
“The challenge lies in creating a universal design that is convenient and offers comfort and a better experience for everyone, gaining loyalty and with that higher returns,” Turton added.
At the same time, guests want to feel connected via technology designed elegantly into the space, panelists said.
“Technology has blurred the boundaries of private and public space. Hotels have always had an element of design and fashion, but both need to be extremely adaptable to social change,” Piper said. “We have to create a variety of options, open and closed, so people can choose the lifestyle they want.”
Marcos Cain, director & founder of Stickman Design, believes millennials demand advanced solutions during their stay.
“We profile the work-hard, play-hard environment guests to come up with the design. Comfort maybe means to go up straight to the room after a long flight, foregoing lobby check-in, an oxygen room to freshen up after flights, and mobile phone check-out. We need to make life simple using technology,” he said.
“Our mobile could become the room key; the reception may disappear. The implications technology has on design are huge,” Fay agreed.
Monk said technology has already changed design and project delivery using building information management systems to cut delivery times and maintain quality control.
“Besides impacting how we operate hotels, it is also the No. 1 trend impacting designs. In China, social media voices influence 90% of the designs,” she said.