What guests want continues to change, and hotel brands are responding via guestroom design.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Hotel room designs are changing to more compact rooms built for functionality and technology-savvy travelers. Several new brands are reflecting the changes, and other brands are following suit as they renovate their properties.
“There’s a lot of focus on millennials,” said Phil Cordell, global head of focused service and Hampton brand management for Hilton Worldwide Holdings. “They are a very important part of our future, and everything is focused on their perception from color, styles and trends.”
Cordell said hotel design, such as the one used for the company’s new Tru by Hilton brand, has the functionality of space in mind. Those designs—which eliminate larger desks for more mobile, flexible tables, and remove bathtubs in favor of showers—have another benefit for new hotels.
The design aspects allow companies to get more rooms on a piece of land at a lower per-room build cost, Cordell said. For example, the Tru prototype costs between $84,000 and $85,000 per key. A comparable Hilton brand, Hampton Inn, costs an average of $115,000 per key.
When word traveled that some brands might be doing away with desks in guestrooms altogether, it didn’t sit well with some travelers.
“There was a little consumer backlash when that news got out,” Cordell said.
Matthew Carroll, VP of global brand management for Marriott Hotels & Resorts, said Marriott conducted surveys of 5,000 customers across all generations, which told the company that guests want flexibility, mobility and technology-enabled work surfaces. The result was designing a moveable work surface that allows guests to concentrate on both focused and relaxing work.
Hilton’s Tru brand also follows this philosophy, providing a side chair with a flip-up desk with plenty of power outlets.
“The chair is comfortable enough that a person can sit at it for a few hours,” Cordell said.
If a workspace can be multifunctional, all the better, sources said.
“Right now, it’s all about having smaller things that serve multiple functions,” said David Tracz, partner with Studio3877, an architectural firm in Washington, D.C., that has worked with such brands as Fairfield Inn and Suites.
“Some brands might be taking out the larger chair and putting in a seating bench that can also be a workspace or luggage rack,” Tracz said.
The Onyx Hotel, a Kimpton hotel in Boston, renovated its guestrooms last year and created a custom piece that unifies both the desk and dresser. The multifunctional piece provides storage for the minibar and guests’ clothing while offering connectivity with integrated power outlets.
Hoteliers also are finding that people don’t want to be segregated in their rooms while working, sources said. Possibly as a result of the popularity of the open workspace, guests like to be in a communal area. The Tru brand has what it calls The Hive, a dedicated work area in the lobby with comfortable workspaces and outlets.
Holiday Inn Express also introduced a similar work area in its Great Room.
“More and more, business travelers are getting out of their rooms in search of communal workspaces where they can collaborate with co-workers or simply surround themselves with activity,” said Jennifer Gribble, VP of the Holiday Inn Express brand in the Americas at InterContinental Hotels Group. “The tables serve as another option for travelers to work in the way that is best for them.”
Goodbye to bathtubs and closets
Today’s guestroom design is evolving to phase out bathtubs and closets, sources said. But the elimination of them isn’t only because they don’t tend to be used by guests.
“When you look at eliminating the tubs and the closed closets, I think both are a result of lack of use, but of the perception of cleanliness,” Cordell said. “People are skeptical. I think even parents had a question of cleanliness of the tubs and just stuck their kids in the showers.”
Showers with glass doors are not only easier to keep clean, but they also give a more luxurious feel to mimic the spa-like experience of many newer homes.
As with tubs, many guests have a perception that dresser drawers and closed closets might not be that clean, Cordell said.
“Open shelving and artsy hooks as landing zones in the rooms are better suited for today’s travelers,” he said.
Rooms of the future
Stephanie Tyler, president of Miami’s International Design Concepts, said hoteliers also are paying attention to lighting when it comes to room design. The firm has worked with luxury brands in the Caribbean, including Marriott Autograph.
“It’s all about connectivity, lighting and smart systems,” Tyler said.
Eric Rahe, principal with Philadelphia-based BLT Architects, said that in addition to lighting, smart systems in comfort zones and connectivity, artwork in guestrooms is another trend that continues to grow.
“A room in a chain in one city doesn’t necessarily look like a room at the same chain in another,” Rahe said. “There is now an emphasis on place, and rooms are decorated with art that gives guests a sense of local flavor.”
And Cordell said hotel rooms of the future will all retain one common element: functionality.
“Design trends come and go, but what will never change is functionality,” he said. “We’ll continue to change with the changing needs of how guests use their rooms.”