New Brands Design for a New Kind of Hotel Experience

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Four properties with innovative ideas.

by Alicia Hoisington

Today’s travelers are changing, and hotel design is adapting to meet their needs. As new brands are launched, leaders are thoughtfully introducing new design concepts in response to new guest demands and demographics.

From open-concept public spaces to a seamless check-in experience, use of color and designing with local flavor, brands are providing new experiences for guests and new options for owners. Here’s a look at how some of the industry’s newer brands are approaching design to create a new era of hotel experiences. 

Carlson Rezidor’s Radisson RED

The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group introduced the color RED to the world last year with its first hotels opening in Minneapolis and Brussels. While the brand plans for 60 hotels in 60 cities by 2020, the two hotels open now illustrate to owners and guests the unique proposition for RED.

The demographic: Age doesn’t play a factor so much as does the mindset of the target guest, says Rose Anderson, vice president of global branding and innovation for Carlson Rezidor. The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group introduced the color RED to the world last year with its first hotels opening in Minneapolis and Brussels. While the brand plans for 60 hotels in 60 cities by 2020, the two hotels open now illustrate to owners and guests the unique proposition for RED.

“The millennial mindset is what’s behind the whole philosophy of the brand experience and essence,” she says. “It’s very much the behavior of the millennial, and it’s driving the lifestyle approach.”

Public spaces: Anderson says the traditional hotel lobby is a sterile environment that allows for little interaction with front-desk associates stuck behind a desk. Radisson RED fixes that problem, doing away with the front desk and instead offering a free-standing pod area. Guests do not step into a traditional lobby, but rather a “social space,” she says.

Photos courtesy of Raddison

Raddison RED bar in Minneapolis

“They are stepping into an environment with a certain vibe to it with gaming going on. The bar area is immediately visible, and it has a certain atmosphere where something is happening,” Anderson says.

Check-in: Guests can choose to check in electronically and receive a mobile key that allows them to go straight to their rooms. In the Minneapolis location, a team member can check in guests via an iPad. However, Anderson says identification requirements differ by countries, so in some global locations guests will still need to check in with a team member’s assistance at the pod area, which allows for a casual interaction.

“The pod is a replacement for the physical desk, which formalized the process. The pod makes it free-flowing, and staff can interact better. They can walk around and interact with the guests,” Anderson says.

Color: For a brand named after a color, it would be remiss if that color weren’t prominent in the design. As such, the color red plays a huge factor in the brand’s design, Anderson says.

Photos courtesy of Raddison

Raddison RED Lobby in Brussels

Local flare: “Customers today don’t want cookie cutter and the same thing wherever they go,” Anderson says. “They want to discover the places they visit; even if they are on a business trip they want to know the local environment.”

That philosophy inspires the design, especially when it comes to art. For example, comic strips were born in Brussels, so the RED hotel there centers its art on them.

“The art direction informs the design of the whole hotel. There’s local flare, creating something fun and a casual environment that is unique and different,” Anderson says.

Marriott’s Moxy

Marriott International’s Moxy brand launched in 2014 and has 11 hotels with 2,277 rooms open. Another 73 hotels with 13,857 rooms are in the pipeline. Vicki Poulos, senior global brand director for the brand, says Moxy is designed to “give guests everything they want and nothing they don’t.”

The demographic: Poulos says the brand was created in response to the changing needs of customers and offers a high-energy, playful and dynamic experience.arriott International’s Moxy brand launched in 2014 and has 11 hotels with 2,277 rooms open. Another 73 hotels with 13,857 rooms are in the pipeline. Vicki Poulos, senior global brand director for the brand, says Moxy is designed to “give guests everything they want and nothing they don’t.”

“Moxy appeals to the young and the young at heart, calling its target guests Fun Hunters,” she says. “They don’t take themselves too seriously; they live in the moment and want to experience life to the fullest.”

Public spaces: Moxy is a brand that lives in the public space, Poulos says. The brand is communal with services such as 24/7 grab-and-go food-and-beverage options and a lively bar experience. The reception desk is the bar, and the lobby is really more of a game room.

Photo courtesy of Marriott

Moxy Grab and Go in NOLA

“As today’s millennial traveler spends more time in public spaces, to work and play, Moxy’s living rooms become the center of activity in all of the brand’s hotels around the globe, giving guests exciting ways to work and play hard,” Poulos says.

Check-in: At Moxy, the bar doubles as the hotel’s physical check-in area, which Poulos says was done for both functional and fun purposes.

Photo courtesy of Marriott

Moxy bar in NOLA

“Functional because since Moxy is an affordable lifestyle brand with a lean service model, and crew members are trained to multi-task,” she says. “The most important element for Moxy’s front desk is that it conveys the feeling of walking into your friend’s house while still providing the functionality of a seamless check-in experience that is quick and painless.”

 

Mobile check-in, with room-ready alerts, and check-out are also available to guests, she adds.

Local flare: “Moxy Hotels bring out the local flavor and energy of the cities they are in through their bold design that speaks to the creativity of each location and its community,” Poulos says.

Because the brand’s public spaces are as much for locals as they are guests, Poulos says local flavor is critical to design. Therefore, before design concepts begin, Marriott requires designers do extensive research into the local context.

“This plays out in everything from architectural elements, such as the dark, grittier textures we have at our upcoming property in Minneapolis to represent the punk scene; to styling, like the lanterns and plaid that we have planned for our new Seattle property to represent a camping narrative,” she says.

Hyatt’s Centric

Hyatt Hotels Corporation launched its full-service, lifestyle Hyatt Centric brand in 2015. The global portfolio comprises 15 hotels, and another five are in the pipeline ranging in locations from Tokyo to Dubai.

“Hyatt Centric hotels are thoughtfully designed to enable exploration and discovery, and act as windows into the destinations, providing a launch pad for guests to get out and explore,” says Kenneth Villamil, global vice president of product and brand development.

The demographic: The brand was “created for guests and locals who share the millennial mindset and want to be in the middle of the action,” Villamil says.

Public spaces: The Centric lounge is designed for the needs of today’s traveler and offers a multifunctional communal space with an open concept, according to Villamil. That means the lounge is interconnected with spaces such as the welcome area, reception, and the bar and restaurant space.

Photo courtesy of Hyatt

Hyatt Centric Lounge

“All of these spaces work together to act as the guest’s initial launch pad into the destination by promoting discovery through the locally inspired interior design, styling elements, art displays; as well as some hotels offering unique programming in the lobby and throughout the hotel, such as guest speakers, live music, demonstrations and pop-up stores,” he says.

Check-in: The traditional reception desk has been replaced with a bespoke design that encourages engagement, Villamil says, such as sculptural island fixtures, asymmetrical pods and non-uniform segmented counters.

Color: Hyatt Centric uses playful pops of color, textures and art in hotels’ interior design that create visual interest and stimulation, Villamil says.

Local flare: The brand’s design is drawn from the hotel’s location and surrounding community, Villamil says.

Photo courtesy of Hyatt

Hyatt Centric seating area

“Each hotel has a unique local narrative that is irreverently translated into the interior designs,” he says. “Recognizable local inspiration can be found throughout the hotel’s interior elements.”

For example, The Corner, where guests can work and socialize, provides a curated collection of local books and magazines. The brand’s bar and restaurant experience delivers locally inspired food and signature cocktails.

Hilton’s Tru

Hiton announced the launch of its new midscale brand last year. Since then the brand has been on a development fast-track with hundreds of deals in various stages of development on the books. More recently, the first Tru by Hilton property opened in May to Oklahoma City locals and visitors.

The demographic: The brand targets the cost-conscious traveler and was “built from the belief that being cost-conscious and having a great experience do not have to be mutually exclusive,” says Alexandra Jaritz, global head of Tru by Hilton.

Photo courtesy of Hilton

Tru work stations by Hilton

“The brand was built to appeal to a cross-generation of travelers like millennials, Generation X’ers and boomers, who share a zest-for-life mindset and an open-minded optimism,” she says. “Our guests appreciate minimal yet meaningful features delivered consistently, including a fresh contemporary design and tech-savvy amenities, all at a great value.”

Public spaces: Tru was developed using consumer feedback; therefore, the public spaces are designed for what guests want, Jaritz says.

“Our open-floor lobby truly captures the essence of what today’s travelers are looking for in public spaces: an opportunity for easy-going engagement,” she says. “The lobby has four areas for eating, working, lounging and playing that are distinct, yet fluid.”

Photo courtesy of Hilton

Tru lobby by Hilton

Check-in: The brand allows guests to choose their check-in experience, according to Jaritz. A centrally-located front desk serves as the area for guests to check in with a team member in person. Tru also offers mobile check-in with room selection and Digital Key for Hilton Honors members.

Color: Jaritz says that the brand’s design celebrates color and patterns, using a neutral base palette for most architectural finishes.

“We wanted to be design-forward without being too trendy, but we also want to be operationally efficient for our owners to fulfill our third brand pillar, grounded in value,” she says.

That’s why the brand uses neutral palettes in areas that need a longer shelf-life and pops of color where things can be cost-effectively changed over time to keep them fresh, including furniture, window treatments, upholstery and paint finishes.

Local flare: To help guests feel a local connection, Tru hotels have an engagement wall located across from first-floor elevators, which provides local information via a streaming live feed including social media posts that offer suggestions of things to do and places to eat.

“We know guests like to get recommendations from hotel team members, so this area also features a series of white boards where team members can offer up their favorite local haunts,” Jaritz says. “As a final touch, each Tru hotel has a mural designed specifically for that location as a key focal point within the lobby space.”     ■

Photos courtesy of Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton

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