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The hotel of the future may already be here

Neil Andrew, Head of Hospitality at Perkins&Will, looks at how the hotel market will come to terms with our changing wants and needs.

09/02/2021 4 min read
Perkins&Will’s set at Sleep & Eat 2020

In terms of the hospitality marketplace, during the first half of the year we’ll continue to see properties changing hands and being converted from one hotel brand to another. We may also see further mergers between the big chains and boutique brands. Once the majority of hotel properties in distress have been converted, the focus will switch back to retail or office buildings. I personally believe in the resilience of the hospitality industry as travelling and being social is at the core of human consciousness.

Neil Andrews, Perkins and Will

The pandemic undoubtedly has accelerated pre-existing trends. The majority of hotel operators will attempt to pick up business as usual, but we will also see an emergence of more new, blended models of hospitality. In diversifying one’s revenue stream, a more robust business model can be achieved – coworking has been within hotels since their inception, then purposely implanted over that last 5-10 years, and now it is part of the norm. As retail reinvents itself, we will also see further merging of that into hotel and hospitality spaces. We will see more of another new building type, focused on community; with coworking, co-living, and hotel guestrooms that can be adapted in times of a pandemic to function as private office spaces housing 2-3 people at a time, or rooms that can be connected via sliding walls to create larger working spaces.

Further blending will happen between healthcare, wellness and hospitality – some luxury brands have already blended the medical spa with resorts, and I believe this trend will continue to grow. Following 2020, the majority of people will seek more ‘space’ when they take a holiday. Cities are overcrowded and suffer from over-tourism in comparison to resorts in rural areas. As the trend for experiential travel grows, guests will seek transformative stays in far-flung locations, and we may see further growth in speciality hospitality, such as agritourism. The luxury segment has been fairly resilient during the pandemic, and in 2021 it will continue to shift further towards experiential hospitality. Other experiential stays will be built around F&B, cooking schools and outdoor activities.

The trend of building a community will become more prevalent and help in driving mid-week business, as business travel may potentially drop off due to an increased trust in online meetings and Zoom calls. This can lead to a hotel being occupied by coworkers during the week. Exciting programming will be key in building the community, and so the building must be planned properly in order to cater for this – the planning of spaces will be more flexible, and spacious if permitted and outdoor spaces will be seen as more of an advantage than before.

Sustainability will no longer just be a tagline, and we will see this become embedded into big chains’ core principles and design standards. Future generations will put purpose before profit, happily investing more money in brands that place sustainability at their core and pursue a carbon neutral model – so it’s not only in the interest of the environment but also a brand’s marketing plan.

With this in mind, we will see more emphasis placed on using new sustainable materials – materials and furniture pieces that are grown, vegan-design approaches and modularisation in design, in line with circular design principles, whilst hotel operators look to run their properties in more sustainable ways. Ultimately, hospitality is still largely dependent upon air travel and, as our awareness of our personal carbon footprints increases, the industry could see a rise in staycationing. We may even see a rise in trains or other modes of transport being converted by hotel brands, as holidaymakers return to embracing the journey as part of the holiday – essentially travelling slower. At Perkins&Will, we explored sustainable hospitality in our 2020 Sleep Set design and are subsequently working towards our Net Zero Pledge for carbon neutral design.

It would seem that the pandemic has lessened the fear that many have for technology and, largely speaking, we now accept it as a means to operate and live better lives. In the luxury segment, self-check-in was historically seen as impersonal as guests would prefer a human face to greet them, but now technology will be synonymous with luxury, offering guests more options in terms of service. If you wish to self-check-in, or if you want to receive room service by drone, you will have that option.

Technology will also be present within your room, where circadian lighting systems will set the colour of light to suit your body clock and environment, and sleep technology will monitor your body temperature whilst you sleep to ensure you have the perfect night’s rest. It will also allow a guest to personalise their space with their own artwork, or the hotel app may allow a guest to chose what bedding they would like in the room before they arrive.

In short, hospitality has shown resilience during the pandemic – and 2021 will see it evolve and bounce back via traditional and new models.

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