Top Hotel Trends for 2015

As we launch into 2015, we are celebrating. 2014 was a banner year for the hospitality industry, and the forecast for 2015 is another year of strong growth in the U.S. and abroad. Today I sat down with Scott Lee, president of SB Architects, to get his take on the top hotel trends for 2015.

HH:  You travel all over the world for our design practice. Based on your travels, and on your experience, if you could pick the top three trends in travel for 2015, what would they be?

SS: Authentic, experiential travel. Multi-generational travel. Wellness as a holistic lifestyle.

HH: Let’s take them one at a time. You listed authentic, experiential travel first. Why?

SS: This is where the effect of the millennial generation is being felt most in regard to travel and hospitality design. It may sound cliché, but authenticity is the new luxury. This generation is less interested in the usual elements of the luxury hospitality experience, and more interested in exploration and interaction, collecting experiences and memories like earlier generations collected things. 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, a new conception of the scope of hospitality. Adventure travel is the most obvious example, but so is the co-branded resort – Hard Rock or Quiksilver Hotels offer a specific, memorable type of experience.

HH: How does that match up with a sense of stewardship?

SS: There is no denying that there is an essential tension between travel and stewardship. That makes it all the more important that destinations are both environmentally and culturally sustainable.  How to we preserve a place, yet share it with the world? For this generation, travel is part of an enhancement to their sense of self, so it is important to get that balance right. Enhancing guests’ understanding of a place in order to help preserve it is important, as is immersion in nature, history, culinary traditions, authentically presented, and produced in a way that benefits the local culture.

HH: Next, multi-generational travel. I assume you mean more than just traveling with kids.

SS: I do. This trend really comes to the fore as we design mixed-use destination resorts with numerous elements coming together to create a holistic destination –  hotel, resort residential, destination spa, spa suites, club suites, private clubs, even wineries. This gives us the opportunity to create shared experiences for multiple generations of travelers. We are often designing for three generations traveling together, and flexible suite and unit types become valuable commodities. Often, there are only two generations traveling together – grandparents and grandchildren – which takes another level of thinking about how they will spend their time and what services they will need.

HH: More than a kids club?

SS: Yes. It’s important to create spaces and experiences geared toward the family as a whole, and kids clubs that include a focus on education and awareness about the environment and the place. We are designing resorts as a journey, with multiple opportunities for experiences along the way.

To highlight this trend, several of the resorts we have designed – including Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Bahia Beach Resort and Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort – have found that they have had more families on their guest lists they ever anticipated, and they are adding new amenities to accommodate them. We have several new Ritz-Carlton Reserve properties on the boards, and the design for each accommodates this trend in a different way – family compounds, greater numbers of two and three-bedroom lock-off suites, family fitness areas, multi-generational excursions and education centers, even a kids club that connects to other areas of the resort by zip-line!

HH: Wellness has been cited as a trend for a while now. Is this different?

SS: Wellness as a lifestyle is still a growing trend. 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  Well building Standard launched by Delos Living at the 2014 is a perfect example. They create standards by which new structures are not only environmentally sustainable, but promote optimum health and well being for those who will inhabit those spaces.

HH: Those are your top three. What else are you seeing?

SS: There’s so much happening. Just a few…urban resorts are a fascinating trend, vertical playgrounds that provide the elements you’d expect in a resort, but urbanized. Urban hotel as a launch pad – a minimalistic approach where the city itself is the resort, with culture, sport, educational opportunities, the works – and the primary amenity the hotel provides is a highly curated itinerary provided by the highest level concierge services. Blended hotels – especially in urban and mixed-use settings, but not always – where multiple levels of the same hotel brand can share back-of-house functions, and even share some amenities. The hotel within a hotel – a boutique hotel tucked within a larger brand, gaining both the expansive amenities of the larger hotel and the intimacy of the smaller boutique. We’re also breathing new life into a number of iconic properties across the country – with these properties we’re looking toward the future and seeing the influence of a new generation in a big way.