Design of the times: keeping up with changing tastes27 September 2012
For hotels to remain profitable, they must pay attention to design and environmental trends, according to Peter Bierwirth, president of the European Hotel Managers Association.
Is Motel One's slogan - 'More design for less money' - true? Can you really spend 'less money' and get 'more design'? Maybe yes, if you're lucky enough to know a young, creative designer, an enthusiastic hotelier and a daring investor with access to venture capital. If not, the design may be great but trends evolve, and customers change their minds as often as their tastes. The result? Profits shrink and the hotelier/owner faces serious challenges. The key to lasting success is not 'fashion design' but design that is in line with global trends and reflects the taste of leading target groups.
The fundamentals of hotelkeeping remain the same: comfort, convenience, friendliness, safety and security, with the provision of meals and refreshment, and entertainment in a pleasant environment. Yet there has been a major change: the hotelier is no longer a simple provider; he has become an 'experience' creator.
Technology and taste
It's very easy to create a bad experience for guests: simply omit some of the above fundamentals. But to create the unforgettable experience that will make them want to recommend your establishment, you need more than just crazy ideas.
Technology and environmental thinking are crucial when designing hotels today, irrespective of the category.
In addition to segmenting guests into corporate customers, leisure guests, tourists and different nationalities, we must observe two crucial phenomena: the behaviour of the baby-boomer and generation-Y guests - the digital natives. Both target groups are extremely important to hoteliers since they enjoy the highest disposable income. They are also avid followers of technology and the environment, two forces that are now driving change in the hospitality industry.
Future hotel design must therefore not only respect aesthetics, but also concentrate on technology, such as smartphones and tablets, RFID, NFC and QR codes, which are becoming as commonplace as running hot and cold water was for our grandparents. Remember colour television and the excitement of having a set in each room? Before long, television will be a thing of the past - instant internet access, and monitors for work and pleasure will replace television sooner than we imagine.
Hotel vs restaurant design
What about restaurants and bars? All-inclusive hotel and restaurant design - by the same architect - will soon be history. Instead, hotels will be created by one designer and restaurants by another. This is already taking place in high-competition cities such as London, Paris and Berlin, where lifestyle is paramount and design has become an essential marketing tool for positioning a hotel.
Increasingly, hoteliers and owners understand that a hotel needs to tell a 'story' in order to individualise the establishment and make it unique. Even chain hotels require differentiation according to their location and main target groups. The time has long passed where chains were proud to say, "Regardless where you are, you always feel at home". People want to know whether they are in Chicago or Munich, Shanghai or Barcelona. They want to 'feel' the location and the hotel's unique personality, yet receive the same standards of communication, security and comfort.
An experienced designer will have a feel for international standards of hospitality, as well as technological developments, and of the changing tastes and preferences of the international traveller. Considering these aspects, expensive design does not necessarily have to be good, but good design cannot be cheap.
Good design in hospitality is becoming increasingly important as competition grows and international travellers become increasingly demanding. While more design does not necessarily mean more profit, zero design will certainly mean zero profit.