In the highly competitive hospitality industry, revenues are driven by creating a true guest experience, rather than just a place to stay. According to five industry experts from the region, comfort is still a major factor when it comes to the hotel experience, but user-friendly technology and sustainability have also risen to the top of the agenda for hotels.
“Modern interior design ideas are in a state of constant flux,” says Josep Maria Sans Esplugas, founder of Kriska Décor, a Spanish company specialising in producing metallic chain curtains. “From our point of view, the design will be centred on providing a unique and authentic experience. Hotels have become travel destinations by themselves. This is why hospitality interior spaces are designed with different strategies in mind to accommodate the needs of every guest, whether for business, relaxation or socialising. Personalisation is the biggest trend in hospitality right now.”
The Middle East is known for being a hub for luxurious hotels, but as the region prepares to host global events, such as Dubai Expo 2020 and the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, industry experts also discuss whether cheaper accommodation would be necessary considering the UAE government’s Tourism Vision forecasting 20 million visitors a year by the time of the Expo.
According to a report published by Jones Lang La Salle, currently more than 70% of hotel room supply in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is in the 4 and 5-star category and Dubai is set to see a massive increase of 28,000 new hotel rooms by 2018.
“We see that a lot is happening in the hotel market. Micro-hotels are really emerging. We also have companies like Snooze Box with mobile and pop-up hotels. It will be interesting to see if this type of accommodation can take off here and if this region is prepared to accept that,” said Chris Browning, director of Norr Group Consultants, at a panel discussion during the Hotel Show 2015 in Dubai.
At the same event, Salim Hussain, architect at Atkins, explained: “When visiting Dubai, people’s level of expectations is much higher than in other cities. There is an obsession with the Expo 2020. No doubt it is a big event and that it is important how we will get there, but also what we will do afterwards.”
Espulgas notes that contemporary design hotels are increasing in the Middle East market.
“The more formal hotels are leaning towards simplifying their design with clean lines and softer colours and decoration while the minimalistic ones are achieving a cosier atmosphere with accent details and colours. We can find an example of this contemporary design at the Royal Ascot Hotel Apartment of Dubai, where the longest Kriska Décor curtain ever produced is displayed. This unique element situated in the lobby dominates the space with a height of 36m. The piece was designed by Sven Müller and features a twisting design in silver and lime colours.”
The large number of hospitality projects has left a number of regional designers and suppliers positively overwhelmed by the amount of available work in the coming years before 2020, so what exactly should be the focus? Our experts say bespoke lighting and hotel bathrooms are at the top of the list.
That is the reason why Preciosa, the Czech high-end Bohemian glass and crystal provider, sees the Middle East as one of its major markets.
”This region is specific and it’s influenced by having no limits,” says Martin Fryzelka, business development director at Preciosa. “Thanks to that, we can bring high vision and dreams to reality.
“Our company looks back to the classics for inspiration but uses it for the contemporary design. Respecting traditional local patterns and styles we create luxurious new looks. Also local young designers are very helpful. They have a strong imagination and they are also ready to make-up well-established designs for specific clients and unique projects that the Arab world brings.”
Preciosa has been known for creating bespoke lighting in hotels across the region but is now actively expanding into retail.
Fryzelka says: “We are now very happy to be bringing our new retail collections directly to the final customer. The first collection is called Solitaires and it is a mix of unique Bohemian glass luminaries, designed by renowned names in product design and handmade by our artisans in Crystal Valley, Bohemia.”
Completing the entire fit-out project for JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, Alger-Triton International is another lighting manufacturer for the high-end hotel business that has a strong presence in the region.
Joe Chamberlin, director of international sales at Alger, says: “If you look at much of the US and Europe, the design is shifting towards boutique hotel design and a reduction in spending, making designers make the most out of very little. In the Middle East, the concept of ‘less is more’ doesn’t exist. They respond with ‘then imagine how much more, more will be!’ It is extremely futuristic in its outlook and designers are able to utilise extremely high-quality and often rare materials to bring together new and exciting design concepts.”
Commenting the quality of the delivered projects, Louise Pitt, marketing manager at Geberit, agrees that hotels in the Middle East are “following high international design standards”.
“We work with many interior designers, architects and consultants that are based here in Dubai and they are the trendsetters for the industry — the world is looking on and following closely what is coming up in the region — especially in Dubai,” she says.
When it comes to the overall design, Pitt also believes that designers are now designing an experience as the guests are expecting more from the minute they check in until they check out.
She says: “Business, leisure and wellbeing are all taken into consideration when a guest is selecting a hotel. The trend for bathrooms continues with the spa experience, which means larger spaces to allow for rejuvenation with elegant ceramics and sleek lines.”
Pitt says that acoustics play and important part of the material selection process within buildings and particularly the hotel bathroom. The company’s products, Geberit Bolero and Geberit Duofix, have been recently installed in the bathrooms at the Address Residences Sky View, a hotel, residential and serviced apartment complex located in Downtown Dubai.
According to Aida Karimi, senior interior designer at DiLeonardo, designing with a global awareness has become a growing sign of the creation of sustainable environments worldwide.
“Today, we see natural themes taking the lead in hospitality and inspirations are drawn from raw nature,” says Karimi. “The use of natural stones and porcelain tiles awakes a sense of serenity as the main feature in design for many hotels. The basic bath and basin faucet are also evolving toward smart water control systems that are not only energy efficient but also eco-friendly, which makes them perfect to use in commercial and hospitality projects.”
Similarly, Samer Deeb, area manager at Roca, a leading bathroom brand, points out that the hospitality industry is making progress in environmental consciousness by choosing eco-friendly and sustainable products.
“Hotels need to take into consideration key design elements, such as space and the location of the bathroom in the room, the place of the toilet, basin, bathtub or a shower, the choice of non-slip floor tiles, efficient flush WC’s and water saving faucets,” says Deeb.
Taking a new approach to how products are selected and combined from within a range, Roca presented its new Inspira collection, which can be combined in a variety of ways to suit individual tastes and needs.
Alan Haddad, key accounts manager at Kohler, says that the appreciation of the local culture in hotel design is also reflected in bathroom interiors “with the use of faucets’ finishes such as brushed bronze, brushed gold and vintage nickel”.
For the Westin Hotels in Dubai, the company has developed an exclusive product called the Westin Heavenly shower, which has brought spa-like amenities to guest rooms while saving half of the water previously used.
Haddad says: “Our recent project win is in the one of the region’s largest hospitality cluster, the Habtoor City in Dubai where we were able to supply three hotels with full sanitary solutions meeting each design style — contemporary for the Westin, cosmopolitan for the W and authentic for the St Regis.”
Commenting a their future plans in the region, Haddad says that the company has launched Veil intelligent toilet, which he describes as “a blend of art, design, technology and hygienic features” and that Kohler’s future plan is to integrate this product more in the Middle East to make it a bathroom basic for the hospitality industry.