Designers and hotel experts discuss changes in hospitality design at round table discussion

The design landscape is constantly changing, and today hotels are incorporating looks with functionality in equal measure. Here, interior designers and operators discuss the latest trends.

Designing hotels and resorts in the region is a serious business; interior designers have to create a look for the property that fits operator brand standards while also standing out in a sea of tough competition.

Under the auspices of Commercial Interior Design, Middle East Architect, and Hotelier Middle East, the Future of Hotel Design roundtable took place earlier this year, featuring the region’s leading hotel design stakeholders – independent and hotel group architects, and interior designers – to discuss, debate, and dissect the latest in hotel design.

Taking part in the round table were Cameron McPherson, director of design MEA at IHG; Sheri Y Smith, senior director- interior design at Marriott International; Ralf Steinhuer, director- Middle East and North Africa at RSP; Kevin McLachlan, partner and head of interiors at Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ); Carol Finnie, portfolio director at DWP; and Marcos Cain, principal and founder of Stickman Tribe.

Designing for millennials

The M-word has been cropping up in all facets of the hospitality industry, whether it’s millennial guests or employees, and it certainly needs to be considered when it comes to designing a property.

DWP – Design Worldwide Partnership’s portfolio director, Carol Finnie, says designing for millennials is a talking point for everyone. “It’s been a hard push about how we’re going to be designing for the future, how that affects what we design, how we design as operators, and how the design of hotels has been affected by the next generation,” she says.

Finnie adds that the ‘millennial personality’ is all about sharing and collaboration, which is affecting how one looks at design.

Marriott International senior director – interior design, Sheri Y Smith, reveals that the hotel operator conducted a study to see where people fit on a ‘millennial scale’, and found that there were many who were on that scale who were not actually millennials, by definition.

Agreeing with her was Cameron McPherson, the director of design MEA at IHG. He comments: “I would definitely agree with that. In reality, there’s no such thing as a millennial. It doesn’t matter what age group you come from, your expectations are changing. With young people, we expect they want everything faster. They don’t want everything faster; they want it right.”

The meaning of the word ‘millennial’, and what that group’s members want, constantly evolves. Stickman Tribe principal and founder, Marcos Cain, says that what a millennial means is evolving and isn’t fixed.

“We did a full study five years ago on millennials for a hotel chain. And we designed the room for the particular characteristic of millennials, with activation points to figure out what kind of food and beverage (F&B) offering and business hub they wanted. With millennials, it comes down to [the fact that] they’re trying to do multiple tasks at multiple times, and we’re trying to create multiple pockets of revenue for operators, so we can utilise the space to create different moments within.”

Following on from Cain’s point about multiple revenue stream, one of the topics that everyone agreed on was flexibility of design. RSP director – Middle East and North Africa, Ralf Steinhauer, notes: “A lot more functions are merging into one. It’s not just a meeting room, it’s a place to hang out, and it’s a place to grab something to eat.”

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