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The Future of Hotel Design

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
27 August 2020
6 min read
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The International Luxury Hotel Association’s NorthEast Chapter hosted a webinar on The Future of Design where they discussed how they have had to respond to the crisis in current projects and adapt with innovative solutions and technologies while placing a renewed value on vendor relationships as we all face a pandemic reality.

Ofra Gelman, Principal, Dwell Design Studio moderated the webinar with panelists, Nigel Hatcher, Vice President of Design and Project Management, Luxury Brands, Marriott, International, Scott Hammons, Vice President of Design and Construction, Diamondrock Hospitality, LP, and Helen Jorgensen, Vice President, Design & Procurement, and Leader in Strategic Sourcing and Interior Design & Supply Chain Management.

Projects moving forward
It was promising to hear that everyone was continuing to work on projects that were at various phases when the pandemic hit. Scott had some that were nearing completion at that time and was able to work with design partners on alternative seating plans and the short and long term impact, pivoting to additional outdoor seating to offset lost seating on the inside and maximizing indoor/outdoor space. Their interior renovations support where the world is going, with a shift from carpets to luxury vinyl tile (LVT) flooring, alternatives to leather, and finishes that will withstand the new housekeeping initiatives, automatic door options and, foot handles for restroom doors.

Nigel spoke about how Marriott was leveraging their Bonvoy Marriott app with remote check-in as part of their goal to make guests feel comfortable to visit their hotels. Each hotel has a detailed operational Commitment to Clean Guideline that they are required to implement. Seating capacity has been reduced by approximately 50% to meet CDC guidelines.

Helen mentioned the steady increase in leisure and drive to destinations, and how they had also been testing the effect of chemicals on hotel FF&E and finishes as properties increase sanitation policies.

Long term design changes
The panel agreed that they don’t anticipate any radical long-term changes to hotel design.

“Guests are wanting to feel that the hotel is spacious and clean, with wide open spaces where they don’t have to worry about being in a crowd,” said Helen. “They still want to have a drink and be social, but in the COVID world they are looking for cleanliness and safety without feeling like they are in a hospital. There are elements in design that already exist that can be used throughout the hotel, like hard surface flooring and stain guard soil release fabrics or treatments that are disinfectable and antimicrobial. Also look at underutilized space and how you can use it as an ROI.”

“There likely won’t be any drastic changes,” added Scott, “but there will be some longer-term initiatives due to the effect of COVID on people’s routines. The excitement around the buffet has gone for a while, rather hotels are doing grab and go, with quality food prepared individually for guests. The key is in the flexibility of design, the small things, like the seating layouts in lobbies that don’t funnel all the guests through a narrow corridor or more flexible table options as opposed to the communal tables that we were all in love with last year. The effects on the design process will be subtle but will require thoughtful consideration and could impact design schedules.”

Nigel mentioned the possibility of designing spaces in the future that may have some key social distancing design elements integrated into the design to avoid having to have stickers on the floors. Perhaps the floor pattern could be designed with inlays at 6’ intervals to provide a more sophisticated long-term solution. He stressed the importance of listening to the guest feedback and hear what will make them feel comfortable and safe, to return to hotels.

“The air balancing is often overlooked in a building,” said Scott, “and with the focus on indoor/outdoor spaces this often has a cost impact on projects and will be something there is more focus on. It is imperative to work through hotel designs with your partners and collaborate in a thoughtful way.”

New technologies
“Leveraging our Bonvoy app that allows for 24 hour check in prior to arrival and mobile keys,” said Nigel, “also, all hotels are using electrostatic spraying technologies. We are also looking into upgrading filter systems, UV lights to clean spaces and plasma air technology, HEPA filtration units in guest rooms are also being considered, along with touchless faucets and flush valves, and touchless door opening devices. Public restrooms, fitness centers and elevators are the most challenging to resolve.

From a design perspective Nigel touched on the need for the design community to look to new technologies for design inspiration instead of Pinterest. Change the way we think about design. 3 D printing being a great example. This technology can allow rapid prototyping, personalized solutions, it’s efficient and affordable. It allows complex shapes and designs to be implemented that under traditional manufacturing methods would be next to impossible. It’s a technology that can provide a unique personalized experience to our luxury guests. W did a proof of concept at the W Boston recently where we used 3-D printers to create unique personalized card key holders for guests with their own initials on them and personalized ice cubes for a group function.

Helen agreed that she felt that 3-D printing had been underutilized and how a desktop 3D printer could add a realm of possibilities for a hotel to personalize guest experience.

Vendor Relationships
“Pivotal to getting through the foreseeable future is a flexible partnership with your vendors with open and honest communication both ways between the host and supply partners,” said Helen, “so that if any problems arise, you can work together to solve them.”

The webinar was sponsored by World Cinema

Word Cinema is a market leader innovating and delivering technology and services to guest-centric properties. … Today, we are building on that legacy as a stable and trusted provider of video and data services to some of the largest owners and managers of hotel and multifamily brands in the world

Ella Ahmed, Director of Marketing, World Cinema
[email protected]