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Luxury by Design

Is there a secret formula to developing the perfect design? Well BITAC® Luxury found out. Here’s what they learned.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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The lodging industry is shattering records and the luxury segment is doing its part to lead the way. As we know, the luxury segment is a leading indicator for the health and wealth of the hotel industry, and the global hotel industry segment is in a period of incredible expansion.

According to Lodging Econometrics, the hotel industry real estate authority, there are nearly 500 luxury hotels under construction or under development with 130,752 rooms. Of that Asia is the most dominant with 292 hotels with 84,523 rooms under construction or under development. Europe/Middle East has 135 hotels (29,065rooms) in various phases of planning while there are just 69 (17,164) in the Americas. Don’t read this as an indicator Americas luxury lodging is in trouble, rather the Americas is simply a mature market while Asia Pacific is a nascent growing luxury hotel powerhouse.

So it made sense to explore the state of luxury during this week’s during BITAC® Luxury so we investigated the changing nature of luxury and how to more smartly attract guests.

BITAC® is of course the industry leading one-on-one meetings and relationship building event. This week marks the 47th BITAC® meeting, which is attracted the luxury lodging executive elite representing leading and forward thinking companies. And they’re all here to come together at BITAC® to problem solve, network, sign deals and exchange ideas to move forward the quality of experiences for hotel guests, while adding profits to the bottom line. There’s even time to cut loose, be social and network in a luxurious and relaxed environment.

First up we asked our attendees in a real time poll if they are rethinking your hotels’ design to adapt to a more global traveler. And interestingly 70.1% felt that it doesn’t matter where the guests are coming from, luxury must come from an extension of where the hotel is located and desire a clean and modern look with local flair while 15% felt an international feel was critical.

According to Hung Luck, the COO of the Lam Group, a leading New York City based hotel development group, luxury expresses itself in many ways. “Luxury is whatever you like. It’s a lifestyle,” said Luck whose company will start construction shortly on a Virgin Hotel. So what’s he looking for to give his guests a sense of luxury when they start checking in around 2017. “We are looking for high end finishes. We don’t want anything that is boring, rather we want new Products with pop because we are going to be trend setters.”

Svetlana Muzaleva, Senior Designer with HBA/Hirsch Bedner Associates agrees that luxury can’t be pigeonholed into a specific design ethos. “Luxury is different for everyone, but it is nice when it is trendy, current and something specific to the location. Developers should approach hotel design in a way the guest can take a memorable picture,” said Muzaleva.

For Disney, for example, creating luxury experiences is about rooting experience in a luxurious, well thought out multi-sensory environment.

“It’s all about bringing guests into an immersive environment through thorough theming,” said Terry Andrade, Interior Designer, Principal, Walt Disney Imagineering, a division of the Walt Disney Company. “Everything must be memorable and consider what the guests are looking for. Plus our guests are looking for that extra Disney wow, which we accomplish through heightened story telling.”

That means lots of custom work and more variety in the way of colors and textures.

We also asked the audience if a brand has a strong focus on design, does it make it more appealing to develop. And incredibly 74.1 percent said ‘Absolutely’ while 19.3 percent said ‘Potentially’ while 4.4 percent said ‘I’m not sure’ and 2.2 percent said ‘No way.’

That’s an incredibly clear message to hotel companies that a sense of authentic design rules and a rigid system of highly forma standards is not what today’s modern guest want.

The major hotel companies might also want to better differentiate their product offerings to developers. When asked if generally are hotel companies doing a good job at creating distinct separate brands through design within brand families, a vast majority of 64.1 percent said ‘somewhat’ while 24.3 percent responded ‘Absolutely.’ That’s a clear indication the hotel companies could reap more profits with clearer separating between flags under the same parent company.

The lesson learned is focus on high quality product that expresses the psychology behind a brand and allow that to play through with highly stylized local design.

Stay tuned for more reports from BITAC® throughout the week.

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