SB Architects’ Hotel Trends for 2016: A Second Look

At the beginning of the year, I took a look at four key trends impacting the design of hotels and resorts in 2016:

  •         authentic, immersive, curated experiences
  •         wellness as a lifestyle
  •         recasting iconic properties for a new generation
  •         the move toward contemporary design in hospitality

As we head into the second quarter, I wanted to continue that conversation, taking a second look at trends shaping the hospitality industry and how, from an architect’s perspective, those trends are influencing the design of the properties we have on the drawing board.

A phenomenon in parallel: consolidation + differentiation

Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels at the end of 2015 made it the largest hotel company in the world, with more than 5,500 owned or franchised hotels around the world. Accor Hotels’ acquisition of FRHI Hotels and Resorts, with luxury brands Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel, and IHG’s acquisition of Kimpton Hotels signalled other key shifts in the market. Clearly, there is a strong trend toward consolidation.

However, we’re seeing a parallel trend – an increase in individualized hotel offerings. We see this particularly in “diffusion” brands specifically targeted toward millenials, with a less expensive price point and a strong emphasis on local lifestyle and insider experiences. According to JLL, lifestyle, collection and boutique hotels under leading hotel operators have grown by 25% since 2009. The industry is consolidating operationally, but the drive for individualized identity and experience has never been greater.

So what is the net effect from the architect’s point of view?

We’re seeing a number of things. The first is that the acquisitions, bolstered by high room rates, are setting the stage for a wave of hotel renovations as hotels reposition acquisitions to improve performance. With room rates high, hotels are investing now to position hotels for success during the next down cycle, (which we all know will come at some point).

The growing demand for individual, curated experiences is another driver, for urban and suburban properties alike. Individualized design, driven by a strong brand ethos, will continue to be critically important. Barry Sternlicht’s 1 Hotel brand, with a crystal clear vision and design ethos, is an excellent example. The outgrowth of this is that our work as architects incorporates and expresses the ethos and core identity of the hotel brand more than ever before. This is particularly true when we are working onone of the brand’s initial properties. We are keenly aware that we are defining the brand through design, and this is reflected in our design process.

Personalized service and curated experience reign supreme

The hotel business has become a science, (new technologies, analysis of rates and returns, booking algarithms), but hospitality is still an art and the continued evolution of hospitality is fascinating to watch.

The definition of service is evolving, as is the definition of luxury. Largely – but not entirely – driven by the millenial mindset, luxury and service are in the eye of the beholder. Technology and social media allow hotels to tailor experience like never before, connecting with guests before their stay, knowing their individual preferences, and responding immediately to their needs. Again, 1 Hotels is an excellent example. All customer service runs through their “Field Guide” app. That means no phones in the rooms, no remote controls, no paper, just simplicity and connection. The effects on the design process are obvious – simple, clean, comfortable, less surface needed for stuff, more opportunity to think individually about personal spaces. And, of course, there is no need for a concierge desk when the concierge is available 24/7 via an app or in-room IPad.

Historic properties retain their relevance

In 2016, the Ritz Carlton London celebrates its 110th anniversary. The Ritz-Carlton Paris – the famed home of Coco Chanel for over 35 years – will re-open later this year after a three-year renovation. Closer to home, our firm is leading the renovation of the historic Lodge at Pebble Beach. The lure of historic hotel properties is strong. They have rich stories to tell, and travellers want to become a part of those stories. But they expect that experience to play out in a modern form – incorporating current technology to provide the connection, convenience and personalized service that define luxury in our age.

While renovations keep historic properties relevant, new brands – such as Viceroy’s Proper Hotels translate the tradition of the grand hotel for a new generation of consumer. The brand’s tagline – “a grand hotel for the modern age” – expresses it well. Grand still works, if the experience is curated and authentic.