#HDExpo

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How Big Brands Can Help Small Brands

How Big Hotel Brands Can Help Small Hospitality Brands

by David Klemt

Upward perspective shot of skyscrapers

The intriguing topic of big hotel brands helping smaller hospitality businesses grow came up during HD Expo 2022.

Several speakers spoke about serving and improving local communities. However, established brands can also help local business communities.

Job creation can take place outside of a big brand’s four walls, for example. But going even further, smaller independent brands can also receive a lift from big brands.

As we all grapple with what business can be moving forward, some in hospitality are proposing operating with a purpose.

Conversations Help

Everyone with several years of experience in this industry has seen some things. That’s putting it lightly, most likely.

That is to say, hospitality professionals gain metric tons of useful experience working in this industry. As we know, experience and knowledge are incredibly valuable in business.

Great mentors help others by sharing their knowledge with others. They gain that knowledge—at least in part—through experience. That means that time is truly invaluable.

So, when’s the last time you shared your knowledge with someone outside your business’ four walls?

Damon Lawrence is the co-founder of Homage Hospitality, the first Black-owned hotel brand. As he said during HD Expo 2022, honoring and engaging a given community requires time and effort. This includes engaging with the community’s business owners.

According to Lawrence, just mentoring people and providing what you’ve learned in this industry for free can help small businesses.

Now, it may sound too simple to say that sharing information is enough to help a small operator. However, what seems like a small nudge in the right direction can be powerful.

It may seem inconsequential to an established, large brand operator or executive. But you may be holding the piece of the puzzle that will show a smaller operator their next step.

Giving someone a few moments of valuable time can lead to a flourishing local business community, which in turn helps the community at large thrive.

Active Development

The managing director of Horwath HTL, Todd Wynne-Parry, pointed out the old hotel and resort model during HD Expo 2022. For decades, the approach was to keep each guest on property for as much of their stay as possible.

Now, as Wynne-Parry says, the aim is to encourage guests to explore the areas surrounding hotels and resorts.

With that in mind, hotel groups and designers are seeking to create destination properties. Almost by default, that requires the community to become a destination as well.

As far as Crystal Vinisse Thomas, a VP at Hyatt Hotels, is concerned, that means global hospitality brands need learn to work with small businesses.

If a hotel brand really wants to engage the community, featuring local brands is a powerful strategy. Doing so not only resonates with locals, it provides a more authentic experience for travelers.

However, meeting the demands of a hotel can prove daunting for a small business. So, while it may seem like a great idea to design a space for a local coffee shop to operate out of, they may not be able to afford the initial outlay.

Vinisse Thomas recommends big hotel brands lower the cost of entry for small businesses to work with them.

Larger brands can also actively help accelerate the growth of small businesses. If a big hotel brand isn’t interested or capable of acting as an incubator, they can still help entrepreneurs.

Again, removing barriers to entry or lowering the costs of entry is a great start. Hotel brands can also create grant programs to develop smaller hospitality businesses.

There was a lot of talk about community during HD Expo 2022. Global brands need to take the next steps to ensure it wasn’t all talk.

Image: Samson on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Is Your Brand Engaging the Community?

Is Your Brand Engaging the Community?

by David Klemt

Sign on wall that reads, "We like you too"

Many speakers at HD Expo 2022 are focusing on an important element of design and the hospitality industry: the people we serve.

In other words, designers, their collaborative partners, and their clients want to engage communities.

Now, it’s true that HD Expo 2022 speakers were mainly talking about the hotel side of hospitality design. However, much of what they have to say on the subject of community relates to restaurant and bar projects as well.

Below are helpful insights into engaging the community your business operates in and serves.

Valuing the Community

Crystal Vinisse Thomas, vide president and global brand leader of lifestyle and luxury brands for Hyatt Hotels is bringing Caption by Hyatt to life.

A core element of Caption is community engagement. Yes, travelers are crucial to the success of a hotel brand. However, so are the locals.

After all, hotels, restaurants, and bars employ people from the community. Engaging the community leads to the creation of a loyal guests. During slower times, those loyal locals keep those registers ringing.

As Vinisse Thomas says, operators need to focus on locals as much as travelers. Further, she defines her approach to community as creating a space that’s open to everyone.

One way that Caption is staying true to Vinisse Thomas and Hyatt’s vision for the brand is the Talk Shop. As the name suggests, this is a hangout space. Talk Shop is a communal workspace, a a restaurant, a coffee shop… It’s a hangout for everyone, hotel guest or community guest.

However, Vinisse Thomas does admit that there are challenges when designing and operating for community engagement. One of those challenges is scalability.

Then there’s another big challenge. Designing and operating with the community in mind looks great on paper. But there’s no guarantee that this approach will give an operator an edge of the competition.

To that point, Vinisse Thomas suggests it may be best to speak with one’s competitors to partner on community engagement efforts.

Honoring the Community

An additional challenge when attempting to engage a community is authenticity. It’s a great buzzword, as Vinisse Thomas says, but it needs to be more than that.

Dyonne Fashina, principal of Denizens of Design, has some thoughts on community engagement and authenticity.

Putting it bluntly, Fashina says that honoring a community requires more than a Google search. Rather, designers and operators need to spend time in a given community. They need to get to know the people, the culture, and the vibe.

At KRG Hospitality, we agree. One of our services is site selection. We conduct intensive research to identify the best site for a concept.

However, operator clients need to ensure they know the location. Not just the ZIP code, not just the address, not just the cross streets—the community.

After KRG identifies ideal sites, the client should spend time in those communities, speaking with the people who live and work in them.

Fashina also has another excellent piece of advice for operators. The project, as we often say at KRG, isn’t over after the grand opening. Fashina’s advice speaks to that point.

If an element of an operator’s business isn’t working for the community, she says, they need to be flexible enough to fix it. For owners who perhaps don’t spend every day inside their business or businesses, Fashina recommends visiting to analyze community engagement.

Hospitality is about service, and service requires commitment to being a responsible host and steward. To that end, operators should ensure their concepts improve communities rather than exploit them.

Image: Adam Jang on Unsplash

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What’s Next in the F&B Design Space?

What’s Next in the F&B Design Space?

by David Klemt

Interior of world's first crypto bar

Design driven by a story and narrative, technological innovation, and people’s desire to socialize are what’s next in hospitality design.

The influences above are factoring into the current approach to design in the F&B space. Be it a hotel or restaurant, the F&B landscape is going to look different for several reasons.

Five leading industry experts addressed this topic during HD Expo 2022‘s “F&B Trends: What’s Next?” panel.

Technology

Well, let’s start with arguably the biggest “trend” in F&B. Our industry is finally making major advancements in the area of technology.

It may not seem like it to some, but speaking generally, hospitality hasn’t always found itself on tech’s bleeding edge. That’s changing.

In fact, some industry experts feel we may be moving too quickly. For example, an interesting prediction from Restaurant Leadership Conference 2022 is a more deliberate approach to developing and implementing hospitality-specific tech.

Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll see a significant slowdown in tech innovation. Rather, innovators may take a more calculated approach to truly relieve hospitality pain points.

For example, Adam Crocini, senior vice president and global head of food and beverage brands for Hilton, points to a few innovations now common throughout the industry. Digital order, digital pay, and the ability to deliver food essentially anywhere within a hotel, resort or casino property are tech solutions driving efficiency.

However, Crocini sees one segment in need of a specific solution. In the luxury segment, guests prefer in-person engagement with staff and tactile engagement with physical menus.

Ari Kastrati, chief hospitality officer for MGM Resorts International, seems to agree. Tech, says Kastrati, shouldn’t replace human connections. Rather, technology needs to enable and enhance.

The Experience

When it comes to design, much of the focus is on the impact it will have on the guest or consumer. However, the end user is hardly the starting point.

For Kastrati, a successful project begins with the development of a relationship. That relationship is between the designer, the operator, and the concept. If care isn’t taken to nurture that relationship, it will likely show in the final product.

In Crocini’s eyes, that relationship informs the development of the operator’s concept. How? Through the development of a story and narrative.

If the designer and operator can develop a story, the design can be grounded in said story. Further, every element of a design can be held up against that story to see if it “fits.” If it does, the design will deliver a holistic experience and engage the guest or consumer.

In terms of F&B, Kastrati and Crocini make similar points. Both feel knowing the guest and anticipating their needs is crucial.

Addressing design elements that impact the experience, Crocini believes design should start with lighting. A design without proper lighting, Crocini says, is like a Scorsese film without the score.

Alexis Readinger, founder of Preen, is focusing in part on unique floorplan design. In particular, Readinger likes features that encourage interaction between guests, such as communal loveseats. However, “protecting the introverts” is also important for some guests’ comfort levels.

It’s safe to say that Caroline Landry Farouki, partner at Farouki Farouki, agrees with Readinger and Crocini. Seating, says Landry Farouki, can create different levels of intimacy to engage extroverts and introverts, and lighting designers are crucial and can really tell the story.

F&B Trends

In terms of consumer trends, Kastrati points to something specific he’s seeing in Las Vegas. People are seeking out specialty restaurants and luxury retail. At least anecdotally, this confirms what many reports and experts have been saying for the past few years: Consumers are showing increased interest in luxury.

However, Kastrati’s focus in the F&B space isn’t solely on guests and consumers. Rather, he suggests that the next step is bringing people back to the workforce. As Kastrati says, there’s no hospitality without people. Kastrati believes all of us in the industry need to encourage people to pursue hospitality careers.

Switching gears, Jessica Gidari, director of design and concept development for Union Square Hospitality Group, points to an effective pivot as a possible industry trend.

At least one concept in the Union Square portfolio has pivoted from a restaurant to a cocktail bar. A menu with shareable plates leverages guest desire to socialize and share. Gidari also says doing away with some traditional two- and four-top tables and replacing them with communal seating can “rebrand” a space as a “convivial” lounge.

Landry Farouki thinks operators can count on two compelling trends in the F&B space. One is the return of the restaurant as “the bar.” As someone who lives and works in Las Vegas, I can attest to treating restaurants more as bars myself.

Another possible trend Landry Farouki predicts is “mature dining” replacing fine dining. Explaining mature dining, Landry Farouki says such a concept is chef-driven but doesn’t focus solely on the chef.

Trend predictions must be taken with a grain of salt. However, I only see upside for design that helps operators engage guests more from the start.

Image: LYCS Architecture on Unsplash

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Designing with Anxiety in Mind

Designing with Anxiety in Mind

by David Klemt

Blurry image of people in a nightclub or bar

Interior design has the power to remove a person’s anxiety, improving the guest experience by making them feel more comfortable.

Lionel Ohayon, founder and CEO of ICRAVE, addressed design and anxiety at HD Expo 2022 in Las Vegas. While anxiety wasn’t the entire focus of this intimate discussion, what Ohayon had to say was powerful.

When some operators consider their space, they probably aren’t thinking about guest anxiety. Ohayon, who designs with compassion and empathy in mind, believes designers can address anxiety through the design process.

Why the respected designer think designers can accomplish this feat? He does it himself.

Innovative Design

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with Ohayon and ICRAVE, some background.

Specializing in interiors and lighting, ICRAVE is an award-winning design firm. Founded by Ohayon, the firm’s approach to design includes a focus on the experiential and the client’s brand strategy.

One may assume that ICRAVE works solely in the hospitality space. To that point, the firm’s portfolio includes some of the world’s most impressive restaurants, bars, lounges, nightclubs, hotels, and spas.

However, the company is well known for work in the healthcare, wellness, entertainment, residential, workplace, mixed-use, and airport spaces.

After two decades, ICRAVE has honed their vision, approach, and strategy. A key pillar is “experience design.” In fact, the firm believes that “the experience is the brand.”

It would be impossible to live and deliver on that core tenet without understanding a client’s business. For ICRAVE, the final product must engage all those who use the space they’ve designed and their client is operating.

Reducing Anxiety

Consider this scenario. It’s not one that we’ve all found ourselves in. However, it is a situation that those who experience anxiety live with every day.

Let’s say someone has agreed to meet friends at a nightclub. They’re not meeting somewhere outside of the club so they can enter as a group.

This person arrives, enters, and is seeking out their friends. Unfortunately for them and their anxiety, they’re the first to get there. Anxiety (and even panic) sets in. Now, the last place this guest wants to be is in this nightclub.

Obviously, this is a terrible guest experience. And now this guest may associate the venue, fairly or not, with feelings of anxiety. They may never want to return.

Throughout Ohayon’s career, he has designed for this exact situation. During his HD Expo session—which was much more an intimate conversation inside the DesignWell Pavilion—Ohayon explained that he has incorporated “perches” in a number of his designs.

A perch, in this context, is a space a person can access that makes them feel comfortable while they wait for others in their party to arrive. The way I understand it, a perch is like a “hideaway,” a space someone feeling anxiety in public can use so they don’t feel like everyone’s eyes—and judgment—are upon them.

Designing and planning for longevity requires designers and their clients to think differently. Health and wellness must be more than buzzwords—they must be authentic to a brand.

Anything less is disingenuous. Today’s consumer is perceptive when it comes to sensing the inauthentic, and they don’t like it.

Takeaway

Now, some operators may feel as though addressing a guest’s anxiety isn’t their problem. And we’re not always sensitive to the fact that someone is feeling anxious.

Some people may even feel defensive about their venue right now. Their space, they may be thinking, isn’t causing anyone anxiety.

At risk of putting too fine a point on it or stating the obvious, a key element of hospitality is guest comfort. If a guest’s comfort and sense of safety isn’t important to someone, they really shouldn’t be in hospitality.

To clarify, Ohayon’s comments on anxiety are first and foremost for designers. He wants designers to consider how they can incorporate elements that may help reduce a person’s anxiety.

On the client side, though, an operator can and should ask about such elements during the design process of their space. There’s no reason to be defensive—this is about mindfulness, wellness, and compassion.

Removing anxiety through design pays off during day-to-day operations. If a space can reduce a guest’s anxiety, that guest can be present and engaged. That engagement leads to a positive, memorable experience. And that type of experience evolves into repeat visits from loyal guests.

Image: Maurício Mascaro

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

The 2022 Hospitality Design Forecast

The 2022 Hospitality Design Forecast

by David Klemt

Perspective shot of neon hotel sign

Four 2022 HD Expo panelists are focusing on very specific design elements and considerations informing the future of hospitality design.

It should come as no surprise that their industry forecasts embody the themes of this year’s hospitality design show.

In fact, each panelist appears to be embracing the overall theme: Community. For these experts, designers must be mindful of their impact on communities.

Sustainable Practices

Enrique Vela, director of interiors at Olson Kundig, prefers the term “performance building” to sustainability. At Olson Kundig, performance building informs every stage of each project.

Further, the firm doesn’t focus solely on their approach to sustainable design, construction, and operation. According to Vela, Olson Kundig wants to know how their vendors approach sustainability as well.

And going even further, Vela and the firm want to see a commitment in sustainability (or performance building) from their clients. On that front, Olson Kundig’s are showing more interest in sustainability.

The firm’s desire to see commitment from their clients makes sense. After all, getting close to net zero during a build is difficult in the best of conditions. If a client has a laissez-faire attitude toward a core design tenet, the project isn’t off to a great start.

Andrew Lieberman, design director at AvroKO, seems to take a similar view as Vela and Olson Kundig.

As Lieberman sees it, “the entire ecosystem is impacted by a project.” Therefore, social consciousness needs to be a core element of a project.

Per Lieberman, he and AvroKO are seeing an increase in interest in sustainability from clients.

Focus on Wellness

Meghann Day, partner at Hirsch Bedner Associates, is seeing the interest in wellness proliferating beyond the hospitality space. HBA’s multi-family projects are incorporating wellness amenities into design in increasingly prominent ways.

For instance, clients are showing interest in infrared saunas and other cutting-edge wellness features in their homes. Per Day, wellness is quickly steering away from taking up a corner in a space and driving toward inhabiting entire floors.

Why should hospitality designers care about what’s going on in residential design? Simple: Hotels and resorts are homes away from home. In fact, they’re also becoming offices away from home offices.

What people want in their homes (and workspaces) they also want—and expect—from the hotels and resorts they visit.

For now, HBA is seeing the growth in wellness through traditional amenities. However, new elements will become more common in the near future.

Lieberman and AvroKO are also experiencing increasing interest in wellness design features. This interest is coming from the firm’s clients, meaning guests and residents are seeking out wellness amenities.

Community Engagement

Interestingly, the panelists have a clear interest in off-premises service. And no, I’m not referring to F&B delivery or offering guests local experiences.

Rather, today’s designers are enthusiastically designing for the communities in which they and their clients are building.

As Vela sees it, designers must consider the community. For him, engaging the community is crucial to a project’s success. The reasoning is simple: A project is inarguably tapping into the build site’s culture, heritage, history, and people.

For Lieberman, wellness and sustainability in the hospitality space combine feeling good, doing good, and impacting the community. A community is its own ecosystem, and that ecosystem is impacted by a designer and their client’s project.

Another way of viewing a hotel or resort is that it’s a portal into the community, per Lieberman.

He and Vela believe a project will be far more engaging if the community and its culture are honored through its design. As Vela says, we create the best memories when all of our sense are engaged.

F&B Memberships

While not a large focus of this HD Expo 2022 panel, food and beverage did come up. However, it didn’t focus just on people’s desire to return to restaurants.

For example, Lieberman is seeing interest in F&B memberships. In his version, a membership space lives within the main restaurant. For these spaces, designers and operators can go overt or covert.

In one example, the members-only space is accessed via the main dining room. That means guests without memberships can see the members going to their exclusive space. In turn, that should generate interest in memberships.

On the opposite end, a membership space could be kept secret. Loyal guests may not know about these memberships and spaces for months or years.

Either way, the key to executing these spaces is creative, multi-faceted design, according to Lieberman.

Another way to use F&B spaces comes from Day. This downtime solution is simple and can generate much-needed revenue.

As Day explains, the approach is similar to that of a WeWork space. The operator creates a WeWork-like membership. During slow hours, these members have access to the restaurant.

Their membership entitles them to WiFI and menu access. Members would still pay for F&B items, but at a discount.

Technology

When it comes to technology, Ken Patel and EV Hotel are taking things as far as possible without turning off guests.

Patel is the founder and CEO of EV Hotel, and he has nearly three decades in the industry. Three years ago he had the vision for what is now EV Hotel.

Putting his view of hotel design and tech bluntly, he says that the only innovation in this space has been replacing small TVs with bigger versions. That may seem harsh, but consider what Patel is really saying: Hospitality, in his opinion, isn’t innovating fast enough.

Well, that’s certainly not the case with EV Hotel.

EV has launched the world’s first crypto rewards program. They’re the first hotel group to enter the metaverse fully built, and they operate the first-ever crypto trade floor. What’s more, Patel predicts that the metaverse will be an $8 trillion industry in a mere six years.

According to Patel, each EV Hotel room contains between 15 and 18 brand-specific tech developments. And while they may not have a dedicated fitness center, EV features an interactive exercise bike studio.

Now, it may seem at first glance that EV is developing and implementing tech innovations simply for the sake of doing so. However, Patel would argue against that perception of his brand.

“We have to match innovation to technology,” he says. That means reducing the amount of tasks employees take on that have nothing to do with serving guests directly.

Automating backend tasks allows EV team members—they all carry the title experience employee—to focus much more on the hospitality experience for guests. And a greater focus on hospitality means a greater focus on personalized experiences.

Takeaway

Thoughtful design that combines wellness, sustainability, and technology will not only serve communities, it will build them as well.

There’s the community in which a hotel or resort operates and which it must take care to honor and serve. There’s the community of employees serving guests and the community at large. And there’s the community of guests that frequent the property.

The future of hospitality design is looking bright, indeed.

Image: Francesco Ungaro

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Key Themes from HD Expo 2022

Key Themes from HD Expo 2022

by David Klemt

Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino Las Vegas

The educational conference sessions at Hospitality Design Expo 2022 in Las Vegas were connected by a number of key, overarching themes.

Hosted by the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, HD Expo packed each day with invaluable education. Founders, designers, highly placed executives, and other influential industry professionals addressed a wide range of crucial topics.

Below are five key topics and themes from HD Expo 2022.

Sustainability

Unsurprisingly, sustainability was one of the most-discussed topics.

Of course, conversations about sustainable design, construction, and operational practices have been at the forefront of hospitality for several years now. However, the topic seemed supercharged this year at HD Expo.

Drilling down, speakers at the 2022 show are focusing on “building performance,” light-touch construction, and waste recovery, to name but a few session topics.

When some think about sustainability, they think of low- and no-waste practices, energy efficiency, and upcycling. For others, being sustainable means building in an eco-friendly or green way.

However, several HD Expo 2022 speakers, their teams and agencies, and their partners and clients are thinking more locally. The impact of building and operating on local communities is now a greater focus.

For example, Victor Body-Lawson, founder and principal of Body Lawson Associates Architects & Planners. During a panel he co-presented, Body-Lawson addressed the importance of designing, building, and operating for the local community.

In short, he explained how not using local materials and labor has a significant negative impact on the environment. Additionally, Body-Lawson feels that the objective of design is that whomever engages with end product—commercial or residential—comes out better.

Wellness

Refreshingly, it appears the stigma surrounding wellness is dissipating. More people seem to be more comfortable discussing their mental and emotional health openly.

Designers and their clients, particularly in the hotel and resort space, are taking note.

Long a staple amenity, the health center is undergoing reinvention. In fact, many resorts and hotels are focusing on wellness centers and programming.

In fact, a number of concepts are more wellness and healing getaway than hotel or resort. One such project coming to market is the Jenesis House.

The creation of Jenesis Laforcarde, this concept’s focus is explicitly mental health, physical well-being, and self-care. Additional core values are community, hiring local, and engaging with local small businesses.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Like the topic of wellness, DEI has received more earnest attention during the pandemic. And why not? Diversity, inclusion, and equity are inextricably connected to wellness.

Of course, DEI is also connected to community. Moving forward, designers, their partners, and their clients must focus on DEI within their companies and local communities.

One hotel brand that seeks to embody this mission is Caption, part of the Hyatt portfolio. Crystal Vinisse Thomas, VP and global brand leader of lifestyle and luxury brands for Hyatt, is bringing Caption to market.

At this brand’s core is community. Locals are as important as the travelers staying at a Caption property. And, again, why shouldn’t that be the case?

Locals will work at the hotel. Locals will use the hotel. And locals will feel the impact—positive or negative—of the hotel.

A visit to the website provides all the proof anyone needs that Caption is committed to locals:

  • “The people make the place here. We hire local, buy local, and vibe local.”
  • “We strive to be a good neighbor.”

Interestingly, Thomas tied DEI and the community together. While it may be a difficult conversation to start, if a designer, executive, partner, or client sees that a project isn’t representing the community, they need to address it.

Staying silent isn’t how things move forward. In fact, it’s a sure-fire way to take steps backward.

Discovery

What keeps guests coming back? Is it the amenities of a hotel? The food and beverage? Do guests return because of the service they receive?

Of course. However, a shift in guest behavior and expectations shows that F&B, amenities, and service may no longer be enough to motivate repeat visits.

When it comes to hotel and resort design, the future is discovery. Another way to think about discovery is the “hotel within the hotel,” or “resort inside the resort.” A concept that embraces this approach reveals layers that guests can discover.

Perhaps their first stay is in the main or more traditional space. Then, the guest discovers that there are different areas they can book for a stay. These could be villas, luxury tents, a pre-fab luxury Moliving unit (as an example)…

The point is that the guest knows they can engage with the property differently during each stay. While there are core elements that define a particular brand, they can deliver different experiences on the same property.

Of course, such a concept also ties into the themes of community and wellness. Many brands are eschewing the traditional operational ethos of attempting to keep a guest on property for as long as possible. Instead, the local community is a key experiential element of a hotel or resort.

The future of hospitality design—indeed, of hospitality as a whole—encompasses each of these themes. Perhaps most importantly, each theme serves a greater concept: Community.

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The Outdoor Experiential Movement

The Outdoor Experiential Movement

by David Klemt

Airstream Sport trailer in the woods

When we think of a hotel or resort, we tend to picture a traditional property with hundreds of rooms and suites.

However, the consumer craving for unique experiences is changing our collective perception of resorts as we know them.

While not an entirely new take on resorts, concepts that embrace the great outdoors and nature are gaining in popularity.

The Great Outdoors

Of course, we can attribute the development of new outdoor resort concepts to the pandemic. After all, the demand for outdoor experiences has exploded since Covid-19 brought the hospitality industry to its knees.

But the desire by humans to be one with nature isn’t new. Perhaps , though, health and wellness, #vanlife, festivals, and Instagram pages devoted to stunning outdoor photography have simply amplified many people’s drive to worry less about their chosen resort’s rooms and more about the surrounding landscape.

This interest in and demand for new takes on resorts and hotels speaks to several trends investigated during Hospitality Design Expo 2021. As we touched on last week, these key trends influencing hospitality design are sustainability, an interest in maximizing outdoor areas and experiences, and immersion in local culture.

Working with the Landscape

There are several ways to approach this type of concept.

For example, Ryan Miller, chief brand officer for AutoCamp, offered two big tips for designing for what he dubs the “outdoor experiential hospitality movement.” During HD Expo 2021 in Las Vegas, Miller said views should always receive priority. That tips ties directly into another big takeaway: designers can create memorable moments by working with grades.

Founded in 2013, AutoCamp boasts an exclusive contract with Airstream to design “suite trailers.” The brand’s approach focuses on immersion coupled with convenience and comfort. A clubhouse features luxury amenities, there’s an F&B program, meeting rooms are available, and guests have access to a general store.

The approach, says Miller, ensures the brand is able to capture guests who normally would eschew camping and outdoor experiences.

Kona Gray, principal at EDSA and a landscape architect with nearly three decades’ experience, says that “designing with nature matters.” Designers need to understand the value in the land on which a resort or hotel will sit. And no, Gray doesn’t mean the monetary real estate value.

That understanding will help designers to work with the land, not around it, and become stewards of the land. There’s an ROI, says Gray, from the outdoors that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Different Approaches

Hannah Collins, founder and principal designer at ROY Hospitality Design Studio, and Carlos Becil, chief experience officer at Getaway, represent two concepts with very different takes on the outdoor resort concept.

Collins and ROY designed Yonder Escalante, and other Yonder escapes are planned for the future. Like AutoCamp, Yonder utilizes Airstream trailers. However, the property also features modern cabins that stand out against their Airstream counterparts while complementing the landscape.

Additionally, Yonder also features a modern clubhouse. Guests are encouraged to socialize rather than isolate to enjoy the outdoors. There’s also a decidedly sexy vibe to Yonder, which features private bathhouses, outdoor (private) showers, and a massive hot tub in the pool area.

Getaway also features cabins. And, of course, the focus is on an immersive outdoor experience. However, that’s where the similarities between Getaway and Yonder end.

As the name implies—well, outright expresses, really—Getaway provides its guests with an escape. In fact, when exploring the website to reserve a cabin, there’s no “locations” tab. Instead, locations are found under the heading “Escape From.”

Properties are located about two hours from the nearest major city. There are no check-in desks at Getaway properties. Guests won’t interact with Getaway staff in person. Cabins are 50 to 150 feet away from one another. There really isn’t WiFi or high-speed cellular service at a Getaway location.

In other words, Getaway doesn’t encourage socializing. Instead, the brand values unplugging, immersing one’s self in nature, and recharging.

Give ‘Em What They Want

If guests want to experience more of the outdoors, meet that desire. Truly, it’s soon going to be an expectation.

That doesn’t hold true only for hotels and resorts—restaurants, bars, entertainment venues should take heed as well.

As sustainability, health and wellness, and a desire to convene with nature grow stronger among consumers, operators who provide unique outdoor experiences will thrive.

Don’t get stuck inside and left behind.

Image: Airstream Inc. on Unsplash

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Meeting Expectations Through Hotel Design

Meeting Expectations Through Hotel Design

by David Klemt

Lit neon hotel sign with blue and purple background

During Hospitality Design Expo 2021, the show’s version of a live “Ask Me Anything” addressed meeting and exceeding new guest expectations.

On the design side, firms must meet the needs and visions of clients and brands. In turn, design clients are attempting to best meet their guests’ expectations in the short and long term.

Additionally, agencies are designing for the pandemic-driven new normal. The way guests use hotels and resorts has changed. Hotel and resort operators must adapt, and so must the designers with whom they work.

Gonzalo Bustamante, Executive Vice President, Design and Development, MGM Resorts International

Quick to point out that he comes from the design world rather than the hotel world, Bustamante is proud of how fast MGM embraced the pivot.

The company adapted to meet the needs of guests while also doing what’s necessary for the bottom line.

Bustamante feels we’re all living and working “in the new version of reality.” Therefore, moving forward, MGM properties will feature design based on the new normal.

When collaborating with designers, Bustamante looks for storytellers who can listen and stay on budget.

Kristen Conry, Senior Vice President, Global Design, US & Canada, Marriott International

What was once a guest desire, says Conry, is now an expectation.

For instance, guests expect hotels and resorts to build and operate sustainably; offer health and wellness features; and provide access to outdoor spaces.

Conry is curious about two specific elements of hotel and resort design.

One, she has an interest in how all-inclusive stays and properties will perform and progress.

Two, Conry wonders if hotel groups shrinking their carbon footprints will encourage guests to make more repeat visits. If a guest is motivated to support a particular brand because of their commitment to “green” operations, the hope is that they won’t cut back on hotel stays to shrink their own footprint.

Conry is encouraged by the increase in conversations designers and their clients are having about utilizing indoor-outdoor and outdoor spaces.

Gary Dollens, Global Head, Design / Product and Brand Development, Hyatt

Leisure travelers are returning to hotels, meaning they’re more important now to the bottom line, per Dollens.

However, there are two other developments that seem to have really caught Dollens’ attention.

One is hotel and resort properties operating with smaller teams. The second is that margins are “better than they’ve ever been.”

If groups can operate with smaller teams without impacting the guest experience negatively, why would they return to working with larger teams? Operators, encouraged by improved margins, are now used to new changes and are unlikely to go back to pre-pandemic operations.

For example, Dollens stated that Hyatt’s current RevPAR (revenue per available room) is up 19 percent compared to 2019. The company also acquired all-inclusive luxury brand Apple Leisure Group for $2.7 billion this year.

Helen Jorgensen, Vice President, Design and Procurement, Host Hotels & Resorts

Jorgensen and Host, like so many companies, adapted to working remotely.

Of course, teams used to gather to discuss design projects. Now, they gather digitally to review virtual room models.

However, it seems she’s eager to return to working in person. After all, while we’ve definitely made leaps and bounds in terms of technology, nothing beats experiencing a hotel room physically. There’s no better way—at the moment—to gauge the guest experience than actually touching and seeing everything in person.

Host and Jorgensen, like MGM and Bustamante, have been moving quickly. She expects Host to complete 16 major property renovations by 2023.

Part of those renovations has to do with room size and amenities. For instance, Jorgensen says suites will account for 19 percent of property rooms. That’s more than double current Host inventory, which is eight percent.

In terms of other design trends, Jorgensen expects sustainability to become more important to more guests. Certainly, that’s related to another trend Jorgensen identifies as crucial moving forward: wellness.

Larry Traxler, Senior Vice President, Global Design, Hilton

All-inclusive experiences are the future for hotels and resorts, per Traxler. Given the increased stress guests are experiencing on a daily basis due in large part to the pandemic, this makes sense.

Guests want to show up and know that everything is handled—eliminating friction is a luxury.

Speaking of which, luxury and lifestyle categories are performing very well for Hilton. However, extended stay is the current category leader for the brand.

When it comes to design challenges, Traxler and Hilton are focusing on a few crucial elements: F&B, outdoor experiences, and air quality.

During this session, Traxler said that F&B must evolve. Destination restaurants on property are performing well for Hilton.

That speaks to another crucial element Traxler mentioned: avoiding cookie-cutter design and experiences. Guests want unique experiences, and that extends to all markets. In fact, many guests want access to more outdoor areas, from balconies and pool areas to lawns and restaurants.

And while it may seem counterintuitive, Traxler says that hotels and resorts can improve property air quality without a “massive outlay” of money. In fact, Traxler says there’s no better time than now to build hotels, with Hilton projecting five-percent growth but achieving seven percent.

Summary

When it comes to hotels, resorts, and design, there are a few key factors operators should focus on now and for the future:

  • Luxury, extended stay, and all-inclusive categories are performing well.
  • The leisure traveler is returning.
  • Food & Beverage offerings must evolve.
  • The use of outdoor spaces is now integral to design.
  • Sustainability, health, and wellness are important to a growing percentage of guests. This includes air quality.
  • Smaller teams may shift from trend to standard operating procedure.
  • The time to build is now.

Image: Ph B on Unsplash

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