Five Most Important Features in Hotel Design for Leisure Travelers

By Jim Holthouser Senior Vice President Brand Management, Embassy Suites Hotels | October 10, 2010

We all appreciate that a hotel functions as a critical component of the travel experience. Over the years, I've come to think of the hotel stay itself as a journey as well. From arrival and check-in, through corridors and public areas to experiencing the accommodations, enjoying the dining options … every moment forms a key element with potential for making the entire visit an adventure that is at once enjoyable, memorable, and worth repeating. Smart design is the first step in ensuring this journey is a success every time, and presents an important opportunity for developing a brand storyline.


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A rendering of the Design Option III prototype, Option B

One way to approach the various design layers involved in planning a hotel property is to view the design logic as a kit of parts. Within that kit is a three-tier pyramid where the diverse style strata can be logically organized. At the base of the pyramid is the Foundation layer. This layer addresses a typical set of materials, colors, finishes, furnishings and fixtures that provide the underpinnings and will likely be consistent across all properties in a hotel group with unified branding. It represents about 60 percent of a hotel's total palette. Context is at the core, covering the elements that create each property-specific personality. In this 30-percent stratum of the pyramid lies the opportunity to create a unique look for a hotel and to introduce a regional design language. At the apex, Accent includes features used to add punctuation and high notes to the hotel experience. Representing only about 10 percent of any property's palette, accent options should be vibrantly unique and easily changed or refreshed over time. Here lies the opportunity to develop a local storyline by celebrating the regional culture in a cohesive, demonstrable, and intriguing manner.

Looking ahead at the needs and preferences of tomorrow's guests, we know the importance of embracing the motivations and the work/leisure styles of millennial travelers, and of smoothing the way for baby boomers as they transition to a more leisurely lifestyle. Flexible, multi-functional design is a prerequisite in addressing the changing needs of hotel guests on a 24/7 basis. At Embassy Suites, our new design prototype, Design Option III, introduces a more cost-effective, scalable model of hotel with a simplified structural system and improved operational efficiencies. It reflects our commitment to sustainability in design, construction, and material sourcing. From a developer's perspective, its smaller footprint with side-by-side suites cuts construction costs, making an affordable franchise option for owners with limited space.

The public's needs change as well, and we're now experiencing an industry-wide elevation of our guests' expectations in terms of design. There's a call for a warm, modern design style to be woven into all areas of the guest experience. Out-of-the-box thinking is a must, and at Embassy Suites we're looking across different genres of commercial, retail, spa and residential design to bring new life and vitality to our hotels.

We believe that it's important to foster natural connections through design that speaks to the traveler we all aspire to be. It starts with easing those transitions that can sometimes make travel a challenge, and enabling guests to enjoy the travel elements that delight, inspire, and spark memories. At the same time, brand awareness is a top priority. Through an innovative design approach, we're creating brand moments that deliver a series of touch points unique to Embassy Suites. In each physical space, a distinctive focal point or experiential discovery is designed to capture guest interest, drawing on the imagination. With consistent brand imagery and iconography, we're ensuring a charismatic identity in the built environment.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.