A Guide to Hotel Design: What are hotels for?

    150 150 Daniel Fountain
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    It might seem a banal starting point but so many people think they know about hotel design but create operations that fail at the most basic level that it seems to me a restatement of basics is the place to start this series. This primer is for anyone who hasn’t been involved in hotel design before and for those who manage hotel groups who need to know how design should form a part of their development strategy.If you are about to get involved with hotel development, or about to create or refurbish an hotel, then the first part of the exercise is get to know what the local market demands. It seems so basic to me that if you haven’t been involved in hotels you should actually undertake some research into market and standards.

    I remain totally astonished how few people actually do any research into what makes standards, what is good design or good operating criteria. Just because you think you have a stylish home doesn’t mean you know anything about star ratings or good contract interiors. In fact your misplaced confidence probably means you will screw up.Just because you have worked for Snot Hotels (no- I made it up) for twenty years doesn’t mean you know anything about hotel operations outside your own group – which may be the country’s worst!

    Hopefully you will have done your research, even just through regular reading of our Review archive and Miniviews which now have over 300 examples of hotels at all levels in many countries over four continents, but hopefully also by staying in the best of hotels in the category you want to develop in so you have produced a critique of the competition and the pace setters alike. You can also research more yourself through the DesignClub Gallery where there are (as I write) 26,350 images of hotel interiors divided by star rating and area of the hotel, such as Bedroom or Bar, as well as by brand.

    Through all this you will have become aware of just how innovative creative and commercial hotel designers can be, and hopefully you will be aware of the added value to be gained from using a professional hotel interior designer.

    You wouldn’t send your company accounts into the Inland Revenue using your child’s au pair as a suitable person to do the necessary returns, would you? So why embark on designing an hotel without using a professional?

    Right, with that out of the way, what is the first purpose of any hotel? The first criterion is to make a profit, so you have to decide on a number of things market related, including:
    • The nature of the competition
    • Market segment to be served i.e. who is your target guest and are they likely to come to your location?
    • What standard should you set? Bear in mind that the hotel market moves up market all the time. What was five star in 1975 may be only three star now, and 1985 is only half the expected lifetime of a building away, so building down to a price rather than up to a quality may result in a steady decline of your position in the market place with associated fall in returns
    • How much can you charge as a room rate? As is said of stocks and shares, room rates can go down as well as up…
    • What will sell well in your market place? A Spa? Food led? One hotel majors on placing condoms and love dust in the bedrooms perhaps enabling rooms to be sold at lunch as well as in the evening (funch) giving occupancy levels exceeding 100%. Morality or profit? What is going to be your USP?

    Having gone through the analysis with your bank and your accountant you will then have an idea of the budget you need to set and whether the returns are there to be made. In order to decide this though you may already have had to take on board a specialist hotel design consultant, who will already know whether new five star needs 60,000 doubloons per bedroom spend, or whether a similar result can be achieved for 30,000 doubloons.

    So Rule 1 is employ a professional hotel interior designer early, and in a future article I will give advice on how to find one, and draw the differentiation between architect and interior designer for you.

    Daniel Fountain / 14.11.2014

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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