Hotels Trade Opulent Decor for Travel Rich Experiences

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Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
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A growing number of hotel owners are rapidly transforming their buildings, trading luxury interiors for more personalised spaces.

Australia is currently home to 2,540 hotels according to Hotel Chatter, with many more either proposed or under construction.

Bloomberg has reported that national hotel construction is picking up as the number of visitors to Australia grows at its fastest pace in at least nine years, sending occupancies in Sydney to record highs. Sydney’s average hotel occupancy is set to reach 88.8 per cent by the end of 2016, the highest since at least 2000, according to economics advisory firm Deloitte Access Economics Pty.

Consumers remain at the forefront of design decor trends across all hospitality according to Agatha Ozhylovski, creative director of House of Design, an award-winning interior design studio in Adelaide.

Ozhylovski sees this movement spanning all demographics and stretching across the adventure, business, family, independent, recreational and romance hospitality markets.

“These influences are reflected in the interior décor design of the establishment, its location, the level of service on offer, and in some cases it includes the business model itself,” she said.

In terms of key directions, she summarises the following four trends in hotel design:

Comforts of Home

This trend directly aligns with the desire for personalised space, accommodation that feels like a guest’s own home, and a balance between comfort and the feeling of escape. Hotels are stepping up through furniture selection, service and relaxed decor.

“The comforts of home away from home such as oversized beds, large walk in showers, plush lounges, preferred pillows selection laid out on the bed, and a personalised message welcoming the guest back and asking if they would like to book a spa treatment they previously rated so highly on trip advisor,” Ozhylovski said.

Ozhylovski, who personally retrofitted the Majestic Old Lion Apartments in North Adelaide, designed the hotel’s reception to “make guests feel like they are staying in a friend’s chic studio apartment.”

“They experience a new style emotion, with familiar hospitality found in an old friend,” she said.

Hotels are also paring back their use of colour, limiting it largely to tones aligned with the brand and or the location. There is a focus on natural and sustainable materials and flexible room foundations that can be altered. Colours and patterns are brought in via art, wallpaper and even greenery, allowing for customisation and a less permanent aesthetic.

Unique Cultural Experience

“Consumers want experiences when they travel, not empty style statements,” Ozhylovski said. “It’s about capturing the unique essence of the exterior envelope and its story, as opposed to design hotels that look the same.”

She noted that more hotels are moving toward reflecting the communities and locales in which they are located.

“Hotels that capture a real sense of place, accentuate their setting, the fabric of their buildings and local craftsman, culture and food will celebrate a successful formula for years to come,” she said. “For the past 10 years hotels have rolled out a look and vibe that’s the same in every city. The key is to strive to create a sense of place that reflects the context each hotel is located in.”

The recently-completed Andaz Tokyo hotel made culture a priority by using natural materials such as washi paper and walnut throughout each space.

“The Japanese penchant for authenticity of material and textures translates to simple, yet sophisticated interiors where guests can both energize themselves and unwind at ease,” reads a statement on the hotel.

Andaz Tokyo utilises washi paper and walnut reflecting of the authenticity of Japanese culture

Andaz Tokyo utilises washi paper and walnut reflecting of the authenticity of Japanese culture

Increase in Travel’s Personal Value

“Today’s and tomorrow’s market wants a simpler sanctuary, where glossy surfaces and glib décor give way to texture, tone and intimate tales,” Ozhylovski said.

Guests are beginning to seek accommodation that reflects their own personal values and purpose for their trip.

“They are ready to explore and crave a sense of community and also yearn for real social interaction,” Sara Kearney, senior vice president of brands at Hyatt Hotels and Resorts told 4hoteliers late last year.

Thoughtful Floor Plans 

“Luxury is about personal experience and the emotion an environment brings,” Ozhylovski said. “A designer’s responsibility is to design a space which are reassuring and comforting, as opposed to a hi-tech architectural experience.”

She noted that guests are looking for familiar and comfortable rooms that are easy to navigate and live in, as such rooms are far more relaxing than the stereotypical, sterile hotel room.

“The feel-good factor here isn’t about lashings of space, but rather comfort of a well-planned out spaces integrated with over-sized beds, seamless glass shower walls and tech-savvy technology, not giddy over gadgets,” she said.

Hotel rooms should be "non-alienating" and easy to navigate

Hotel rooms should be “non-alienating” and easy to navigate

These trends show that modern travellers are more interested in an active and social lobby, service that is memorable and accommodation that feels like it is was designed specifically for them as opposed to the priciest and most luxuriant amenities.

Ozhylovski believes the consumer design focus from hotel owners has led to boutique hotel markets that are smaller, independent and more original growing in popularity more than corporate hospitality chains.

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