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A Trio Of Execs Discuss Casino Resort Movement During BITAC® Event

Wednesday, June 05, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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Some of the key points of design differentiation from traditional hotels, the ongoing evolution of gaming technologies and technology solutions in general as well as a continued emphasis on incorporating local were among the topics discussed during a BITAC® Casino panel discussion earlier this week.

Taking place at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, the panel—entitled “Design Direction: What’s Trending In Resort Casinos”—featured Floss Barber, principal, CEO, Floss Barber, Inc.; Michael Kaye, partner, MKD Design; and Enrique Zender, senior designer, iGroup Design.

Barber detailed some of the inherent differences with casino properties versus traditionally branded properties. “In a casino, which is a brand in and of itself, you’re reaching out to your player and so often the rooms are comped so that needs to be something very special. They want the patron to feel that they really have gotten something very special. It’s a little bit of luxe, glamour or glitz that you might not find in a standard hotel room,” she said.

Kaye pointed out another major difference. “At the traditional hotel they don’t look as much at keeping the guest in the hotel as much as the casino hotel, which tries to find all means of keeping guests within the hotel and the facilities. You always have to find new ways of doing so,” he said.

Zender added of casino hotels, “It’s almost like an amusement park environment where there’s a lot of action and stimulation. Every second is entertainment.”

He further detailed some of the contrasts he’s observed to traditional hotels. “There’s a trend to make the customers feel like they’re locals in a sense. People want to feel like they’re part of that city, whether it’s for a day or week or a few days, as opposed to all this extrasensory entertainment always in front of them,” he said.

Barber reinforced the point and attributed it in part to a generational shift.
“The new demographics, specifically the millennials, are very much about authenticity so they are going to the place also for the experience. You want to understand what makes the people in this area tick, what’s important to them, whether it be the desert of Palm Springs or whether it be Saratoga blue bottles in New York. We’ve worked in both areas and it’s not something to take lightly. It’s something to really understand because that could be the difference that retains the locals and attracts the tourists,” said Floss.

Kaye further emphasized the generational differences when it comes to casino hotels. “I’d say 80 percent of the baby boomers still gamble and 20 percent of them use the f&b facilities. With the millennials only 20 percent of them gamble and 80 percent look for the entertainment, food & beverage or any kind of attraction,” he said.

Kaye added as such hotels have to look at bringing in different elements “to create more of a vibe” such as pool tables, electronic games and bars, for example. “You have to create change and bring in more fun attractions for the millennials,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sportsbooks continue to be a considerable source of revenue for casinos, but Zender acknowledged the potential exists for more. He referenced advances in a number of technologies such as virtual reality and a variety of sports apps.

According to Zender, Sportsbooks within the U.S. generated some 4 billion dollars this past year but that represented only 4 percent of the global market, which was closer to 100 billion dollars.

“It seems like that’s going to be a huge focus in casinos. You bring in the extra technology element and that’s how you stand apart from one casino to another,” he commented.

Zender further examined the role of technology pointing out that the rapid changes that occur can wreak havoc on new projects that take a while to come to fruition in the wake of land acquisitions, design plans and permits needed.

“It’s a long process so by the time you catch up to the trend you originally started with you’re a little bit outdated. You might be okay right when you open, but in two or three years everything changes again…The fact that those trends change architecturally we design spaces that are flexible. Not so flexible that it doesn’t make sense to construct them, but knowing that technology is going to be such a huge part of every space. You just put a place holder in because in five years when it opens we don’t’ even know what its’ going to be,” he commented.

Barber reinforced the point. “I think properties and designers need to remain agile to be able to respond to that. We also need to advise the property owners where to spend the money. ‘This money’ is not going to be undone where ‘this other money’ is sort of a throw away because things are going to change,’” she noted.

Kaye commented, “it’s all about texting now. People don’t necessarily want to have interaction with the front desk or concierge. They want everything on their mobile device, whether it’s getting to their room or check in.”

Barber touched on another significant design trend she’s observed.
“In all aspects of design whether it be an airport, office space, a hotel, or restaurant, the boundaries are collapsing. Casinos I used to say had a suburban layout where you had your fixed areas of design, but it’s becoming more urban where you’ll have a restaurant intruding upon the space. Or the VIP areas are more open so that people are coming in. Those boundaries are collapsing; we’re not in these fixed locations like we used to be,” she concluded.

Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
Hotel Interactive®, Inc.
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