Miss match of furniture in lounge

    Part 79: redefining senior living with hospitality principles

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    If design’s role in hospitality is to make spaces more user-friendly, experiential and answer to modern traveller demands, then breaking down the stigma around senior living using savvy design solutions is paramount. The Designers Group shares its approach to blurring the boundaries in this sector…

    At The Designers Group (TDG), our commitment to senior living design goes beyond aesthetics. Our vision is to seamlessly integrate the comforts and luxury of high-end hospitality with research-based concepts optimised for wellness.

    Our team understands the significance of creating welcoming environments and exceptional interior experiences. At TDG, we take a meticulous approach, conducting in-depth research to truly understand the needs and preferences of senior residents. Our design decisions are grounded in demographics, psycho-social factors, and trends in the senior living industry, ensuring we cater not just for today, but for the future evolution of the ageing population.

    Our research-driven approach shapes every aspect of our designs. Gone are the days of cold and institutional healthcare facilities. Our goal is to curate boutique-style communities where seniors can continue engaging with others, fostering connections with family, and finding purpose in their daily lives.

    In transforming dated and sterile spaces, we create the ambiance of a luxury resort. Calming neutral tones complement adjustable mood lighting, allowing us to create spaces that stimulate or relax based on the time of day. We bring the outside in through botanical prints, greenery, and garden views visible from room windows. Natural textures and materials provide organic warmth, but we customise our material palette based on each community’s unique vision. Our goal is harmonising with the local landscape while creating an oasis of comfort and renewal.

    A clean and minimalist living area

    Image credit: Unsplash

    In a recent skilled nursing facility redesign, we harnessed the power of hospitality to improve quality of life and change perceptions of the community. Outdated areas were reimagined with contemporary lounge areas for socialising, spa-like rooms, and neutral and muted tones for a sense of calm. Our lighting choices aligned with circadian rhythms, promoting better sleep and cognition. The transformation resulted in improved patient satisfaction, a 15 per cent increase in occupancy, and a significant revenue boost.

    However, beautiful design alone is not enough; it must also contribute to wellbeing. At TDG, we incorporate research-backed elements that support holistic health:

    •  Active noise-cancellation technology filters disruptive sounds, offering restful quiet without compromising community engagement.
    •  Expansive windows welcome abundant natural light and outdoor views, reducing anxiety and promoting connection with nature.
    •  Color palettes take into account how ageing eyes perceive contrast differently, using well-defined edges and warm hues to minimise visual confusion.
    • Community gardens provide opportunities for horticultural therapy and mindful movement to reduce stress and improve fine motor skills.
    A large bedroom with dome-like bed frame

    Image credit: Unsplash

    Additionally, we elevate our communities with hospitality-inspired amenities:

    •  Private dining rooms allow residents to host intimate gatherings for family and friends, complete with catering services. These spaces cultivate meaningful connections over shared meals.
    •  Cafes serve barista coffee and fresh pastries throughout the day for quick bites and socialisation in lounge areas.
    •  Fitness centres offer varied equipment adapted for seniors’ abilities to enable continued strength training and cardio.

    During the pandemic, social connection was compromised, and we responded with thoughtful design solutions. We created ample lounges and communal patios to promote safe socialisation through appropriate distancing, incorporating materials with antimicrobial properties for added safety. Cleanliness remains paramount, with discreet air purification systems and easily sanitised surfaces.

    Through surveys and focus groups, our team continually refines our approach based on feedback and evolving needs. We recognise that what enhances memory care, for example, may differ from the requirements of independent or assisted living. Our spaces are thoughtfully tailored to nurture the wellbeing of every resident.

    At TDG, our goal is to incorporate the comforts and luxury of high-end hospitality with meaningful design elements that support the holistic wellness of ageing populations. The result is communities crafted with care, where seniors can continue thriving and embracing the joys of life in their later years. Through our research-driven and purposeful approach, we redefine senior living, pioneering a future where comfort, care, and connection are at the heart of every community we design.

    Main image credit: Upsplash

    A large hotel suite, designed with exposed stone walls and modern interiors - low bed.

    Part 74: How technology trends are improving guest experience

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    William Graham-Park, Hospitality Lead at ALE, and Hamish Kilburn, Editor of Hotel Designs, recently sat down to explore how technology trends are shaping the hotel and hospitality industries…

    Technology trends have gone a bit Black Mirror in recent, with AI and the Metaverse emerging as both disruptors and opportunities for brands operating in the hotel design and hospitality arenas.

    Driving these innovations and drastic tech-forward transformations is an increasingly impatient on-demand society that expects simple interfaces to react at lightning speed. Cue the arrival of Alcatel Lucent Enterprise (ALE), which will attend Tech in Hospitality Summit on September 18 – 19 in London. ALE claims that it is ‘reinventing’ how hospitality guests and staff communicate in safe and meaningful ways. This is done, simply, through the launch of efficient communication solutions.

    Pretty Asian female business executive calling from hotel room

    Image credit: ALE

    Driving the technology that ALE has launched is extensive research into consumer behaviour. To understand more about the emerging tech trends that are evolving the digital age in hospitality, we caught up with William Graham-Park, Hospitality Lead at ALE.

    Hamish Kilburn: So, William, what trends are you currently seeing in the hospitality sector?

    William Graham-Park: Well, there’s a lot going on, so for ease and clarity, let me distinguish between general trends we’re seeing, versus disruptive technology trends that are affecting the industry.

    In terms of the general trends in the hospitality industry currently: Environmental, Social and Governance – ESG – goals are a major driver now, with demand coming from the top down and the bottom up, and there are two major categories under this term that are particularly buzzing right now in the conversations I am having.

    First is sustainability, with hotels and restaurants increasingly adopting sustainable practices, such as reducing waste, using eco-friendly products, and sourcing local and organic ingredients. Hotels are increasingly incorporating sustainable technologies, such as energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems, into their operations. Technology that’s based in the cloud is another way to be more sustainable, as hardware is reduced, and the cloud services provider typically will run their systems as efficiently as possible. This not only helps to reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint but can also save on energy costs. Carbon footprint and energy cost saving can be tracked too. Also, diversity and inclusion is a growing focus, with hotels and restaurants working to create more welcoming environments for all guests and employees.

    The next trend I’d mention is wellness. This trend has gained momentum in recent years, with operators offering guests more health and wellness options. These might include in-room fitness equipment, yoga classes, and healthy menu options.

    Another one is Experiential Travel, which means going beyond offering just a place to stay or eat, with hotels and restaurants creating unique experiences for their guests. Examples could be curated local tours, cooking classes, or cultural experiences.

    The term ‘bleisure‘ describes the travel trend where individuals extend their business trips to include leisure activities, resulting in a new term combining ‘business’ and ‘leisure’.

    Overall, the key trends in hospitality are focused on creating personalised experiences, promoting sustainability, and embracing technology to improve operations and guest satisfaction.

    relaxed and happy young couple in modern hotel room

    Image credit: ALE

    HK: What exactly do you mean that ESG goals are being demanded top-down and bottom-up?

    WGP: In the sense that this is not just a corporate directive from the Boardroom. ESG goals are very important to today’s consumers as well, with many willing to pay more to make their travels more sustainable. So bottom-up in the sense that demand is coming from the customers, who are willing to use their towels for more than one day, as well as offset, and welcome other similar measures.

    HK: And what technology trends are affecting the industry?

    WGP: Right, I’ll mention several that we’re seeing, some of which many hospitality users may already be used to. As these are adopted, and when they are delivered well, the optimal guest experience becomes a possibility.

    Starting more generally, digital transformation means embracing technology to improve the guest experience and streamline operations, with automation being a major component of this, aiming to achieve greater efficiency. This could include mobile check-in, digital room keys, and online ordering systems. With staffing an ongoing challenge, it is essential to secure automation wins, both to do more with the resources available and to make the provide staff with the right tools to make their job easier and ultimately improve the guest experience.

    With the help of technology, greater levels of personalisation are possible. Hotels and restaurants can collect data about their guests, which can be used to offer personalised experiences. This includes personalised recommendations, customised menus, and tailored room amenities.

    Contactless Technology is obviously already widespread, but in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, contactless technology has become increasingly important. Many hotels are now offering mobile check-in and check-out, as well as contactless payment options to minimise physical interactions.

    Mobile Applications and mobile centricity are also widespread already, and that will continue. Hotel chains are developing mobile applications to offer guests more control over their stays. With the help of mobile apps, guests can book rooms, make reservations at restaurants, request services, and even control room temperature and lighting. There’s nothing worse than waiting to pay your restaurant bill, but with the provision of excellent Wi-Fi and an APP/QR Code, a guest can pay their bill when they are ready, giving a waiter/waitress one less job to do.

    Closely connected to this is Smart Room Technology. We’re all used to smart home apps and network-connected devices, from speakers to heating control, and this kind of technology will increasingly creep into various hospitality settings. In hotels, guests will be able to control various room features, such as lighting, temperature, and entertainment systems, using their mobile devices.

    We’ve heard a lot about AI recently, but in fact, it has been established in hospitality for quite some time already. This will grow over time, and expect to see AI-powered chatbots providing 24/7 customer service and support, answering frequently asked questions, providing recommendations, and even making reservations.

    Some innovative hotels are using virtual reality (VR) to create immersive experiences for their guests. VR can be used to showcase hotel amenities, allow guests to explore the local area, and even provide virtual tours of hotel rooms.

    HK: It seems like there are a lot of aspects to address to achieve a technology-enabled guest experience nirvana. Any tips on how to get there?

    WGP: First off, a solid infrastructure, with an internet of things-ready network, to facilitate all of the features of a great guest experience. This includes easily-accessed, robust Wi-Fi for visitors, so they can actually access all these services. And this is really where ALE comes into the equation, with wired and wireless networks, and telephony and unified communications with automation and workflow features included.

    Together with specialist hospitality technology partners, we’ve delivered so many projects in the hospitality and hotel arenas that we really have seen some of the best deployments in the field, and know how to deliver an outstanding project. ALE technology is in hospitality locations all across the UK and Ireland and beyond. Global customers include Okada Manila Hotels, Sanabel Al Khair Hotel 5 start in Mecca, Emirates-Palace Abu Dhabi, Le Palladia in Toulouse, to name but a few.

    I would invite any readers to connect with me on Linkedin. I can help them find demonstrations, proven system specialist, and help them consider their options to digitally transform and use technology to enhance their guest experience.

    ALE will be attending Tech in Hospitality Summit on September 18 – 19 in London, which is brought to you by Forum Events and supported by Hotel Designs. If you are an innovative and competitive solution provider and would like to attend, please contact Jennie Lane. If you are an industry professional searching for tech solutions and would like to attend as a delegate, please speak to Hayley Purrell to establish whether you qualify as a delegate.

    Main image credit: Unsplash / Roberto Nickson

    Decimo The Standard - dark-lit restaurant inside the hotel

    Part 69: the future of food and beverage design in hotels

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    We have come so far from the time when the choice is hotels was Italian or steakhouse. Today, destination restaurants and Michelin star chefs are sheltered inside some of the world’s most premium luxury hotels. But what’s next on the menu for Food and Beverage design in hotels? Alexandre Santamaria, Founder, Aware Hospitality, has a few thoughts…

    If we take a look back a few decades, the travelling experience was centered more on the destination rather than any experience you would have in a hotel, including the food and beverage offerings. With the wants and needs of consumer preferences changing, largely due to the pandemic, the future of food and beverage design in hotels is now championing locality, sustainability and on-property culinary experiences.

    In the past, hotels were almost complacent in the area of food and beverage, but we’re now seeing a steady rise in hotels partnering with local F&B operators to ensure higher levels of quality. For instance, Me London outsources all food and beverage to The ONE Group (a global hospitality company that develops and operates upscale and polished casual, high-energy restaurants and lounges), and The Hoxton Hotel outsources to Soho House, a brand which undeniably shares the same aesthetic and style. Soon-to-be-open Raffles London at The OWO will feature three signature dining experiences from Michelin-star Chef Mauro Colagreco alongside three destination bars.

    The lobby inside Hoxton Southwark

    Image credit: Hoxton Southwark

    Meanwhile, over in Dubai, newly open Hilton Dubai Palm Jumeirah, an expansive beachfront property, has outsourced several of its drinking and dining experiences to London-based bar, Trader Vic’s. The London institution, which first opened in the capital in 1963, has brought its tiki brand to the Middle East, while Irish pub McGettigan’s is also housed within the hotel. Under this model, the hotel pays for fit-outs and equipment and partners with a passionate and hard-working restaurateur with all the tools to realise their vision.

    As well as being financial savvy for hotels, it’s also in the company’s interests to completely outsource food and beverage outlets to independent restauranteurs as the market is becoming more and more competitive when it comes to dining options, and brings a uniqueness to the menu as well as offering guests a reliable food service from a brand they resonate with.

    A successful restaurant concept is based on building a family of regular customers; from frequent business travellers to members of the local community. Often, a hotel houses one all-day, middle-of-the-road concept for the hotel clientele to use for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, when you have several F&B outlets all under one roof, as well as involving local ‘homegrown’ chefs, this goes a long way towards creating the buzz and excitement that restaurants need early on in their lifecycles to stay operational. Hotels are starting to put effort into developing a strong F&B offering where locals can work, relax, eat, and enjoy their city any time of year – making it a destination not just for tourists.

    Hotels have long been synonymous with the beloved buffet found in large-scale restaurants. While the treasured self-serve travel perk hasn’t received the same love since its decline due to Covid-19, hotels now understand that large, charmless restaurants with very little atmosphere don’t work. Instead, hotels are ripping up the rulebook and turning their lobbies into vibrant community workspaces aimed both at travellers and locals.

    London hotels in particular are becoming the new destinations for remote workers. With the pandemic changing the way businesses operate, remote working has seen a steady increase with no signs of stopping. Earlier this year, the Office of National Statistics revealed the proportion of workers utilising a hybrid model has risen from 13% in early February 2022 to 24 per cent in May 2022, while the percentage working exclusively from home has fallen from 22 per cent to 14 per cent in the same period.

    While co-working spaces such as WeWork have seen a decline (arguably due to high costs), hotels in the capital have transformed into accessible remote working spaces, offering special packages as well as access to fast wi-fi, tea and coffee on tap, meals, and amenities. In today’s digitally driven and globalised world, work is no longer confined to the cubicle or restricted to the hours between nine and five, and now, hotel lobbies are fast becoming ad hoc meeting rooms, full-time offices or just somewhere to quickly bash out an email.

    Vibrant interiors inside WeWork lounge

    Image credit: WeWork

    The Standard in King’s Cross boasts a meeting and events space on the eighth and ninth floors while the ground-floor lobby lounge offers a stylish co-working vibe. Over in Holborn, the Rosewood London hotel has a ‘Work From Hotel’ package where guests can book into suites that have been meticulously renovated into luxury office spaces. Mid-market hotels have also got in on the action, venues such as citizenM, which has four outposts in the capital, boasting super-fast free Wi-Fi, a contemporary living room, and iMacs for guests to use. And there’s no upfront cost to work there.

    the statement wavy red couch connects spaces in citizenM victoria, along with feature red bottles in the bar

    Image credit: citizenM

    With guests having higher standards than ever, efficiency is now preferred over the personal touch. One of the main reasons the human factor is being removed is largely due to staff shortages following the Brexit fallout. Recently Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures said the hospitality sector currently has a record 174,000 jobs available. The joint survey revealed that the highest shortages are for front-of-house roles, with 81 per cent of operators looking to fill vacancies. Chefs are the next most sought after, with 76 per cent of operators with recruitment issues, followed by kitchen porters (67 per cent), and assistant managers (53 per cent).

    If one thing is apparent, it’s that hotels are having to keep abreast of wider trends to stay ahead of the game. Adapting to the needs of the people – both locals and tourists – is vital, and is what keeps the best hotels at the top of their game. This naturally also extends into a hotel’s food and drink offerings, with pop-ups and regularly adapting kitchens taking away the stuffiness and clinical vibe and keeping things fresh and exciting. With so many changes happening in the last year alone, I’m excited to see what the future holds.

    Main image credit: Unsplash

    Sign saying 'we are open' in shop window

    Part 66: top tips to thrive post-pandemic on the hospitality scene

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    For years the hospitality industry enjoyed an era of ease, with new developments and travel trends leading to spikes in travel demand. Since the Covid-19 crisis, though, how does the industry re-patch itself and even ‘thrive’ post-pandemic? We asked Edward Hooper, Group CEO of LQA, to provide us with some easy-to-enforce tips…

    Although each and every industry was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the global hospitality sector was among the hardest hit. While recovery has started, the industry as a whole is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for some time, primarily due to continuing reluctance among business travellers. As hotels aim to drive recovery and revive demand, and as the Covid crisis recedes, we’re starting to see the industry move towards a more promising position.

    With high vaccination rates and the relaxing of strict restrictions – notably in the US in recent weeks – uninhibited travel tourism is slowly returning and the ‘revenge travel’ trend that started in 2021 continues to be prevalent. As this trend slowly spreads throughout the Asian market (with China now the clear exception to the rule) and as global tour operators get busier, the world’s travel backdrop continues to go from strength to strength after two turbulent years.

    Empty hotel room with white linen and blue walls

    Image credit: Unsplash

    LQA is the global leader in benchmarking and assessments, partnering with the world’s top luxury hotels, as well as government entities, in more than 130 countries to inspire exceptional service standards. As an authority in the hospitality space, below are some of our top tips for hotels to thrive post-pandemic:

    Elevate guest experience

    With room rates at record levels (especially in resort properties) luxury hospitality in particular has an opportunity to invest in further driving the guest experience to new heights. Whilst there is an understandable desire to recoup lost revenue from pandemic enforced shut downs, it’s essential this is balanced with an increase in overall service level to ensure the elevated expectation levels, inevitably associated with higher prices, are met.

    The downside reputational risk from increased prices and reduced service levels will only increase over time, with guests’ patience for ‘Covid excuses’ waning rapidly. The short-term benefits of increased profits could turn into a long-term loss as expectation levels rise to match pricing and poor service is punished with bad reviews and general customer dissatisfaction.

    Bed on a cliff edge

    Image credit: Unsplash

    Managing staff challenges

    By far the biggest issue affecting the hotel industry is staffing, with this disproportionately impacting higher-end properties due to the amount of experienced, longstanding team members leaving the industry altogether – often for reasons due to the Covid pandemic. Therefore, hotel establishments are facing long lead times for training new staff members to the requisite level, impacting the overall staffing issues within the industry.

    LQA has seen a material increase in training requests, with training levels in the past six months double that of the same period in 2019. High quality, pre-emptive training remains absolutely key to meeting the challenges of new levels of service demand, and those who have already engaged in training will reap the rewards.

    Include holistic hospitality, health and wellbeing

    The pandemic has put health and wellness firmly front and centre in most peoples’ thinking and this trend has opened up valuable service areas for the hospitality industry to connect with guests in more meaningful ways post-pandemic. Hotels who anticipate and exceed guest health and wellness needs, not only with impeccable hygiene but also in terms of psychological and physical wellbeing, will be the big winners.

    Woman doing yoga in large building with panelled windows

    Image credit: Unsplash

    Programmes such as digital detox, stress and emotional recovery and personalised fitness regimes are becoming essential elements to a vacation. Wellness offerings, for example, are showing up more and more as guests seek out a more rounded experience.

    To truly be impactful, the complete guest experience should be considered, for example partnering spa treatment programmes with a greater range of healthy culinary options in restaurants extends the positive impact to the guest beyond a basic programme, turning the single opportunity into a holistic experience.

    Digitalisation and technology are key

    Covid-19 is estimated to have accelerated digitalisation by seven years and the pace of change shows no signs of slowing. As with other sectors, the hospitality industry had to adjust accordingly to the rapid rate of tech-adoption to facilitate a return to business. This technological evolution (or perhaps revolution), however, has now rapidly become a welcome addition to the overall guest journey within the hotel industry.

    ‘Smart capabilities’ have continued to improve in quality, with automated AI messaging now accepted as commonplace, and technology is now capable of being used to create a more personal experience, rather than the historically ‘generic’ feeling. During the pandemic, we also saw more hotels feature digital tours of their rooms and facilities, use virtual concierge services and even curate specialised online experiences, such as livestream safaris and beach-front webcams, to inspire and maintain wanderlust. While some of these will inevitably fall by the wayside, many are certainly here to stay.

    One consequence of this is that high-speed WiFi is now integral for all establishments to have, not only to ensure guests can be contactable but also to support the rise of ‘working from abroad’ as individuals increasingly combine holidays with flexible working. Guests are also expecting this to be included for free, with WiFi charges now driving high negative sentiment.

    Focus on sustainability

    Sustainability has been a global concern for many years, but the pandemic set that back somewhat with the requirement for single use/sterile items ultimately outweighing the environmental impact.

    Now, however, the trend has reversed, with increased media scrutiny of global warming and sustainability filling the news gap left by COVID. The shock factor for guests of the visible increase in single-use plastics during the pandemic has further underlined the issue and expectations have now rebounded to a higher level, with all aspects of sustainability, as well as corporate social responsibility, being high on the agenda.

    As hotels move from ‘post-pandemic’ to ‘new normal’, they will also need to re-imagine what sustainable operations look like, with energy saving and waste minimising processes very soon to be pre-requisites rather than differentiators. Locally sourced produce and seasonal menus are becoming more prevalent, with consumers looking to hotels to reduce their impact on the environment. Other socially responsible aspects, such as the employment of staff from nearby communities and the use of freely available local materials within the hotel, are fast becoming part and parcel of hotel guests’ expectations.

    After two tumultuous years, the future of hospitality is shining brightly and this resilient industry is responding, preparing and looking ahead positively to what’s next.

    Main image credit: Unsplash