Redefining Luxury...

October 15, 2014

“All that a good hotel needs is a good shower, a good mattress and the finest linens...." A CEO of a very reputed hotel chain once told us over a business lunch. (the lunch was simple , simple by our expectation and far too simple by our understanding of his stature, but then he explained the hoteliers never have their mouth watery , gastronomic delicacies made in their restaurants for themselves just as architects rarely design their own house or doctors treat themselves!!! )And wait before the architects and designers’ brood over the nonchalance and ignorance of designed environment pervading our galaxy or the sanitary fixture companies gets elated at their growing prospects in the hotel industry.

This needs a bit of explaining. These were the days when we had been collecting "take home wisdom" a la carte with usual mundane financial and business dealings from the finest of the minds from the hotel industry. The above statement provided a deep insight into our understanding of the hotel design and the relative value system that is associated with the industry.

Here is what we discovered some weeks later

 

A July 2005 article from Knight Ridder  ( no nothing to do with the cricket franchisee if you are tempted to think that way ) Newspapers highlights what the major chains are upgrading in the sleep department.  The article provided the following information:

 

•       Marriott International has been replacing mattresses at its Marriott and Renaissance hotels for several years and is adding new bedding at its 2,400 hotels, including higher thread count sheets, down comforters and duvet covers at a cost of $190 million.

•       Hilton Hotels is introducing new bedding across its brand, including Hilton, Doubletree and Embassy Suites.  There will be higher thread count sheets, plush top mattresses, extra pillows and user friendly clocks.

•       Crown Plaza replaced some 50,000 beds and bedding in 2004, hired a sleep doctor for advice on relaxation, and tossed in a sleep kit for guests.

•       Radisson in 2004 began moving in custom-designed Sleep Number beds at 230 of its hotels and resorts, with most of its 90,000 beds to be replaced by 2006.  New bedding is also included in the makeover.

•       Hyatt recently rolled out its Grand Bed, a 13 ½ inch pillow-top mattress, and added more luxurious linens and decorative pillows.

•       Starwood Hotels announced the debut of a new bed at its moderately priced brand, Four Points by Sheraton.   The Four Comfort Bed, a $13 million investment, joins the Heavenly Bed and Sheraton Hotel’s Sweet Sleeper Bed in Starwood’s lineup.

•       Red Roof Inns will offer pillow top mattress pads, 230 thread count sheets and hypoallergenic pillows at select hotels.

 

Reference : Martinez, Michael. “Hotels Compete To Give You The Comfiest Night's Sleep.” The Wichita Eagle. 10      July 2005.  H3.

 

 

Hospitality had been , has been and will be having one of the most dynamic design market in the years to come ; which in a way is very encouraging as this means generating more job opportunities for us, but more importantly it offers challenges and provocations to constantly upgrade yourselves with the changing demands of the sector.

In the subsequent discussions we would like to take up issues of these trends citing examples from both our works and what the world is on offer.

 

There is a wide diversity in terms of what services and products different categories of hotel chains offer. The variation is also in terms of the nature of the hotel whether it’s a business hotel or a sprawling resort.

 

 

Product segmentation and time sharing 

 

Product segmentation has become more popular.  Luxury and first class hotels have created more amenities and products for their customers while economy and budget hotels have cut back services in order to maintain lower prices.  Also specialized extended stay and suite hotels have become more popular.

Timeshares is another segment that many hotel companies are involved with recently. The development, sale, and management of timeshares have become particularly popular with the large chains. Franchising continues to flourish in the hotel industry.

 

 

 

Technology vs. Human Hospitality

 

David-Michel Davies, president of the Webby Media Group, said he visited Internet companies around the world each year for the Webby Awards, which honor excellence on the Internet. He found that hotels were using technology as a substitute for human hospitality.

 

Instead of the staff at the front desk offering advice on where to go for dinner, guests may be lent an iPad loaded with maps and suggestions for local restaurants and sightseeing. A hand-held device in the room might control the television, blinds and temperature, replacing the role of the bellman who would describe how the features

in the room work when he dropped off a guest’s luggage. “Hotels are transforming service into a digital concept,” Mr. Davies said.

 

Software as a service ( SAAS ) is the latest growing trend amongst the various hotels.

Firstly, upfront investment is lower with the cloud technology as there are no initial hardware costs or associated expenses such as full time, in-house IT staff to maintain the system.

Secondly, hotels like the idea of taking IT off their site, leaving them free to focus on the day-to-day business of looking after their guests.

 

As well as the low capital expenditure of the cloud and the cultural "fit", there is also the fact that implementation timetables can shrink from months to days, resulting in immediate and obvious benefits in obtaining time to value.

 

The sum total of these drivers is that cloud technology is no passing fad: for the hospitality sector it is the new.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intelligent luxury

 

What sets apart the most recent financial crisis is its widespread and possibly lasting influence that seems to be occurring at every level—from surface to soul. Hospitality chains now employ what is called the  “Intelligent Luxury” which has contributed to a general movement of change that is about reconsidering the values and priorities, and changing the way we do things.

 

To the extent that conspicuous consumption and ostentatious décor might be considered bad form in a global recession—where so many people and businesses have been hard hit—design aesthetics will be tamped down in new and recently renovated properties, thereby changing the look and reconsidering the definition of luxury. 

Hotel rooms will embody a functional design incorporating the latest of technologies but gone are the days of opulent chandeliers ,beech wood paneling and super expensive wall papers. Even hotels which employ traditional and classical decor will look to employ a subtle style that sheds egregious superfluity while combining luxury and functionality.

 

Among affluent travelers, there seems to be a general self consciousness about the appearance of over-indulgence and a desire to feel vindicated in some way. This in particular identifies the shift as “a move away from conspicuous consumption to conscientious consumption.” 

 

In other words, “bling has blung”. When it comes to luxury hotel design beyond the first decade of the century, expect to see less flash and more substance; comfort over coolness; friendliness over pretentiousness. Extensive brass and marble cladding will give way to the wood and natural stone.

 

The recently opened Rough Luxe boutique hotel, in a London townhouse, illustrates this trend. “Luxury is about appreciating the provenance of an item and its unique qualities,” says Rabih Hage, the hotel’s local architect. The design incorporates layers of the property’s history from different periods and an eclectic collection of furniture from previous owners. Its very name encapsulates this emerging paradoxical trend.

 

 

Go green...

 

This also brings us to the latest fad according to some critics, green design.

Although the term is overused and is misinterpreted regularly, to some degree, green design has been about being altruistic—does what is right because it is right. The good news is respecting the environment has been shown to make sense financially as well and will continue to gain traction in the luxury sector.

 

Some of this momentum is coming from travelers themselves, who are, according to Storey of Fairmont, “increasingly aware that some of the world’s most naturally spectacular environments are luxuries that need to be protected if we are to share them with our children and generations to come.”

 

Use of solar and geothermal energy, sophisticated energy management systems, sustainable building materials, and organic landscape management practices are a part of CSR from the leading hotel chains.

 

 

Guests like having a story behind their stay. Sharing”what makes it green” is one way to tell a story and to brand and differentiate a property.

 

Green also refers to “eco-luxury travel,” which is asserting its place in the luxury travel market. Based on WATG’s current portfolio of design commissions around the world, 2010 will see a continued rise of intimate, sustainable, villa resorts in eco-friendly destinations. 

 

Many luxury hotel companies see the coming years as an opportunity to redouble their commitments to caring for the communities in which they work. “True luxury,” according to Raymond Bickson, managing director for Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces, “encompasses authentic stewardship for the people and places we do business.” For Taj, this translates into investing 40 percent of its profits back into both rural and urban communities. 

 

 

Respecting the Past : Reinvention of Anachronism 

 

New and newly renovated hotel properties will have noticeable references to the past, designed in a contemporary manner. For Taj’s Bickson, “Luxury moves ahead best by respecting the past.”

 

The days of overpriced, undersized, trendy hotels are numbered. Timeless will trump trendy in the future, as hoteliers will seek to avoid the pressure to refresh their properties every year, lest they go out of fashion. Hotels that start with a bit of history can gain an edge over their competitors in this increasingly crowded landscape.

 

One of the fastest growing hotel groups in Greece , Grecotel is systematically and steadily expanding its portfolio of 4- and 5-star luxury properties by renovating and enhancing existing hotels with a contemporary nod to their historic past. The properties are not only a hit with guests, they also have been recognized with over 150 industry accolades and design awards.

 

 

 

 

Sinclairs Darjeeling 

 

 

Experience beats extravagance…

 

This shifting definition of luxury, away from extravagance and toward experience, is captured by Geoffrey Kent, founder, chairman, and CEO of Abercrombie & Kent. 

 

In describing what his customers are looking for, Kent suggests, “Our guests are searching for authentic experiences that are true to a place and its traditions, incorporating elements of the past and reflecting the local culture. They don’t want to simply arrive at a destination and look at things; they want to learn from local experts with an intimate, lifelong knowledge of the area and leave with a new understanding of how life is lived in another part of the world. This is travel for people who define luxury not so much by the degree of elegance but by the quality of experience.”

 

While doing Dooars Retreat we had found guests increasingly curious about the decor and the design of the resort, constantly enquiring about the innovations and products obtained locally . 

The wall panels or the lights, the dead trunk; everything seemed to fascinate and enrich their sensory experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

The opportunity to immerse oneself in an authentic environment can also take a more dynamic form, as it does in the growing arena of luxury adventure travel, appealing to those who are seeking above-and-beyond experiences in exciting new destinations. Some of these offerings will actually compete with traditional high-end hotels: niche boat cruises, exclusive safaris, and luxury destination clubs

 

So the big question is what's next in hotel architecture????

 

 

 

Architect Deborah Berke says this beautifully over an interview,

 

 

 

•       Let the light in “As baby boomers get older, there’s going to be a need for better-quality lighting—look for an increase of LEDs in both guest rooms and public spaces. Overall, there needs to be more variability in how light is adjusted and controlled.”

 

•       Higher tech “The thing that makes a hotel feel dated the fastest is the technology interaction. If it’s out of date, with outlets located in ridiculous places—making it hard to charge your phone, for example—the room will feel antiquated no matter how chic the decor.

Everyone has every kind of electronic device now, so you have to be able to access and use your technology.”

 

•       More fluidity “There will be less rigidity among different parts of a hotel. The definitions of rooms, lobbies, bars, restaurants, and other public spaces are blurring. You don’t need a traditional check-in or concierge desk any longer. Everything can be handled more loosely and fluidly.”

 

 

 

 

Trivia

 

Despite all the new bells and whistles, sometimes the most basic of the modern services is what counts the most. Guests’ No. 1 choice of a hotel amenity is free Wi-Fi, according to a 2012 Hotels.com survey.

Holly Isdale, a financial consultant for high-net-worth families,based in Bryn Mawr, Pa., wrote in an e-mail: “I won’t pay for Wi-Fi and won’t stay at a hotel twice if it charges for Wi-Fi. Given the prices of business hotels, it seems ridiculous to charge for Wi-Fi.”

 

 

 

 

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