By Paige Harris, Director of Design and Development for Valor Hospitality Partners
Travel has begun to return to pre-pandemic levels this summer, with airports seeing a surge in traffic and hotels across the country staying fully booked. The hospitality industry faced a massive shift when the pandemic hit, bringing forth new methods and motivators once travel returned. Consumers are more excited than ever to travel now, but are becoming more intentional with where and how they spend their time, and the industry is moving to accommodate and reflect that shift.
In the first stages of post-pandemic vacations, most of the focus was on how hotels were cleaned, sanitized, and keeping everyone safe. While that is still an important factor, the focus has shifted to showcasing unique features of properties and destinations to make people want to travel again. Both business and leisure travel have been increasing, and so have the number of people traveling as a family and with their pets. Hotel design is based on what travelers are looking for, and below are five new design trends we’ll be seeing as we move into 2023.
- Technology will Remain A Top Priority
Much of our everyday life is reliant on technology, and that only increased once the pandemic began. We quickly had to transition and adjust to video calling loved ones, Zoom meetings, virtual conferences, and remote work. While many people have returned to office life in some aspects, remote work life has proven to be here to stay at least for the time being, and hotel design needs to take notice to adjust to remote workers traveling and their needs.
As business travel is picking up, many people are now taking part in bleisure travel and extending their work trips for personal fun. With this change, properties must have technology top of mind when making design decisions for the upcoming year. Many are now working from their hotel rooms while they’re traveling, or finding common areas in hotels to get work done while traveling. Making the guest rooms and common spaces conducive to work, such as having a semi-private area where they can take calls or adding more outlets and tables to the lobby, will be beneficial so that people can get work done while still engaging in the energy of a property.
Aside from using technology for work, people have become accustomed to the efficiency it provides. The driving force of design should always be considering how we can engage the guest and make processes easier for them. For example, give the guest the option to check into the hotel via their smartphone. Or, once they’re in their room, incorporate technology that connects their phone to the in-room speakers to play their choice of music, adjust the thermostat, dim the lights, and turn on the TV.
Design can also influence a hotel’s digital presence, whether it be improving a connection to guests before, during or after their stay. Adding a mural or striking décor encourages photography and social sharing, which can engage additional followers and drive digital traffic. Consider also adding a QR code next to any unique murals or décor can add another element for guests to engage with the artwork and further integrate technology into your hotel design.
- An Increased Focus on Making Loved Ones Comfortable
Family travel is on the rise, and after a spike in adoptions during the pandemic, that often includes their pets. Approximately 78% of pet owners acquired their pets during the pandemic, and 66% of pet owners have spent more money on their pets recently to help them adjust to being alone more often, as they are out of the house more than before.
Properties will be looking to become more pet-friendly, by adding amenities such as dog runs, dog walking services and special treats for pets, while still being clean. These pet friendly design elements can help attract a wider audience of travelers and encourage them to stay longer as well, given they can bring their loved ones along on the trip. Locations might begin to incorporate pet friendly design offerings such as potty spots, branded pet beds, toys and more.
Families who are traveling with their children will be looking for activities they can all do together and amenities that the kids would also enjoy. Properties can consider incorporating families into design elements – whether it be kid-friendly play areas, sleeping corners in guestrooms, and more. Additionally, hotels can hold more family-friendly events, such as gingerbread house decorating during the holidays, or provide a more educational experience and teach kids about the history of the location they’re visiting. They could have an interactive, ongoing scavenger hunt that begins upon check in to make the children feel more connected to the hotel and ensure they’re having fun. If there is a hotel near a popular family destination, they could add a common area with cards, board games, and play structures where children can meet and play with other children while the parents relax.
- The Great Outdoors will Stay Great
Properties will be utilizing and expanding their outdoor space more and more. Getting outside was a large part of how people stayed safe and entertained throughout the pandemic, and its popularity has remained steady. It’s still an important part of hotel design because it gives guests the option to distance themselves from others if they would like to.
Hotels are capitalizing on their outdoor space by expanding existing areas and providing guests with outdoor experiences they can enjoy onsite. This could include outdoor dining, open-air workspaces and conference rooms, outdoor gym options or larger balconies that encourage guests to utilize the space more often.
For example, The Harpeth, a boutique hotel in Franklin, Tennessee, has encouraged guests to get outside by further developing its existing courtyard. Previously, it offered a variety of lounge seating, and we have now transformed it into a multi-functional space including an outdoor dining experience complete with a mobile bar housed in a Piaggio. We welcome hotel guests and locals to mingle, work, network and enjoy light bites and cocktails at leisure.
Additionally, as we look toward future builds, many developers are seeking destinations with an outdoor appeal – a national park, mountain range or body of water – tailoring their design around the natural environment. This approach is geared to meet the needs and desires of today’s travelers, who have embraced the outdoors during the pandemic and want to continue doing so in their future travels.
- Local Connections Matter More Than Ever Before
Its anticipated that hotels will offer more unique experiences for guests to partake in, focused on hyperlocal design. Properties are drawing inspiration from their communities, incorporating those features into the guest rooms and common spaces to enhance the guest’s experience.
To add to this, properties can incorporate more of the local community by furnishing and decorating the hotel using local artists’ work. Working with local artists will help further integrate your property with the community and boost the local economy, along with giving guests the chance to experience yet another taste of the area they are staying within the hotels walls.
For example, The Harpeth has also added this local flare to its design by making the lobby feel like Franklin’s local living room. It is a very warm environment that both visitors and locals can enjoy – complete with a library with a book collection curated by the hotel, featuring local authors and books about the area and the history of the design.
- Taking Sustainability One Step Further
Hoteliers have long desired to place sustainability and environmentalism at the forefront, and thoughtful design can help reduce a property’s carbon footprint. For example, hotels may be using bulk amenities in bathrooms to cut down on waste, adding recycling canisters in guest rooms, and partnering with local businesses to shorten the supply chain.
The Lodge at Gulf State Park, located on the Alabama Gulf Coast, recently designed a poolside bar with sustainability in mind. The design team ensured the lighting specifications and illumination levels don’t disrupt local wildlife and sourced materials that are native to the area. In doing so, the team ensured to elevate the property’s design, while still keeping the local area and sustainability efforts top of mind.
Traditionally, design for a new hotel begins two years before opening, meaning many newer properties were designed pre-pandemic and do not reflect the shift in design that it caused. With a heightened focus on technology, comfort for the whole family, connection to the outdoors and the local community, and an emphasis on sustainability, we are poised to create innovative properties and experiences guests will love for years to come.
While these are exciting new changes and developments in the industry as we step away from prototypical properties, but the goal of the trends we will be seeing in 2023 is to create more engaged guests and elevate their experience. If we’re able to create a connection with them and provide outstanding service, recommendations, and amenities, they will want to return to create more memories with us.
This article recaps the new reasons people are traveling in this post-pandemic world and highlights the hotel design trends that we will be seeing in 2023 because of these changes. Paige Harris, director of design and development for Valor Hospitality Partners, highlights how technology, sustainability, outdoor space, local connections, and being pet and family-friendly are top of mind for the upcoming year.