Hotel Design: Creating an Experience

By Tammy S. Miller President, Alternate Resources | June 01, 2014

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the word "design" to mean many things, one of which says…"to plan and make (something) for a specific use or purpose." In there lies the first task of a good hotel designer….Understand the use, purpose, desire, and interest of your guest(s). The hotel designer has to envision how something will look, how it will function and what experiences a guest will have from the moment they pull up or walk in to the property, through every inch they wander.

The world has changed drastically over the last decade. Once we had technology at our desks, in the office, and in our homes. Now, we walk around with smart phones that basically fit at the end of our fingertips and with that device we can do everything – instantly. Whether we seek an answer to a question, the lyrics of a song, the cheapest flight to a destination, the film clip of the interview we missed – it is all right in our hand. We have become a culture of immediate gratification, and of being able to do something or reach anyone in seconds via phone, text, email, tweet, and other social media outlets.

Design, functionality, space, color, light, clutter, sustainability are all part of our movements and our world. I used to find that many people were oblivious to the details, and often looked for an attractive, comforting design in the spaces they stayed. Now, hotel design also has to step up a notch.

People want more, they want more from everything they do and they will get it, because if "x" doesn't offer it, "y" will, and then "x+" will top it and then "y"+ and the bar keeps rising, as the expected costs fall. It is the nature of the beast. Just like we used to expect to plug our computer in a desk plug and Ethernet cable, now we want to recharge the 1-3 devices we carry individually and sit anywhere to use them.

This leads to new levels of creativity and new levels of design. It challenges hotel designers to "create an experience" for their guests.

I have heard many over the years fight about what is most important for the guest: the guest room, the lobby, the meeting facilities, the restaurant, the lounge, etc. I have found that it depends on the property and honestly, their renovation cycle. While every hotel owner would like to offer new designs to their guests, it is impractical. They are on a renovation cycle, they have to fund the work.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.