Design Drivers: How Universal Culture Impacts Hotel Design

By David Ashen Principal and Founder, dash design | April 08, 2018

Not long ago, I went on a business trip to Tokyo with Toto, the Japanese company that manufactures the Washlet, a clever device fitted to nearly every toilet in Japan-even one at a 7 Eleven, at least according to one of my tour-mates who needed to use the convenience store's bathroom.

The Washlet, a registered trademark of Toto that refers to electric toilet seats with water spray features for intimate body cleaning, was first released in June 1980, with more than 30 million sold by early 2011. Washlets, and other versions of the device that transform a typical toilet into a bidet, are becoming the norm in Japan and other parts of the world, including hotel bathrooms in the countries. It's akin to using toilet tissue in America.

This leads to an important point. What might be an expected amenity in one culture might not be a detail to consider in another. For instance-and again, in reference to toilets-I was told that at a luxury hotel where I often have stayed when visiting Istanbul, the architect or interior designer in charge was not fluent in the cultural norms of Turkey, including that, like in Japan, water is used to clean oneself after using the toilet by using a manual bidet integrated into the toilet.

This luxe property was a standout when it was built and situated in a sought-after neighborhood, with no detail left unturned-or at least the designers thought so. But because the property neglected to include a bidet in the guestroom bathrooms, the hotel did not go over well with Turkish travelers looking for overnight accommodations in Istanbul. As a result, the owners discovered that all its stylish, brand new toilets had to be replaced, stat.

Global trends in toilet-ware aside, it's important for designers, owners and operators to see what is happening around the globe and to take note. I often work with owners and operators who look to me to understand what is trending. An integral part of my job is to look beyond the borders of North America and glean insights into what might be on the wider horizon by understanding what's happening in the major global cities and other destinations around the world.

During part of the year, I live in Chile, which gives me the good fortune to live in two different hemispheres. Chile leads the world in ecotourism. With so much natural beauty and a coastline that extends from the desert in the north to the icebergs of Patagonia, the country has one of the most breathtaking landscapes imaginable. There, designers of hotels have embraced nature and ecology to create destination properties that lightly touch the earth and connect the guest with the environment and then, in turn, themselves.

Yong Yi Ting at the Mandarin Oriental in Shanghai / Entry / Wine Bar
Yong Yi Ting at the Mandarin Oriental in Shanghai / Private Dining Room #8 with private exhibition kitchen
Yong Yi Ting at the Mandarin Oriental / Private Dining Corridor inspired by a traditional Chinese garden path
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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.