The Science Behind (Interior) Design
by Creative Director of designphase dba Joris Angevaare
The business strategy of hotels is changing – because the way people use hotels is changing. With the rising popularity of the sharing economy, millennials and digital disruption, travellers are increasingly savvy.
For instance, no longer are their food options bound by the limitations of a hotel and its immediate vicinity; they now have access to the entire city’s kitchen right on their fingertips, with the likes of UberEats and Deliveroo.
Additionally, now more than ever, modern travellers increasingly gravitate towards being fully immersed in a unique experience and environment – and most of these travellers are millennials.
According to Frasers Hospitality chief executive Choe Peng Sum, millennials are one of the fastest growing markets for hotels, and that the next wave of hotels needs to be very different to appeal to them; that it needs to be designer, yet not cookie cutter. “It’s no longer a commodity where we just provide a room, people check in, stay, eat and check out. It’s more a lifestyle and an experience. If we don’t change, we will be left behind,” he said.
In order to stay relevant, hotels need to better understand their guests’ needs and design an experience that provides an all-encompassing, enticing offer or risk becoming a building that just happens to be filled with beds for rent for the night.
So how does Interior Design factor in? To the layman, interior design might be known as simply the backdrop to all of your meals, birthday parties, and holidays. When wielded effectively though, interior design can affect your guests subconsciously – it calms, excites, and can even induce hunger. A popular theory is that brands like McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC use the colour red in their logos and outlets because it whets an appetite.
It is no different for hotels. You might not have had thought about this before, but when you picture a pristine, comfortable hotel room, you picture white sheets on the bed. White sheets exude a sense of luxury, and they look and feel clean – the same reason that bathrooms and hospitals are predominantly white.
A hotel’s interior design goes beyond the painting of a wall to a certain colour and having it become a feature wall. It also focuses on creating exceptional social space and providing quality lodging amenities. Interior design is about creating a space that allows for the best activity flow.
One good example would be huge lobby spaces. In a study by Hilton, it was discovered that guests enjoy being “socially alone” i.e. they desire to be in large social spaces, even if they do not use them to mingle with others.
Artyzen Hotel Group, which has the affordable-luxury citizenM, is one hotel that acknowledges the lobby’s growing influence. Reinventing the boutique hotel experience, citizenM makes it a point to incorporate its signature “living room lobby concept”, presenting multiple zones to relax, meet and work. Likewise, at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, traditional reception counters are gone, making way for guests to flow from one space to another with the lobby, restaurant and bar integrated into one.
Essentially, by providing guests with an area to linger for prolonged periods, hotels add to their return on investment through food and beverage sales. More than just a transitory lounging space, hotels are creating a more engaging environment for guests to build new connections and get things done. Clearly, design has a far-reaching impact beyond simple aesthetics.
Hotels will need to constantly evolve to keep up. Travel and human interaction as we know are changing every day – gone are the days where people need to fly thousands of miles over oceans to see someone’s face or hear someone’s voice. Technologies such as Skype and virtual reality have, and will continue to revolutionise the way we travel.
To stay relevant, hotels need to keep their design, functionalities and how they connect with their audience fresh and up to date. For instance, self-service is no longer a bad thing. Today, people are more willing to shell out money on experiences that enhance their lives, rather than on unnecessary frills. Hotels need to keep that in mind – that they are selling an experience, not simply just a room for the night.
A hotel design definitely needs to relate to its guest profiles seamlessly. The journey starts from the booking of the accommodation and will last until the moment they walk out of its doors. The entire experience has to connect with the visitor, to communicate the hotel’s branding and unique features.
Interior design can be your arsenal to establishing that connection.
To constantly come up with fresh ideas to enhance customers’ experience is inevitable for every business. Like the mentioned above, technologies have and will continue to revolutionise the way we travel (and experience our world around us). But how can we enhance experiences with technology and at the same time, still keep authentic human interactions and relationships? I feel that there are not many who can do that.