Designing Interesting Hotel Experiences

By Patrick Burke Principal, Michael Graves Architecture & Design | November 12, 2017

Interesting guest experiences continue to drive hotel trends. We’ve seen this for years in the food industry as our everyday encounters with food become wider and more global. For example, food and beverages that were once sought-out specialties are now widespread. The experience became more than the coffee, or the croissant or the sushi, hence the coffee shop, the patisserie, the sushi bar. They are remembered as places, specially designed places that stimulate the senses.

I am currently working on a large scale master plan for a resort in China where the food offerings represent culinary experiences from around the globe. And I’m also designing a hotel in the Egypt where the influence is hyper local. What differentiates these projects from others is the power of architecture and design.

Our firm, like some other designers in the hospitality field, has been working for years on reimagining and customizing guest experiences. Despite all that’s changed, we have consistently found that savvy travelers value memorable experiences unique to the places they visit. They value destinations that embody a sense of place and resonate with history, the environment, and local culture and cuisine. This expectation of having an “experience” wasn’t always the case.

The Rise of the Boutique Hotel and the Signature Restaurant

Sameness used to dominate the hospitality industry, in both interiors and services. When our firm started designing hotels and resorts in the 1980s, hotel chains – like fast food chains -- thought consistency of product was paramount. Clearly, there are tremendous business efficiencies to be gained, straight to the bottom line. The industry’s business experts famously characterized hotels as money-making machines, operating with precision, cookie cutter style. Public relations promoted the value of consistency: the guest experience would be the same no matter where in the United States or abroad, a predictable comfort to weary travelers. Brand loyalty surged. Frequent traveler points became popular. Design was secondary to brand standards. The guest experience was rarely unique since it wasn’t supposed to be.

At that time, hotel operators sought to deliver a sense of being at home while away. That has evolved dramatically. Many of today’s travelers are looking to get away from home. They seek new living, working and dining experiences they don’t have at home, whether traveling for business or pleasure. People want to be surprised. Today, people seek out opportunities for new experiences.

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Coming up in May 2018...

Eco-Friendly Practices: The Greening of Your Bottom Line

There are strong moral and ethical reasons why a hotel should incorporate eco-friendly practices into their business but it is also becoming abundantly clear that “going green” can dramatically improve a hotel's bottom line. When energy-saving measures are introduced - fluorescent bulbs, ceiling fans, linen cards, lights out cards, motion sensors for all public spaces, and energy management systems - energy bills are substantially reduced. When water-saving equipment is introduced - low-flow showerheads, low-flow toilets, waterless urinals, and serving water only on request in restaurants - water bills are also considerably reduced. Waste hauling is another major expense which can be lowered through recycling efforts and by avoiding wastefully-packaged products. Vendors can be asked to deliver products in minimal wrapping, and to deliver products one day, and pick up the packaging materials the next day - generating substantial savings. In addition, renewable sources of energy (solar, geothermal, wind, etc.) have substantially improved the economics of using alternative energies at the property level. There are other compelling reasons to initiate sustainability practices in their operation. Being green means guests and staff are healthier, which can lead to an increase in staff retention, as well as increased business from health conscious guests. Also, sooner or later, all properties will be sold, and green hotels will command a higher price due to its energy efficiencies. Finally, some hotels qualify for tax credits, subsidies and rebates from local, regional and federal governments for the eco-friendly investments they've made in their hotels. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document how some hotels are integrating sustainable practices into their operations and how their hotels are benefiting from them.