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Societal trends affecting hotel design

In this world where AI is a household word, climate change is top of mind, travel is easier (albeit not sustainable), and millennials value work/life balance, change is inevitable in the hotel industry to respond to changing social norms.

In addition to this, social ‘proof seeking’ millennials want unique, sustainable, authentic experiences.

In creating unique hotels that support memorable experiences, something to post, or an adventure to share – be it a contemporary challenging design concept, a story woven through the property or an adventure-filled offering – the design narrative should be the starting point of your unique proposition.

It starts online

Being able to create an emotional connection in seconds with potential guests is key. By telling an authentic story through all elements of design, art, collateral, your website and social media to create an entrenched design narrative for guests to engage with, will set you apart.

As guests increasingly book direct for better value and not the last sell room, there is an opportunity to engage on a personalised level with the guest prior to their stay.

AI and digital technology makes it simple to create connection prior to the stay.

Let them know what is happening in the area during their stay, offer services to enhance their stay and show that their enjoyment is your priority. Be generous and genuine in the offering not only seeking spend in your own property.

What makes you unique and memorable

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As experiences become more important to guests, align offerings providing local insights with authenticity. Recent research by Skift suggests that some 67 percent of high income travellers value experiences more highly than the best hotel rooms.

As a result, the more unique and niche the offering the greater the connection. Work closely with your designer to enrich the design narrative and explore the different ways this can be manifested.

Design should accommodate the ability to support:

  • Custom itineraries rather than lists of attractions – either presented digitally, an in-room guide or through a concierge
  • Understanding of your neighbourhoods and their offerings
  • Alignment of food and beverage with healthy, seasonal and unique local cuisine
  • Upgraded collateral to provide an insightful touchpoint of interest with the guest
  • Ensuring that artwork, design elements, materials and styling are authentic and expands local interaction.

The rise of Airbnb can be directly attributed to the desire to experience the ‘real’ place. Airbnb hosts learned the importance of providing information for guests requiring local connection.

Destination marketing and management is going to be the most important priority for many hoteliers. BCG reports: “By 2024, personal and experiential luxury alone is estimated to be a €1,260 billion market – a significant increase from €845 billion in 2015.”


As our devices personalise messages to us yet reduce our interaction, so our need for social interaction and personalisation increases.

While design can support technology to provide personalisation such as individual control of heating and cooling, light moods, entertainment systems, and communication with the guest, guests should still feel welcomed and important on a personal level.

Dwell time

A well-established trend has seen travellers spend more time socialising and working within common areas than being confined in rooms. This, coupled with the mobility of devices, has impacted on the need to provide a variety of common area spaces where guests can dwell undertaking a variety of different functions, and reduced the need for guestroom desks.

Spaces that support relaxing, meeting, socialising, working alone or as a group should be included in a variety of common areas of the hotel. The key word being ‘variety’ of spaces transitioning from quiet to social spaces.

Connect with guest’s values

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Increasingly, customers are concerned with environmental issues and question whether businesses they deal with are behaving ethically.

You should look to:

Design for local supply – food and beverage, FFE, linen, and toiletries in refillable containers to name a few.

Reduce waste across all aspects of the operation

Review your services – water usage, power usage

Wellness extends beyond providing healthy and organic food and drink offerings.

Exercise offerings over and above the gym are now commonplace. In room exercise offerings, better workout facilities, and suggested walking, cycling and running tracks that encourage engagement with the neighbourhood are recommended.

And on departure

Make a strong enough connection that they will recommend you and choose to come back – don’t stalk them! Heaven knows we all get too many emails or calls from loyalty programmes.


Vee Kessner

Vee Kessner is the director of NZ specialist interior design company Space Studio

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