The Evolving Role of People Space in Hotel Design

By Jack Portman Chairman & CEO, John Portman & Associates | November 18, 2018

The hotel industry is continually looking for new ways to differentiate its properties. It is important the design responds to its location and its program. However, to create a hotel that truly stands out, architects must focus, not so much on the property itself, but on the experience that the space delivers. Striving to deliver an inspiring human experience led to one of the hotel industry's greatest innovations.

A typical urban hotel in the 1960s consisted of a double-loaded corridor – a dim, narrow hallway with door after identical door. The design delivered a mundane, if not dismal, guest experience – all that people expected from a hotel in those days. In designing the iconic Hyatt Regency Atlanta, John Portman exploded the diagram to create an architecture that embraced people space. The spacious, soaring atrium captivated the senses with movement, light, varying textures and sounds. The open floor space encircled by dining opportunities and featuring seating groups and a central water feature recalled the traditional piazzas of European cities. It added an entirely new, vibrant and dynamic gathering space that brought tremendous life to the heart of downtown Atlanta.

People were enthralled with the unexpected experience. When the hotel first opened, it was visited by thousands of tourists a day. Lines of people literally circled the block just waiting to get a glimpse inside. So many sightseers jammed into the elevators, the hotel had to hire attendants to control the crowds and ensure that paying guests were able to reach their rooms in a timely fashion.

The idea of exploding the interior to create people space revolutionized hotel design. The notion of challenging the norm to provide a different experience is thought-provoking. Architects are constantly testing, reinventing, and reconsidering the hotel as a building type. But for a design to truly succeed and stand the test of time, the motivation should not be the delivery of the unexpected only for the sake of being different. The design must better serve people and enhance the human experience.

Employing people-oriented design is a philosophy that works the world over. People are more alike than they are different. Human nature doesn't change based on geography. Appealing to human senses is universal. The human response to space, light, water, plants and other elements of nature is innate.

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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.