Contemporary hospitality projects must be devised with a more holistic approach, say industry experts.
The travel industry keeps growing worldwide and the latest The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Barometer shows international global arrivals were close to one billion during the first nine months of 2016. While the Middle East region has experienced a 6% decrease in international arrivals, according to UNWTO, the Gulf countries keep standing out. Alpen Capital Research reports the UAE and Qatar will drive the Gulf hospitality market to a $37bn turnover by 2020 with a 10% annual growth rates.
Simona Greco, director of Milan’s International Hospitality Exhibition, says that one of the main challenges the hospitality market has to face is a decline in profitability.
“In detail, revenue per available room (RevPAR) in the Gulf countries decreased by 10.3% in the first six months of 2016, states global hotel analyst STR,” says Greco. “The best way to deal with these changes is to focus on quality. Customers are looking for an experience rather than a ‘product’ and bars and restaurants, as well as hotels, have to provide it. This means that contemporary hospitality projects must be devised using a holistic approach, which starts from an actual consumer need and is then developed into design, service, and product quality. Technological innovation is of paramount importance to face this challenge while reducing costs and contributing to the overall sustainability on the other hand.”
With a growing demand for more experience-driven interiors, designers are now increasingly using light to emphasise the authentic personality of spaces, thus driving the demand for highly-customised products. A shift toward more efficient lighting has long been on the agenda for major manufacturers, but how are they responding to the market request to be more flexible in accommodating client’s needs?
Martin Fryzelka, managing director of Preciosa Middle East, says that designers and architects in the region are the ones who are driving decorative lighting to the next level by continually requesting new solutions.
“This is also the biggest challenge for us as a company focused on decorative lighting solutions and bespoke installations,” he says. “These innovative ideas often lead to unconventional design, methods, and technologies that go far beyond the predictable and ordinary. They have to conform to the aesthetic and functional needs of the customer who seeks modern and timeless design.”
Joe Chamberlain, CEO of Alger-Triton International, adds that 3D printing is aiding this design process.
“This tool allows extremely detailed and beautiful sculptures to be produced affordably,” he says. “The classic chandelier is being requested less-and-less with our products becoming more like art pieces than ever before. This new technique allows us to produce elements that were either previously too expensive or too difficult.”
Although there is an increased demand for developing mid-scale hotel offerings in the region, Chamberlin is confident that the demand for luxury will remain constant.
Greco agrees that a one-fits-all design is not appropriate anymore and the hospitality and retail industries have embraced a more customer-centric approach.
“We’ve been hearing about ‘experience’ for a long time now,” she says. “It has become a buzzword, an umbrella term that covers nearly everything. First of all, customers must feel at ease and, secondly, they should find a unique experience.”
For Greco, a mid-scale offering is a growing trend in many mature markets, and the Gulf countries are following suit.
“They fit perfectly within the new framework for public spaces, which tends to transform such ‘no-places’ like shopping malls, airports, hotels, resorts and conference centres into new hospitality opportunities,” she continues.
Designers are now placing a premium on features and products that promote energy efficiency, lower water consumption, correspond to sustainable building standards but without sacrificing design quality. As a multinational group specialised in manufacturing and supplying sanitary products, Geberit is expanding in the region with an increased product portfolio, which includes a new range of urinals for public bathrooms, which don’t have to be removed for maintenance.
“The real challenge is the competition in the market and quality of the products used due to value engineering,” says Sharib Rao, specifications manager at Geberit. “There is a surge in branded quality mid-scale hotels, and this is again good for our market segment as Geberit is a diversified organisation with complete bathroom solutions.”
Technology has rapidly increased its capacity to provide new opportunities for hotels to reach their guest and streamline their operations from back of the house to the front desk.
Italian-based VDA Group works on the development of room and building automation, IPTV solutions and smart switches for the residential and hospitality industry. Its Micromaster technology gives guest the ability to manage and control the guest room by automating the lights, scenarios, temperature, curtains and blinds. No more fumbling around in the room for the switch to turn on the light in the hallways or the office area. The guest can use their mobile device (or via the television screen) to see which lights and rooms they would like to control.
“Our focus is to set the right expectations of how far one can travel with technology,” says Rajiv Parrab, CEO of VDA Group MEA.
Commenting on the current challenges the region’s hospitality market face, he says that the UAE market is well positioned to tackle current issues.
He says: “The challenges mainly revolve around branding and positioning, aesthetics, customer (new and retention), financial (expenditures and operating expenses), delivery optimisation, quality control and experienced staff.
Looking to the future, Parrab anticipates rapid advances in guest-related technologies and apps, along with the further evolution of the Internet of Things (IOT) and social media.
The demand for interactive and user-friendly technology to approach a new direction in energy savings is becoming even more necessary and seen as an integral part of any hotel development. However, it is critical that technology maintains the harmony between design and convenience.