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Designing an Unforgettable Hotel Guest Experience

May 8, 2014 Conferences No Comments Email Email

“Long gone are the days of selecting a hotel for its beds alone, or simply its location. Hotels have become an integral part of the traveller’s experience, and sometimes itself the reason to visit,” says Gerard Glintmeijer, Founder, FG stijl.

 

Dusit“Hotels today are theatre, entertainment, leisure and cultural destination all-in-one, and the design process must reflect this new prominence,” he adds.

An interior design firm, FG stijl is a sponsor company at the marcus evans Infrastructure & Property Development MEA Summit 2014. 

– What is challenging infrastructure and property developers in the Middle East today? What is the industry missing?

Developers in the region are in an enviable position to be able to work on so many exciting new-build projects, but such projects bring their own challenges. Buildings with an existing heritage have a firm position in their environment. They often have an existing attraction to the community they serve or contribute a certain cultural cachet. Of course new-build developers have an obligation to respect the cultural context as well, but the challenge is in creating properties that are significant as a destination in rapidly growing urban landscapes. Their properties need to tell a story to a growing population and develop a reason to draw people to it. Hotels form such a central role in the development of the region because they are equally a destination for a city’s residents as much as its tourists. Many new-build properties have already done this very successfully (think of the Madinat Jumeirah, DIFC, Old Town and Dubai Mall) and this is the benchmark to which developers need to aspire to develop for future generations of residents and to remain an attractive destination for tourists. 

– What design elements are often forgotten?

Today, in the age of accelerated development, design and functionality details suffer in execution. We design hotel interiors and the total guest experience. That is why we say we design for people. It starts with the hotel guest and taking them away to another place. To do that well, the design must be aligned with the hotel operations. Not only do we understand luxury hotel design but we pride ourselves on our understanding of hotel operations and the requirements of hotel brands. We have built up excellent rapports with our clients and many hotel operators over the years, because we respect the requirements of a well-functioning hotel, while bringing new passion, creativity and detail to each project. Details include designing with workflow in mind, service and clearing, access to stores and back-of-house, plug locations and audio-visual integration, pantry sizes and location, acoustic and lighting levels, the tactile experience. All of these details have a direct effect on the guest experience and ensure your operator can manage a hotel optimally. 

– What are the demands and expectations of the luxury segment in the region? 

Luxury is so much more than what is fancy, big or expensive. It is an experience that is almost intangible. It should envelop you but be difficult to pinpoint, and therefore, luxurious surroundings should put you completely at ease but leave you aspiring for something similar. Firms like Chanel and Hermes have always been acutely aware of contemporary demands in their design, but their respect for quality have made their designs timeless, and have therefore so often set the benchmark in their markets. FG stijl understand that luxury evolves like fashion but that the basis for all luxury is a respect for quality and detail, and this is how we approach hospitality design. With such a well-travelled population, and with hotels forming a central role in the fabric of society in the region, interiors need to be acutely in tune with the evolution of luxury. Successful developers are those that build destination properties that stay ahead of the curve in design and respect the timelessness of quality and we opened our office in Dubai to help developers achieve this.

– How do you determine the design requirements of a project?

There are a vast number of determining factors in the development of a hotel design but the foremost of these are the owner’s vision and market forces. Developers and owners need to consider the competitive benchmark of the property, number of rooms, average rate, suitable operators, the prominence of F&B operations, target customer, and business or leisure operations. The design takes direction from all these factors and illustrates the importance of the design briefing, the initial research phase and an understanding of the local market; another reason for the opening of our Dubai office.

– In this competitive environment, what is most effective for differentiating properties?

What was previously unthinkable has in the current urban age become possible. Cities are transforming themselves into landscapes of pleasure, in which hotels play a central role. Destination choices involve a consideration of both the place and the experience offered during the stay, be it at a city hotel, a mountain resort or a tropical island. Hotels have become an integral part of the traveller’s experience and sometimes itself the reason to visit. They have helped reshape cityscapes and altered the international image of many cities and countries. They have sometimes defined cities by establishing new icons. We only need to think of Dubai’s Burj al Arab hotel, the Raffles Hotel in Singapore or the Waldorf Astoria in New York to recall the essence of those cities. 

Hotels will always remain influential in branding and forming the image of a city. Rivalry between the various hotel brands has established a greater choice of hotel types and any city typically holds a great number of hotel options. Luxury, business and boutique hotels all cater to the different desires of the contemporary global traveller.

Within city regeneration, hotels can play an important role. Newly opened destination hotels act as magnets, creating waves of development in the surrounding area. The conversions of old prisons into luxury hotels, or redesigns of abandoned harbour sheds into luxury destinations, have become symbolic of the regeneration of neglected city areas. Consider New York’s Meat Packing district, or Sydney Harbour’s Woolloomooloo Wharf to understand the possibilities for transformation.

Hotels today are theatre, entertainment, leisure and cultural destination all in one, and the design process must reflect this new prominence.

– What makes an unforgettable hotel experience?

An unforgettable experience in a hotel is when design details and operational excellence are perfectly attuned. From the moment guests are greeted till the time they check out, guests are being told a story that takes them away to another time or a world away from their own. An unforgettable moment can be a single outstanding meal or service experience, but mostly it will be the sum of all its parts. That is why interior design is the creation of the complete guest experience. Exceptional design is the soul and character of a property. It is the heavenly bed, the sumptuous chandeliers, the exquisite fabrics and the finest furniture. It is the fine crystal, the bone china, and the softest linen. Successful interior design creates the best night’s sleep, the perfect cocktail and that unforgettable meal. Ultimately, it is your guests’ very first impression and most indelible memory.

– The alignment with hotel operations – how can it be done successfully? 

Attention to detail and quality is critical for success, as is a holistic approach to hotel design. Developers must look at all the parts collectively to achieve the unforgettable experience. Good project management ensures that all the designed elements have been considered in concurrence and the guest experiences a coherent design language. Interior designers should be given, and should assume, the mandate to review all the design elements. This includes graphic design, signage, branding, uniforms, lighting, table-top, amenities, and so much more. Developers should see the benefits of including interior designers in the selection process throughout, so that they drive the vision while serving the requirements of the operator. Our commitment to full-service design is another motive for opening our Dubai office as we support owners and hotel brands in their expansion in the region.

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