A Look at the Next Generation of Urban Hotels

By Amanda Hertzler Executive Managing Director & Director of Design, MKDA | October 29, 2017

American travelers over the years have become accustomed to a handful of hotel brands and their tried-and-true amenities—room service, fine dining and business centers—but the next generation of urban hotels, particularly those in emerging neighborhoods, are turning convention on its head.

In fact, we are bearing witness to one of the most substantial transformations of the hotel industry since the 1970s, which saw the proliferation of business-centered hotels and hotel brands that began to offer more spacious rooms, more refined cuisine, and more modern amenities in response to customers’ wishes.

With the Millennial generation now a significant portion of the traveling and working public, however, the modern customer profile has changed. Millennials want less, and with their mobile technology, need less. As such, hotels are limiting amenities and connecting to high-amenity neighborhoods to offer unique hotel products and genuine local experiences.

The proliferation of Airbnb—an online marketplace that enables travelers to lease or rent short-term lodging—is behind much of the ongoing transformation. Travelers are turning to Airbnb, where they can find unique local travel experiences, rather than corporate hotel brands, which tend to isolate themselves from local culture.

As a result, more and more urban hotels are taking cues from their surroundings. In cities like New York in the North and Louisville in the South—with their deep, rich economic histories and industrial enclaves—there are numerous adaptive reuse hotels that have drawn inspiration from their historic buildings’ early lives as warehouses and factories.

In the process, architects are putting the spotlight on industrial detailing like soaring ceilings, large windows, distressed hardwood floors, metal beams and the like, and complementing them with modern elements such as mosaic tile floors, leather, copper accents, and local art. Unique details are added that reflect the buildings’ former uses, creating genuine visual and experiential opportunities. The results are beautiful, earthy, experiential, memorable and relevant.

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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.