Despite increasing competition from serviced apartments and the likes of Airbnb, the hotel market is prospering.
According to Statista, the revenue of the global hotel industry was US$457 billion in 2011, with Euromonitor International forecasting a US$550 billion revenue in 2016.
In Australia, IBISWorld predicts industry revenue to grow at an annualised 2.4 per cent between 2011 and 2016, with 2015-16 to total AU$6 billion. They have credited the rise from strong growth in Asian tourism, particularly from China.
This growth is good for everyone, and one industry enjoying the hospitality revival is commercial flooring.
Flooring is often overlooked in interior design, but when it comes to hotels, it truly is the fifth wall.
It is one of the largest areas to cover and hoteliers are leaning on customer preferences to explore a multitude of flooring materials.
The rise in hotel prototypes such as new boutique, art and budget accommodation prioritises minimalistic styles and is also prompting a move away from traditional applications.
While a marble lobby may look luxurious, it not always affordable. Hardwood flooring, meanwhile, may provide a clean aesthetic but it is not always suitable in areas of high humidity or for acoustics.
Angela McGregor, marketing communications manager at Shaw Contract Group, notes that flooring choices align to a hotel’s position in the market. She has highlighted the top three buying drivers:
Aesthetics remains a key driver for hoteliers and is prompted by the hotel's universal branding (if it is a hotel chain) and design cues from consumer preferences.
“Maintenance is one of the major concerns for a hotel,” said McGregor.
So while carpet is great to exude luxury, designs can become tired and require replacing every 10 to 15 years. According to McGregor, this is why hotel owners are looking for similar materials with the same feeling “underfoot” but with easier maintenance and increased lifespan.
Budget remains a key consideration as flooring is one of the largest finishes to apply and re-apply when a product requires replacing.
McGregor, who tracks global trends, said Australia is being influenced by the US with flooring material, particularly in mixed-use spaces.
“In conference areas, traditional axminster broadloom carpet has been used, but hoteliers are now looking to alternatives,” she said. “There is now a movement toward solution dyed nylon that is a tufted product.
"It offers customers a luxuriously plush feel along with the ability to apply prints. It is also much better from a maintenance setting and lasts longer.”
In contrast, budget-conscious hotels are moving toward more carpet tile as materials for rooms, hallways and lifts.
“We are seeing lifts in particular as they are a high traffic area,” McGregor said.
Public areas including reception, lobbies and restaurants are best-served by resilient materials including, but not limited to, hardwood.
Of course, climate is also a consideration.
“Some of the hottest states in Australia will move toward hard surfaces but in high-end accommodation, there is still a demand for luxurious and plushness in flooring,” McGregor said, citing hotels such as the Marriott or InterContinental. “It’s also something that only carpet can deliver. However, in these warmer climates, hotels are instead using rugs on top of the hard surfaces to still bring in that required softness.”
Many hotels still adhere to branding colour guidelines with flooring and other applications for a sense of continuity.
However, there is also a rise in hotels looking to their external environment for design inspiration. McGregor has also seen this as a significant trend, with flooring materials selected based on where the hotel is located.
A return to nature is also high on the design agenda, as a global focus on the environment has seen hoteliers reaching for nature-inspired colour palletes.
Shaw Contract Group's new product, the The Park, is environmentally focused and reflects the attributes of a park.
“We are seeing it requested in many public spaces where people in a hotel can transfer from a busy area to a relaxing, tranquil area and how flooring can contribute to that,” McGregor said. “The other trend we are seeing moves toward natural earth elements; stone, marble, polished metal, gold, silver and copper.”
The Green Below
Finally, hotels remain climate-conscious and want to communicate their efforts to their consumers, including through their flooring.
More and more flooring manufacturers are having products Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certified, which is increasingly appealing to the hospitality industry. That can include take-back schemes that see them remove the carpet at the end of its useful life and recycle it into other product.
According to McGregor, choices all come down to the accommodation type. Sustainable flooring may not be affordable or a priority to a boutique brand but might be mandatory to a luxury hotel chain.
With all that in mind, what does McGregor foresee when it comes to hotel flooring trends in 2016?
“With so many value-orientated chains moving into Australia, we foresee more use of carpet tile and ever better maintenance and service ability for those customers,” she said. “We are also forecasting the continued use of resilient or hard surface that use interesting prints and implement colour and design into the floor plans of these facilities.”