When we’ve talked about hotel trends any time in the past few years, three main topics have dominated the conversation: millienials, technology and AirBnB. These three major topics trickle down to form any number of different conversations about the travel experience, from brand to booking to design.
The big news for 2016 is the fact that we cannot simply attribute these trends to the millennial generation. Baby boomers also seek out meaningful, authentic experiences, quickly adopt new technologies, and have to a great degree embraced a sharing economy. These trends, and the myriad effects upon the branding and design of today’s hotels, are fast becoming universal.
Authentic, immersive, curated experiences
From the standpoint of design, the drive to create authentic, immersive, curated experiences reigns supreme. This trend is directly influenced by the mindset of millennial travelers, who seek exploration and interaction, value authentic experiences as their new definition of luxury, and expect unique, curated experiences as a matter of course. As we have read over and over, this generation tends to travel more lightly through life, collecting memories rather than stuff. And now the rest of us are starting to do so as well.
The development of immersive travel experiences – winery resorts, culinary resorts, resorts geared toward specific sports enthusiasts – will continue to expand. The appeal to the millennial generation is established, but immersive experiences also allow the baby boomer generation (which still wields the major spending power) to embrace its passions. A logical extension of this experience is the co-branded hotel – Baccarat, Armani, Cuisinart, Quiksilver – where the resort experience allows the guest to live within the ethos of the brand. A design team that is highly attuned to defining brand through architecture and interior design is critical.
Individually tailored experiences, elegant but intimate and welcoming spaces, the blending of the hotel and private club experiences – all of these will impact the concept of the hotel in 2016. This affects hotel designers in myriad ways: the lobby has become a shared living room, so we’re designing it differently. Urban social clubs are the new social living room, expanding the scope of what we see as hospitality. Urban resorts are another fascinating trend, vertical playgrounds that provide the elements you’d expect in a resort, but urbanized. The urban hotel can be designed as a launch pad – a minimalistic approach where the city itself offers all the amenities, and the hotels’ primary amenity becomes a highly-refined concierge service.
Wellness as a lifestyle
Wellness as a lifestyle is huge. It goes beyond the fitness facility and spa. Integration with place and nature is important, as is the bigger picture – care for the earth and care for the self going hand in hand. The Wellbeing Institute and the Wellbuild Standards launched at the US Green Building Council’s 2014 Greenbuild Conference are a perfect example. They create standards by which new structures are not only environmentally sustainable, but promote optimum health and wellbeing for those who will inhabit those spaces. We are working with Delos Living, (founders of the Wellbeing Institute), to incorporate these standards into second-home communities.
Recasting iconic properties for a new generation
Another trend we are seeing in our practice is the renovation of older properties to appeal to a new generation of travelers. We’re breathing new life into a number of iconic properties across the country – The Lodge at Pebble Beach and Pronghorn in Bend, Oregon are just two – deepening the experience of place with new offerings and an adventuresome spirit. With these properties we’re looking toward the future and seeing the influence of a new generation in a big way.
We are seeing a continuing trend toward the contemporary in resort design, largely attributable to a much broader exposure to architecture and design of all types. The internet and social media have been instrumental in broadening awareness across the board, and awareness of design in particular. What is exciting to us as designers is that a deep sense of contextualism and connection is front of mind for our clients and end users, and at the very same time that the appreciation for contemporary design in hotels and resorts is growing. This convergence allows us as designers a great deal of creative freedom to design projects that are of the place, and of our time.