How Next-Gen Hotel Lobbies Redefine the Guest Experience

By David C. Marr Senior Vice President & Global Head, Hilton Full Service Brands | November 26, 2017

Hospitality begins the moment a guest walks through the doors of a hotel. As a guest often forms his or her first impression of a hotel from the lobby, the importance of this space cannot be overstated.

In recent years, there have been industry-wide shifts in lobby design informed by the evolving preferences and needs of travelers. It is no longer sufficient to design a comfortable place to pass time before checking in to a guest room. Instead, hotels now need to create an experience within the lobby that not only provides functionality, but also establishes a sense of place for guests and visitors alike.

While there is no one-size-fits-all template for hotel lobby design, there are common themes shaping how hospitality companies approach re-imagining the space today:

  • Being Socially Alone - Dynamic and Collaborative Spaces
  • Straight to the Room - Evolution of the Guest Check-in Experience
  • Choice & Control - Dining on the Go
  • Guiding the Way - Subtlety of Design Elements

Being Socially Alone - Dynamic and Collaborative Spaces

One of the largest hotel design trends in recent years has been the redefining of individual spaces within the lobby. Lobby design is breaking away from the notion where pockets of space have to be separated by walls and defined by specific functions. These distinct spaces are starting to dissolve and the way we design lobbies today is more open, dynamic and adaptable to guest needs, customer volume and flow throughout the space.

For example, if you look at Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, which is directly connected to Europe’s third busiest airport, you’ll see that the lobby was designed specifically to reflect and cater to the large influx of travelers from around the globe who move through the hotel on a daily basis. Housed in a 43-meter tall atrium with an expansive glass roof, the lobby’s layout is open by design and features “islands” of space that support a variety of functions, from reception areas to places to work, to relax or do a little of both. The hotel lobby offers spaces perfect for those awaiting friends or taxis, as well as areas for guests with longer stays to relax, where they can enjoy hand crafted cocktails and watch television, or work comfortably in a quiet area versus alone in their room.

Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
The lobby inside the Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
The Digital Key feature on the Hilton Honors app
Hilton pod-style check-in areas
Hilton's pantry-style, grab-and-go dining options
Herb N' Kitchen concept
Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa delights guests with a spectacular artistic lobby
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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.