From eco-consciousness to wellness and smart-rooms, design is an incredibly powerful tool hoteliers can leverage to differentiate themselves and cater to ever-evolving guest demands.
By Jennifer Luo
With the growth of private home bookings through a variety of digital platforms, such as Airbnb, hotels face a fierce competition to win customer demand. With a stronger focus on their overall experience, hotel guests today have higher expectations and the ever evolving landscape of travelers have brought about a slew of changes within the hospitality industry. Now, hotels are reshaping the look, feel and appeal of their properties, using exterior and interior designs as one of their differentiating methods to create unique experiences. Eco-consciousness, wellness, local and smart-room technologies are few of the most prevailing hotel design trends being implemented, at both independent hotel companies and chains.
Eco-friendliness: a must for hoteliers
Sustainability and the protection of natural resources have been a major issue raised in the recent years in hospitality: nature has become the new luxury. Many hotels will continue to focus on environmentally sustainable practices, and to make clients’ stays as planet-friendly as possible.
Some of the actions range from the use of natural and recyclable building materials, to the implementation of solar panels and an efficient linen recycling. Hotels today also incorporate more live greenery, natural and LED lighting into their designs to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprints.
An excellent example of such hotel, with outstanding energy-generating efforts, is the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The property has a hundred solar panels on the rooftop with the capacity to heat hot water for a hundred homes. Moreover, it also implemented a Regenerative Drive model elevator system which reduces the hotel’s net energy usage by capturing the system’s energy, and feeds it back into the building’s internal electrical grid. The property enhances an abundant natural lighting through the use of large energy-efficient “operable” windows. Such windows connect guests to the outdoors by achieving a direct line of sight to the exterior environment for more than 97% of the hotel’s regularly occupied spaces. Another eco-friendly feature of the Proximity Hotel includes free bikes for rent, to encourage the reduction of the carbon footprint even when you're sightseeing outside of the hotel.
Global wellness continues to grow, but providing a fruit basket is not enough
The wellness hospitality sector is gaining in popularity among health-conscious travelers and, as the global wellness movement continues to grow, hotels are examining how they can bring health, fitness and well-being to guest experiences. Hotel properties around the world now strive to enhance the physical and mental health of their guests through design and amenity options.
Today’s health-conscious customers are unimpressed by superficial changes and expect a meaningful approach to enhance well-being. Simply providing an additional yoga mat in the guest room and a fruit tray is far from enough to fulfill guest’s demand. More hotels will be adding and upgrading gyms, health spas, retreat areas, air and water purification systems, in-room exercise equipment and spaces to accommodate the preferences of health-conscious guests.
One example of such would be Even Hotels, a brand created by InterContinental Hotels Group, which delivers greater value to guests by integrating wellness across multiple touch-points: including in-room training zones, group fitness classes, and ergonomic workstations.
Local culture: hotels aim to inspire a far more personal authentic commitment
Hotels also seek to infuse local culture into clients’ stays to enhance the guest experience. Today, more and more hotels have become focal points for locals through embracing local retail and outsourcing services to local businesses. Hotels are also becoming cultural hubs where guests could experience various cultural workshops of arts, music, gastronomy and spa. This trend calls for adding local touches to the hotel design, as well as involving local designers and artists into the hotel operation, to create a unique ambiance.
Modern hotels aim to inspire a far more personal and authentic commitment between the hotel properties and the guests, and to realize a level of connection between the local culture and the travelers abroad. Authentic hotel designs paired with well-trained staff has finally enabled that level of connection to emerge.
Casa Bonay is one of those hotels embodying everything in Barcelona to its hotel property: showing how that local "vibe" could be reflected properly through the use of fabric, color schemes, and preservation of historical architecture in hotel design. Casa Bonay is set up in a neoclassical building from 1869 in the center of Barcelona. Everything from the hydraulic-tile floors to the ceilings have been restored in an authentic Spanish style, with antiques preserved and traditional sliding doors added. Moreover, local artists and craftsman, such as Barcelona-based lighting designers Santa & Cole and local furniture designers AOO have been invited to design each of the hotel rooms’ infrastructure. The owner of Casa Bonay wish to create a hotel where its guests could absorb the very essence of Barcelona’s vibrant culture and live in the city just like they the locals did on a daily basis.
Guest customization: personalized experience & tech trends
Technology is a crucial element to improve personalized guest experience and many successful hotels have started implementing the latest tech trends into their hotel architecture.
Providing guests with seamless communication, cutting-edge service, and highly functional equipment means that the hotel is at the forefront of tech innovation. Online and iPad check-ins are already common methods of tech implementation, which eliminates large receptions area, giving designers greater flexibility and creativity when designing hotel lobbies. In smart hotels, personalized tablets in guest rooms could control everything from room temperature, lighting conditions to communication with hotel staffs from all departments.
Moreover, the latest hotel meeting rooms are being outfitted with cutting-edge technology, so that business traveler could now host high-definition video conferences with multimedia presentations.
One example of hotel with excellent technology applications would be London’s Eccleston Square Pimlico. While the hotel exterior is a striking 19th Century Grade II listed historical facade, the interior bristles with keypads that control the music and lighting, shower walls which turns opaque at the touch of a button, flat-screen televisions embedded in bathroom mirrors, iPads that provide full concierge services and smartphones at client’s disposal for the duration of stay.
Rising customer expectations is compelling the hospitality industry to utilize unique and advanced hotel designs to enhance personalized customer experience. One can only expect the future of the hospitality industry to be more customer-centric. In order to stay competitive and provide a stellar service above all else, it is essential for hotels to realize that their aim is not to be a part of guests’ stay, but to be the destination itself.