Editor’s Note: This blog is part of our Design Forecast blog series, looking at what’s next in 2022 and beyond. Here, we sit down with Tom Ito, global leader for Gensler’s Hospitality practice, to discuss what’s next for hospitality design.
What are the biggest trends that you’re seeing impacting hospitality operators in the next five years?
The leisure segment is going to foster the rebound, along with local destination travel. Hotels will accommodate our changing lifestyles as people have the ability to be in resort locations while working. We’re seeing spaces that are a lot more conducive to people who can work remotely. We’re also seeing an extension of the longer stay and branded residences as people are looking to live and work in beautiful places. That’s going to be one of the trends shaping hospitality design in the next five years.
Are travelers looking for anything different in the hotel brands they’re considering?
The zest for experience is still key. We’re integrating art and culture into our projects to make them more meaningful. It’s important that we create unique experiences for hotels that are embedded in the locality. So, a project in New York might be different than a project in Costa Rica or London because each locale has its own unique character and history.
We’re also seeing some great local ecotourism. This whole notion of glamping — being in nice places, and being outdoors, but also being very comfortable — that’s a new type of destination-driven experience that we’re seeing moving forward.
What changes or practices have hotels incorporated as a result of the pandemic? And do you think those practices will stay or change as people resume travel?
Hotels were already using technology, but they’re embracing it even more to respond to guests’ desire for more frictionless devices to navigate their journey. Among the important challenges that operators are facing are staff shortages. It’s important for a hotel to have the right proportion of staff to guests. Technology is being used to bridge that gap by offering solutions that can create a more personalized, enhanced guest experience while improving efficiency by allowing staff to better use their time to connect with guests.
How is Gensler working with hospitality brands to address issues around sustainability and climate change?
We’re always looking for ways to construct buildings that reduce a hotel’s carbon footprint, such as sustainable materials and construction technologies. We also like to design spaces with passive solutions, such as daylighting and access to the outdoors. We’re also looking at ways to mitigate the use of plastic and use more environmentally-friendly amenities.
Another key sustainability strategy is adaptive reuse and repositioning. That’s playing out in developments that are underutilized or not in high demand, such as office space, department stores, or retail centers being converted to hotels, residential, or mixed-use developments. Repurposing buildings helps maximize the use of a project and mitigate any other long-term effects in constructability, because you’re utilizing an existing structure and repurposing it.
What are the top amenities travelers are looking for in hotels today?
One of the biggest amenities is food & beverage. You can have great dining experience in various places in a hotel — not necessarily in a sit-down restaurant, but in a nice lounge setting, in outdoor spaces, and even in your room. The whole notion of guest room dining has changed.
Health and wellness amenities are also huge. Not only eating healthy but feeling healthy and fit in areas that provide you with healthy activities. We’re also seeing integration of technology or products that guests can use to exercise in their room.
We also believe that meeting, convention, and business spaces, which may be a little slower to return, will eventually come to play. We’re designing spaces, both in hotel rooms, as well as meeting places, that are hybrid in nature. So, we’ll see a combination of the physical and virtual together for conferences and meeting spaces.
The other thing we’re going to see is the elevated role of hotels in the community. We often think of hotels now as a third place where people will go to work, and that’s spurring new types of guest demands. Hotels are not only servicing guests who are transient, but also those who are going to do an overnight stay or have a great meal, meet with people, or socialize. It raises another revenue stream for our clients because they can rely on that local travel, on that community, to engender a lot more business.
Are hotels repurposing meetings and convention spaces?
Even pre-pandemic, we’ve seen the importance of spaces that are flexible, adaptable, and transformable from day to night. Now, spaces such as meeting rooms are being reused for other purposes — whether for specialized training sessions, food & beverage outlets, or community meetings. We’re going to see a lot more spaces that can convert and be more flexible moving forward.
Post-pandemic, where do you see the greatest opportunity for hotel operators?
I believe the greatest opportunity for operators is embracing technology even further. It’s not only about efficiency, but it’s driving better social and guest interactions. The idea of connected experiences — the convergence of the physical and digital together along with the total guest journey — is where we’re headed.
A great example is the new Atari Hotels project in Las Vegas. We’re using the building’s façade to play a game on. Guests can create their own personal avatar as they enter the building. It’s a way of moving the Atari brand forward to create a new experience. That’s the ultimate way of integrating technology and digital to interact with guests.
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