Choosing renovations to meet guests’ changing demands
Choosing renovations to meet guests’ changing demands
20 JULY 2016 7:32 AM

There are some obvious signs that your property could benefit from a major renovation or expansion. Your first priority should be to consider what guests want.

Today’s travelers have increasingly high expectations of their hotel accommodations due to a number of factors, including the need for enhanced technology, changing requirements for what they’re seeking in a guest experience and an increased desire for improved food-and-beverage options.

For hotel owners, this means adapting to the changing needs and wants of travelers while balancing the return on investment on potential property renovations and expansions. Such projects should help owners increase profitability, enhance guest satisfaction, drive revenue and gain market share, especially in highly competitive and vibrant markets like Boston, New York, Chicago, Miami and others.

What are some of the driving trends to consider before embarking on a major hotel renovation or expansion? How can you set and maintain guest expectations during the construction phase? And, how can obstacles be minimized to lessen the impact on the overall guest experience?

Let’s first take a look at when it’s time to make a change.

Driving trends to consider when contemplating change
There are many influences to weigh when considering a hotel renovation or expansion.

Is the property outdated or is there a need to update foundational elements like lighting, faucets and fixtures to comply with brand standards or its property improvement plan? This can be a key factor when considering a renovation.

Make sure not to overlook energy-efficient equipment upgrades like mechanical systems, boilers and chillers to increase the return on operational costs. Many brands today are pushing to incorporate sustainability measures into the conversion process and are providing owners with recommendations on operational changes to be better equipped to run an efficient building.

Is your property meeting changing guest preferences on the technology front? Today’s travelers want technology—along with easy access to it—incorporated throughout their entire stay. This means power outlets designed into furniture, the traditional nightstand re-interpreted as a charging station for electronics, smartphone-enabled check-in and room key access, digital signage and interactive touch screens, technologically savvy meeting rooms and conference spaces, and well-designed, open lobby areas to accommodate casual networking and business needs.

With easy and instantaneous access among guests to online reviews, hotel photos and other social media mentions, it’s never been more important for hotels to ‘wow’ in the customer experience department.

F&B trends can dictate the need for change due to the shift in the way today’s travelers dine. The quick service segment is moving to the forefront of the hotel experience with F&B offerings that include various dining options including restaurant, in-room delivery and pre-packaged takeaway meals for guests on the go. This gives guests flexibility and customization in their dining experience, which is essential to the overall guest experience.

A few years ago, Hilton Hotels & Resorts did just this by launching Herb N’ Kitchen. The optional concept infuses fresh, local gourmet food into an upscale restaurant and culinary market. It provides a wide variety of high-quality food from salads, sandwiches and flatbreads to signature specialty items, regional gourmet treats and main courses.

In addition to providing expanded and customizable menu options, more and more hotels today continue to look at F&B trends when considering a hotel bar or restaurant renovation or expansion. Potential ideas include expanding a hotel bar or restaurant to accommodate more seating or relocating the bar to the main lobby to meet guest demands for a mix of social and business meetings.

Maintaining guest expectations
When moving forward with any major renovation or expansion, it is crucial to set guest expectations and take any necessary steps to lessen the impact on the overall guest experience.

Some strategies include phasing the project to minimize guest disruption, rearranging rooms so current guests are as far away from the construction as possible, setting expectations with guests upfront during the booking and check-in processes, regularly checking hotel rating sites and social media to identify and address any guest concerns immediately, and generating excitement—especially among frequent or long-term guests—about the enhancements being made to the existing property.

Providing a great guest experience during an expansion
One of our recent projects was the expansion of the iconic Hotel Commonwealth in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.

Because the property remained open during the construction phase, the owners were firm on setting strategies to avoid disrupting the guest experience. The hotel reservations staff and management rearranged rooms so that guests were away from the construction zone. The team consistently reviewed social media and hotel rating sites and brought any concerns to construction meetings so the construction team and designers were aware and could help mitigate any issues. For large, repeat customers who needed to use event spaces for meetings or conferences, construction was halted to maintain the guest relationship.

The design and construction team also phased the project so the guest experience was not interrupted and they had the ability to move throughout the hotel. For example, a temporary lobby was used while the existing lobby was renovated.

To get long-term and frequent guests interested and excited about the changes, Hotel Commonwealth’s GM displayed model rooms of the enhancements, conducted tours and used design imagery to display the project design and drawing boards. Management also informed guests of the construction upfront during the booking and check-in process to manage guest expectations, working with guests to customize their stay so the minor construction interruptions were of no concern.

Giving hotels a new design life
There are many influences that drive owners to make a property upgrade—changes in guest demands, PIP compliance and increasing hotel profitability, among others.

Despite these challenges, it is possible to effectively embark on an expansion while continuing to wow travelers during construction.

Get all parties on board early and in agreement on schedules. Determine a contingency budget for any existing building unknowns. Ensure you hire your interior designer and architect early so they can garner existing information, complete infrastructure inspections, and draft plans and due diligence reports.

But also be transparent with guests and keep them happy throughout the process. Guests are more tuned into design than ever before. Adapting to the demands of modern-day travelers will improve the overall guest experience … and your bottom line.

Harry Wheeler AIA, NCARB, LEED is a principal at Group One Partners, Inc., an award-winning hospitality design firm based in Boston that specializes in architectural, interior design, and purchasing services for hospitality properties. Wheeler is a registered architect in 10 states and a member of numerous architectural, lodging, and marketing associations. For more information visit or email Wheeler at

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