Whilst attending Hotelympia recently, a highlight for me was taking part in a panel discussion on the main stage, the subject of which was ‘What makes a great hotel guest suite’.

Sitting alongside me were Jennifer Hopkins (Jestico & Whiles) and Ross Blunt (Reardon Smith) with Lori Pinkerton-Rolet (Park Grove) as our compere. The intention of the discussion, in front of an audience of operators, specifiers and designers, was to highlight some of the key issues the industry faces when striving to deliver a great guest experience.

Between the four of us we covered a breadth of experience; from global brands to premium independent operators, in the UK and internationally. It became apparent as the conversation progressed that the issues are universal; guest’s expectations are steadily shifting across the industry as a whole.

Localisation and the independent spirit

Across the industry there’s a shift in guest expectations; a hotel should reflect something unique about the culture within which it is located. This shift is linked to the success of independent operators, who offer their own take on all things from F&B to what hotel accommodation can be.

The challenge for designers is in how to do this. Clichés can be hard to avoid; maps on the wall, framed artwork depicting the local landscape and so on. These things can work but need to be executed with a degree of sophistication.

What’s more interesting, and certainly more challenging, is to immerse the guest in the experience of a culture without making literal and simplistic references. This is when designers need to flex their creative muscles; the ability to distil the essence of a particular location into a carefully curated design scheme is no mean feat.

The devil’s in the detail

Alongside talk of big ideas and grand gestures, it’s in the small details that a brand has a real opportunity to engage with their guests. When an operator takes the time to truly understand their customers – their likes, dislikes, habits, challenges and aspirations – something amazing happens; a guest experiences a sense of being cared for, being thought about. This, particularly when tied into an operating protocol, has the power to connect brands with individuals.

Feel the love

Our talk concluded on what for me is the crux of everything we do as designers. It’s the ability for a brand and operator to connect with their customers. A genuine, emotional connection that is borne out of consideration and understanding. Because ultimately, we’re all just people in the end; when we take the time to care, you can feel it.

Main image Copyright Richard Southall / Emphasis

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