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What Hotels Really Need From Designers

What Hotels Really Need From Designers

Mathew Dalby, Principal of Interiors, Rothelowman.

One-dimensional interior designers, who seek only to beautify spaces, are on the endangered species list, thanks to the evolution of hotel design.

What hotels require now is a clever conductor capable of harnessing the power of design to strike a harmonious balance between disciplines ranging from sound and lighting, to food and beverage and guest experience.

Rothelowman has been designing forward-thinking hotels in Australian capital cities for years. We know the market is increasingly seeking designers who take a sophisticated approach to creating branded hotels that accurately predict and then meet the expectations of hotel groups and their future guests.

The Hotel Market is Evolving

It’s a brave new world for the hospitality sector. Everyone’s a design critic, thanks to the plethora of image-based social media platforms and design focussed television shows.

Information sharing of this kind has meant potential hotel guests are exposed to a cool new hotel opening in Brooklyn at the same time as one in Beirut.

This has led to the continuing sophistication of hospitality brands and products within the global marketplace, at a time when services such as Airbnb are pushing tourists towards unique experiences by encouraging them to travel like locals.

Hotel Groups and operators understand that what they deliver needs to be en pointe from a brand perspective in every sector. A food and beverage offering can no longer be a standard menu, and a hotel interior cannot be a simple replica of one previously launched elsewhere.

When you multiply the factors that need to change for a hotel to be relevant, you increase the projects’ deliverables. But who is responsible for wrangling all these new ideas and processes and driving towards a common brand goal?

There is no expert better placed to successfully fulfil this role than the interior designer.

Designers Must Adapt

In Australia, the discipline of interior design has traditionally been viewed as a small cog in the process of hotel creation. That’s all changed.

It’s a simple fact that Instagram is one of the biggest tools used in new hotel bookings. Images of hotels draw people through the doors, but once they’re there the whole story has to be solid. From amenity spaces, to food and beverage offerings, if you were to pick the hotel up and shake it, the brand should be so tight that nothing would rattle or fall off.

This approach goes beyond interior design and creating a façade.

For example, if a hotel is putting in an area for concerts, the best designers will work with sound and lighting experts to build their requirements into the interior space.

Meanwhile, the same hotel operator might require a food and beverage option in the lobby, which would require an altogether different design than one that simply places a kitchen back-of-house.

We’re working with operators on putting such things as WeWork spaces into hotels and establishing ways to zone amenity spaces so that such tenants can come to work while other patrons arrive for a meal, and different guests return to their rooms or serviced hotel apartments. Successfully balancing these competing requirements takes significant and detailed planning.

The Future is Bright

The level of sophistication that hotel owners and operators expect is huge and it is not as simple as being reactive to their requests. We are designing hotels that won’t hit the market for three to five years and that means we need to be many steps ahead.

For instance, with family leisure time at a premium, kids clubs are no longer reflective of the way many families want to travel. Good designers will look at this and ask themselves whether there is an opportunity to cater to this demographic in a different way. Can the kids hire bikes? Can they do a cooking class? How can they share their holiday with friends back home?

The best designers are thinking about such issues, bringing key stakeholders to the table, and facilitating active design solutions that make every hotel guest feel valued.

And it is not just kids we are thinking about. What about digital nomads who live away from home for over a year? The freelance writers, artists and designers who frequent hotels. How are we responding to this demographic and others? It is the designer’s duty to think of all guests, and then decide with whom they need to engage to carve out opportunities.

As brand conduits, it is our business to analyse markets, isolate future trends, and equip ourselves and our clients with hotel designs that will see them through the next decade and beyond.

With a heightened sense of proactivity, designers must be mindful of all the moving parts that need to be conducted so that hotel brands can really sing.