Hotels are changing, and you can probably thank Airbnb. That push to “stay like a local” hasn’t been lost on hotel designers.
Hotels are revamping their properties, throwing out the templates and creating bespoke experiences that match that push to present “authenticity, not consistency,” according to Andrew Fay, president and COO of hotel design firm The Gettys Group.
Deborah Golding, founder of The Hotel Design Group and former head of design for the Kessler Collection of hotels, sums it up: “People are looking for more of an experience.” For Molly Swyers, chief brand officer at boutique hotel group 21c Museum Hotels, it’s about creating memories and keeping the element of fascination in travel: “We want them to discover things for themselves in our properties; we cater to that element of surprise.”
Here’s what to expect:
#1) The check-in experience is changing, and everything is automating.
Today, at the most technology-forward properties, it’s all about self-service, which is changing the check-in area. Forget the wall of staff behind computers; those same people are just as likely to walk up and check you in with an iPad — if you don’t check yourself in at a kiosk. At a new property Golding is working on in Charleston, South Carolina, the front desk is going to look like a big table. “They’ll be checking in on tablet or laptop, or via phone. It even has a small bar behind it with refreshments and cocktails for guests.”
#2) Luxury is everywhere, even at hotels that aren’t the luxury brands.
There’s one thing we consistently heard: Authenticity is the new measurement of luxury. Even in midprice properties, expect to find luxurious fabrics and custom finishes. For a recent project in Texas, Fay’s firm worked to create a custom potpourri for the hotel using flowers native to that region.
#3) The hotel is an art gallery.
Forget the cheap stock art with which hotels once filled rooms, lobbies and elevator bays. Today, hotels are filling rooms with artwork, sculptures and interactive pieces. It’s no better illustrated than with the rise of 21c Museum Hotels. The company’s newest hotel in Oklahoma City features some 215 custom pieces of art displayed in the public spaces, and the contemporary art installations at the group’s properties change every six to nine months
#4) Hotels are embracing the Instagrammable moment.
Travelers are documenting their journeys with status updates and Instagram posts, and hotels are delivering the art and backgrounds for these moments. Fay said his company actually designs properties with those moments in mind.
#5) Limited-service hotels are getting into design.
Limited-service hotels are what you typically picture as midmarket chain hotels. You could stay in one in the Chicago suburbs, and that brand hotel would look the same in the Bay Area. Today, the cookie-cutter approach is diminishing. “Limited-service hotels are finding people want more,” said Golding. “People are much more in tune with arts and culture and expecting more from their stays.”
#6) Say goodbye to the big in-room desk.
Both Golding and Fay said they’re seeing less use of the executive desk that takes up precious room real estate. Instead, travelers are taking their laptops and working in public spaces. Fay said the “battleship desk” and its executive desk chair are “completely anathema to what is desired” by travelers. Also say goodbye to the old TV armoire. Newer, wider flat-screen TVs are moving in. Golding said she’s seeing some projects that remove the wooden clothes armoire or doors from closets to present a more open, welcoming and less-compartmentalized room.
#7) The urban experience is coming to you.
Hotels are figuring out ways to bring the urban outdoors to you. Sometimes that is the rooftop pool that overlooks the city, but sometimes it’s with street art applied to the hotel’s interior spaces.
#8) More technology (everywhere).
Hotel technology once meant a wireless router on every floor or an Ethernet cable at your desk. Technology is evolving and hotels are chasing the curve, whether that’s connecting your iPad to your TV or building high-tech rooms that work with your personal devices. Oh, and the TVs are getting bigger, and Bluetooth is connecting the most advanced rooms.
#9) Say goodbye to the massive lobby.
Acres of gleaming marble? Ceilings that extend to the sky? Those vestiges of hotel design that earmarked luxury properties 20 years ago are giving way to customized spaces. Now, the lobby is becoming your community workspace and hangout area.
Fay says he’s often tasked with building furniture environments that are highly flexible. “We move things around to create workspaces (in the lobbies). The traveler may want to be alone, but not lonely. They are working solo in the lobby, but are feeling the contact, even if they have headphones on.”