Evaluating Event Spaces and Their Success

By David Ashen Principal and Founder, dash design | August 07, 2016

Imagine a hotel meeting space that you’d walk into a decade or two ago. Do you see a 3, 000-to-5, 000-square-foot ballroom designed to seat hundreds of people, along with a patterned carpet and crystal chandeliers? Partitioned walls that subdivide the room to create secondary meeting spaces for smaller events and meetings? Do you conjure up an image of a boardroom for a dozen or two executives, with the requisite large oval table and leather chairs? A vanilla pre-function room for registration before an event and maybe a cocktail after?

Now fast forward to today and take a moment to picture those spaces again. Do they look the same as they did in the descriptions above? If so, it’s time to rethink and re-imagine what today’s event spaces look and feel like, because current hotel brands, owners, and designers are taking traditional event venues and applying a more holistic, flexible approach to where experiences can be created.

When designing today’s event spaces, hoteliers are starting from the outside and working their way in, literally. Pre-function areas have taken on an increased importance, becoming more than simply empty foyers to host a lunch or grab a cocktail and network before being shuttled into the ballroom. Instead, these spaces are designed to be inhabited in multiple ways and at multiple times. Furnishings are more permanent and created with breakout zones in mind, such as areas to take phone calls or check emails, nooks to eat a meal and talk, and lounge spaces to discuss business over drinks. What’s more, these zones support other areas within the hotel and add to its overall narrative.

And the concept works. Last year, Renaissance launched its new meeting room initiative which includes a dictate to “inhabit the edge, ” a term used to describe the better use of the perimeters of pre-function spaces. The brand has seen a positive response. Within one, large space, guests are engaging in social interactions, sitting on laptops and grabbing a seat at a permanently fixed bar, all while feeling connected to the energy of the hotel. Similarly, Yotel offers an engaging experience for guests, who walk into a lobby surrounded on the perimeter with glass rooms and conversation pits. The scene is reminiscent of a lounge, but with Internet connectivity and private areas for interaction, all overlooking the city.

Recently I toured the Le Meridien Atlanta Perimeter Hotel and saw this idea in action, where public spaces that served as “the hub” of the venue included a huge bar, lobby seating, a lounge and various work spaces tucked away into nooks. On any given weekday evening, there are groups of people with laptops open, enjoying big communal dinners. One local company rents part of this space each week to host a standing work session at Le Meridien, providing a more creative, social work environment for its employees. There, they collaborate, work and have dinner together, just off the buzz of the hotel’s lobby.

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Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.