“Guests expect technology to be seamless and interconnected”

“Guests expect technology to be seamless and interconnected”

Voice control and AI are aspects to be considered while designing new hotels, says Adrian Welch, senior associate at Godwin Austen Johnson

Adrian welch, GAJ, VIDA creek harbour, Technology, Hospitality design
Adrian welch, GAJ, VIDA creek harbour, Technology, Hospitality design

What are the top trends in hospitality design today?

Millennials demand sustainable design. For hotels to attract millennials – the largest set of travellers – they need to adopt truly green thinking. This increasingly will be a key factor for older guests too. Last winter, I stayed at Nomad Design & Lifestyle Hotel in Basel. Instead of having plastic water bottles in the room, they had a still and sparkling dispenser tap at the entrance to each corridor, plus a complimentary bowl of fresh fruit. It is such a simple idea, with the generosity and healthiness imbuing guests’ stay with a positive glow.

Guests expect technology to be seamless and interconnected. Many of us still enjoy slow old-fashioned personal service, but demand instantaneous reactions from digital devices. Voice control and AI have not developed much in the hospitality sector as yet, but are aspects to consider in new high-end offerings. Smart and luxury hotels need Internet of Things (IoT) for both front of house and back of house. For back-of-house, IoT can fully track and count building management parameters, greatly reducing waste and costs.

How has the growth of social media and technology changed hospitality design?
Sites such as TripAdvisor allow hotel management to more easily assess weaknesses. Instagram has sprung up as a dominant force. The striving for the perfect – or simply dynamic – visual moments surely are in the back of designers minds these days.

A stunning atrium or a luxurious rooftop pool can look great online and can help drive visitors towards specific hotels. Personalisation is becoming a key influence in modern life, especially for higher income groups. Luxury boutique hotels are increasingly expected to offer guests a customised experience, tailored around their lifestyle and dietary preferences.

With competition from digital platforms such as AirBnB cutting into profits, how can hotels use design to deliver better business results? Any examples that come to mind?

For more cost-conscious travellers, the affordability of AirBnB is a strong draw, and it would take some amazing design to prise them from budget offerings. Hotels are starting to try and reverse the traffic trend to AirBnB by developing less faceless offerings. Recent decades have witnessed an explosion of lower-end hotels with fewer traditional facilities, such as Travelodge, Premier Inn and easyHotels in the UK. For example in UAE, Rove Hotels has dispensed with services such as bell boys and valet parking.
Hotels can compete with AirBnB by providing some of their freedom and privacy but with added benefits. While AirBnBs can provide seclusion, on the flipside there are housekeeping hassles. Hotels can compete by making visits effortless, with a mix of seclusion and conviviality. I recently stayed in Hotel Astoria, the first luxury hotel in Copenhagen. Built in 1935, it exudes character. Rooms have private balconies and for when guests feel sociable there is a beautiful bar, right beside the entrance.

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