From interior automation to outdoor furniture and bathroom fittings, CID looks at the latest products on the market and the trends shaping hotel interiors.
Tourism and leisure travel, mega infrastructure projects ahead of major global events, population growth, and rising investment interest in mid-range hotel infrastructure are four major areas generating growth and demand in the hospitality market across the region, according to the regional experts Commercial Interior Design talked to.
With diversification at the forefront of growth strategies in the region, Charles Constantin, managing director at Geze Middle East, says the hospitality sector is thriving across most GCC countries.
Looking at the GCC region in particular, Constantin explains that KSA is seeing a significant growth driven by religious tourism, alongside the increasing number of infrastructure projects along the Red Sea coast.
“The UAE comes in a close second with a robust investment injection that is seeing approximately 28,000 rooms and 120 hotels under planning and construction, leading up to 2020.”
As he explains, the population growth driven by diversification strategies is strengthening the demand for longer term accommodation from price conscious tourists and business travellers seeking budget friendly travel over the full five-star experience.
“The business travel sector is benefiting from an increased influx of expatriates working on longer term assignments, requiring accommodation of up to a year,” he says.
Steve Ramsden, managing director at ISG Middle East, agrees that the region’s hospitality market boasts a wealth of opportunity for designers, both in terms of new-build and refurbishment projects.
“It was reported earlier in the year that Dubai’s hotel occupancy level hit a nine-year high, achieving 86.3% in Q1 2017, up 2.7% compared with Q1 2016. This kind of demand fuels investment in the sector, especially ahead of Expo 2020, when unprecedented demand for hotel rooms across all categories, including both luxury and value segments, is expected,” he states.
He points out, however, that balancing supply and demand may pose a problem for hotel operators further down the line: “Challenges lie ahead relating to demand for hotel rooms post the Expo, when the tourist and visitor levels are likely to dip from the peak Expo period. Therefore, hotel operators need to work very hard to differentiate their offering to be able to stay competitive,” he says.
Tarek Zakaria, Jung’s managing director for the Middle East, says the UAE and Saudi Arabia are keeping the growth momentum going. Catering to this demand, a German manufacturer of electrical wiring accessories and automation systems has recently opened its 13th subsidiary in Dubai.
“This can be attributed to these countries’ governmental determination to prepare well for upcoming mega events and Saudi Arabia’s new strategy to encourage openness throughout private and public functions to increase all forms of tourism, especially to accommodate religious tourism,” says Zakaria.
Commenting on the current challenges facing the market, Zakaria says that many investors are tightening spending and go with the least expensive products and systems, which is often compromising the overall quality of projects.
Another challenge comes in the form of the extremely high expectations of hotel guests in this region, adds Ramsden. “It doesn’t matter if they are staying in a four-star or a seven-star hotel. They want to enjoy their time in spaces that offer a distinct look and feel, with the highest levels of comfort.”
He suggests that these challenges can be addressed by utilising technology to provide a highly personalised guest experience, and by designing indoor/outdoor spaces that enable guests to take in the stunning views.
With outdoor elements becoming increasingly popular in hotel interiors, for German furniture manufacturers, Dedon and Gloster, the Middle East market remains promising.
“The World Travel Organisation [UNWTO long-term forecast, 2011] predicted that the hospitality market will triple in size by 2020,” says Bo Kristian Jensen, head of export at Dedon. “More than ever, hotels are in need of creating unforgettable experiences for their guests by offering outstanding quality, ambience and comfort. This in itself is already challenging enough, but changing demographics, global economic shifts and ongoing price competition in the Middle East provide additional complexity.”
Dedon has seen a significant increase in sales of its signature pieces Nestrest, Swingrest and Orbit. “They are used as selfie backgrounds in hotels like Burj Al Arab, Four Seasons and Shangri La. Iconic pieces are something the guests remember and associate with the hotel. Spacious outdoor areas are ideal for hotels to do something crazy,” says Jensen, announcing the brand’s opening of its first Dubai office. “We will also close a gap in our portfolio and introduce new lanterns and lighting objects.”
Lars Eriksen, managing director at Gloster, also feels that the hospitality market is stabilising again.
“The opening of our showroom and office in Dubai in November is for sure a sign of that,” he says.
In the past few year, Gloster has recognised a constant blur of the boundaries between indoor and outdoor areas, which resulted in more refined design approaches.
“In fact, the achievements of the indoor market regarding fabric quality and cushion comfort were brought to the outdoors. But also in terms of appearance, both areas were aligned to each other, which also influenced the décor of hotel areas,” he says.
Based on actual trends from the fashion industry, Gloster introduced a lot of pastel colours in 2017, which can be seen in its new Atmosphere collection by Cecilie Manz, alongside the Gloster lighting collection.
The growth prospects for the region’s hospitality market are huge, particularly for the mid-market hotel sector, according to Rachael Brown, co-founder and creative director at Capsule Arts, a Dubai-based arts consultancy known for bringing bespoke art commissions to hospitality, commercial, and residential projects throughout the region.
“The growing variety in the market, in terms of the different types of hotels on offer, is fantastic. It makes me excited for the Middle East,” she says. “Take for example the number of mid-range hotels moving into the region – what’s interesting to see is how they’re focusing on a specific target audience and what that audience wants, and translating that into design. From Rove Hotels, designed for adventurous explorers, to the new Yotel, with its tech-savvy, luxurious minimalism.”
Another component that hoteliers and designers are emphasising is “authenticity”, she continues: “This is something that has been great to see, as we’re big advocates of ensuring the art package stays true to the region and the brand experience.”
As the branded, mid-scale hotel offering in the region develops apace, Capsule Arts has been involved in several interesting hospitality-related projects. This year, the firm completed work on Nikki Beach Resort and Spa, where art was a “key aspect of the brand story”. It has also been working with Rove Hotels, Emaar’s mid-range offering, which was launched in 2016. The brand’s fourth property, Rove Trade Centre, opened earlier this year.
For Ramsden, the shift in focus to the mid-market hospitality sector is a sign that the market is maturing, and a growing understanding that the luxury sector is nearing saturation. “We see enormous potential for future work in this sector,” he says.
Despite high demand from mid-scale hotels, Czech lighting manufacturer Preciosa remains focused on luxury projects. Most recently, it produces bespoke chandeliers for the Al Mahara restaurant in Burj Al Arab and Presidential Palace Abu Dhabi.
“We are currently working on The Address Downtown refurbishment where our showpiece will decorate the lobby, and at Saadiyat Island beach resort where an amazing piece inspired by the underwater world will illuminate the space,” says Martin Frýželka, managing director of Preciosa Middle East. “The demand for luxury lighting solutions is increasing across the whole of the UAE region. The main challenge we see is the need for shorter lead times. We are working on this through research and development, to come up with new solutions to be ahead for our customers.”
Preciosa’s latest installation – Crystal Biosphere – utilises sophisticated technology in combination with three concepts of nature in glass design to provide not only illumination but also “atmosphere and drama,” as Frýželka explains.
Building management and building automation is another growing trend within the hospitality segment, according to Constantin.
“Right from the entrance doors, passing through the partitions, curtains, LCD screens and windows, technology and auto-controlled systems are present in every phase of the hotel design,” says Constantin.
Geze’s products have been installed in Waldorf Astoria The Palm, Metropolitan Hotel, Tiara Hotel and Four Seasons Hotel Jumeirah. Recently, the company has launched Geze Levolan 120, which Constantin recommends as a suitable solution for hospitality projects.
Looking at in-room technologies, Zakaria adds that hotel guest room management systems (GRMS) have gone through evolutionary phases in the last decade. However, Zakaria explains that more than 70% of hotel guests still prefer intuitive and easy-to-operate automation techniques.
He comments: “With the rise of the iPhone about 10 years ago with touch input devices and the use of glass, this trend caught up across multiple disciplines. However, customers have recently expressed their dissatisfaction and unease from using such devices in the hospitality realm. They have continued to emphasise the need for traditional smart switches with push buttons giving the user the confidence of initiating a command very comfortably.”
As a bespoke furniture manufacturer, Vaughan Benz is frequently asked to provide connectivity solutions to its furniture. Most recently, the company supplied its furniture ranges to Sofitel Downtown Dubai and Westin Abu Dhabi.
“Most case pieces need to have an outlet for USBs and electrical sockets so that guests can charge their mobile phones and other devices. This occurs in both lobby and guest room furniture,” says David Benz, president at Vaughan Benz.
Thomas Boyd, managing director at Dornbracht Group Middle East, says that the growth in the three and four-star hotel market could create an oversupply.
“However, I believe that increased competition is good for consumers as it provides more choice and drives up the quality of offering for guests. Increased competition drives more creative points of difference, such as using recognised and reliable brands, perhaps incorporating unique finishes or the inclusion of a private spa experience into the hotel bathroom.”
To provide an individual and customised solution, Dornbracht now offers 12 varieties of finishes while its LifeSpa concept is based on health-oriented bathroom designs.
“Some of the luxury hotel groups have recently incorporated the Dornbracht LifeSpa concept into their spa and wellness centres and executive suites, where attention focuses on the needs of the individual traveller enabling them to recharge the batteries, reduce stress and recover.”
Boyd says the concept epitomises the holistic approach to bathroom planning and furnishing in the sense of a healthy and illness-preventive lifestyle – as much in the private bathroom or home spa as in an exclusive hotel and wellness environments.
From 2017, the Geberit catalogue Gulf will for the first time include a Geberit bathroom series comprising ceramic sanitary appliances and bathroom furniture.
“It is now possible to offer our customers a comprehensive range of products both in front of and behind the wall that meets Geberit’s high-quality standards,” comments Louise Pitt, marketing manager at Geberit.
The series that will be sold solely with the Geberit logo in the Gulf region from now on and include Geberit Citterio, Xeno2, iCon, Smyle, and Abalona. With this step, designers will be able to specify products that combine quality, function and sophisticated design.