Forget Generic Mints on the Pillows – Developers Discuss Next Wave of Innovation in Hospitality

I remember 25, ahem, or so years ago, I was working in New York City and was put up in one of the new “streamlined” hipster-type hotels for a couple of weeks. The product was totally new, even in NYC.

Boy, was it cool, the bellmen (and yes, all men) were beautiful, the lobby the place to be and restaurants foodie-driven.

It was the SMALLEST guestroom I had ever stayed in – just enough space for the bed. I was totally claustrophobic. The wall between the shower and room was clear, so if you had a guest, there was zero privacy. The floors were cold with no carpet, and the built-in trashcan atop the vanity in the bathroom was confusing.

I decided I was happier at a tried and true brand. That was then. Twenty-five years later, it’s the norm and they’ve fine-tuned things. And recently, I heard a few rock star-type developers and builders talk at Urban Land Institutes’ (ULI) monthly breakfast about “The Next Wave of Innovation in Hospitality.”

According to speakers, Robert Green, CEO of Robert Green Company, Ellie Combs, an associate at Gensler, and Todd Majcher, vice president of Resort Development and Design, Lowe Enterprises, here are just a few of the trends they’re seeing:

  • It’s all about creating experiences. You can get a nice bed and desk anywhere. But if you walk in and someone hands you a warm chocolate chip cookie or a glass of champagne, you’re going to remember it. If you asked about local yoga studios before you arrived, and when you got to your room, there was a yoga mat waiting for you in case you needed it, that’s memorable.
  • People want to feel like their hotel experience is an extension of the city they’re in. Hotels are featuring local produce purveyors and wineries on menus, using local artists for lobby or meeting room art, or leaving a chocolate on the bed from a local chocolatier.
  • It’s an Instagram world. Lobbies, rooms, restaurants all need a focal spot so people can curate their shots to show off the hotel. Sorry.
  • Rooms are getting smaller (I think they have been for a long time based on my experience mentioned above at the Paramount), and architects are using the space to create more “experiences” for their guests via more social space, and curated and cozy spaces that activate the lobby or meeting rooms.
  • Hotels are rethinking luxury. It’s not about opulence anymore; it’s about creating memorable spaces and experiences. Guest are much more interested in a server being available in the lobby to bring them a drink vs. looking at a lavish chandelier.