Hosted by Guy Dittrich the panel discussion at May Design Series event elaborated some of the most important trends in hospitality business. Both big chains Hilton and IHG in addition to hospitality interior specialists gave their views about future directions in interior design for hotels.
Hotels serve as a laboratory for design to test drive new ideas in a showroom setting for the brands to express their identity. At the moment the key word in hospitality sector is differentiation. Too generic offering is just not enough for the discerning customers. All hotel chains have introduced their own trend-leading lifestyle hotel sub brands (W, Edition and Indigo). At the moment W hotel has succeeded best with most trendy image, it just has more distinct identity compared to the others.
So how do the brands develop their identities? It is all about storytelling. They find stories about the neighbourhood within e.g. five kilometres from the hotel. “To get under the skin of the city”. These brand narratives appeal to guests in more personal level. They create talking points about the hotel.
Each hotel defines which need drives the customer: luxury, business or holiday? Then important aspects for the user e.g. fast technology is used to define the guest experience. Personally I find this thinking too restricted since the direction is towards more blurred lines in people’s lives between pleasure and work.
Material trends were discussed and increasing use of natural materials were mentioned because of their timeless qualities. Also new materials that are similar to natural woods like Alpine are being developed. Similarly the quality and variety of laminates has improved a lot within the last few years. In terms of colours we are moving away from the dominance of beige and towards stronger, bolder and brighter colours.
There was a lot of discussion about the changing role of the lobby. Hotels are opening their lobbies to invite local people from outside to join in, following the success of the Ace hotel introducing the idea. The lobby is becoming a public place. To attract people to lobbies to spend their money, the planning is a critical factor. Each area of the lobby has their own identity e.g. cosy corner for reading. Privacy is the challenge, but new solutions are emerging in furniture design and acoustics. The rise of the lobby lounge has resulted into the disappearance of the conference and meeting rooms. The lobby has also a different identity during the evening when DJ or events will take over.
Better planning of rooms is a critical success factor. Technology needs to be simple. The size of bathrooms has increased, since people spend more time in them. The hotel room has become more homey. Minibars are not used anymore and evening will be spend more likely outside the room.
The second panel discussion in the afternoon concentrated on Hotels as a Design Catalysts. The panel consisted of both architects and interior designers. They could not agree on the initial question of who drives the design. Is it fashion, collaborations, global brands in general, residential sector, consumers or retail? It depends also how you look at the challenge. Ultimately customers drive everything. The power of the individual freedom of how to spend money people will determines who succeeds and who won’t.
Looking into cross-sectional influences it was mentioned that hotel lobbies take inspiration from retail in e.g. introducing pop-up concepts and seasonal restaurants. Local fashion design can be an important source to give direction for hotel design that links to locality. Hospitals can influence hotels with ideas for ‘extended stays’.