Hospitality News Middle East
Hotels of the future, comfort embraces high-tech
Hospitality News ME speaks to top architects in the region to highlight the latest trends that were explored during the 16th annual The Hotel Show Dubai
Design in a new dimension
Designing a hotel no longer relies on its exterior architecture or interior style. Today it is more about the whole experience it brings, and its own soul and character. According to architect, designer, and artist Sari El Khazen, hotel design nowadays must be able to take account of future developments and remain at a certain level of quality and superiority. Issam Ezzeddine, architectural design director at the National Engineering Bureau, shares a similar opinion. "Architects and experts in the design industry sector are working hard to come up with innovative aspects that shape the future of architecture. The future is closer than you might think – current projects are already answering the imagined needs and desires of the next generation." According to El Khazen, designs are more eclectic, with a varied mix of art influences. El Khazen is working on the renovation of the Riviera Hotel in Beirut. Architect Elias Samya from Sari El Khazen's bureau is head of the Riviera project. Work started a few months ago, and will be pursued without closing the property. “Architecture and design in the MENA region is both influenced by ultramodern thinking and advanced research, combined with the strength of a culture which kept mindful of the values of its ancient past.” said Italian architect Simone Micheli, who has studios based in Florence, Milan, Dubai and Rabat. An example of a futuristic hotel design coming to Dubai is the much-anticipated ME Dubai Hotel designed by award-winning architect Zaha Hadid. "Hotels are adapting to the area they are established in," El Khazen said.
Smarter means better
Smartphones have revolutionized communication and the development process of communities around the world. Most people rarely leave the house without their smartphones, laptops, ipads, fitness trackers, etc. Hotels are starting to incorporate this technology into their hotel room design. According to Ezzeddine, the overall hotel industry system needs to be smarter, in order to satisfy modern travelers' needs. He said that this new generation of travelers require more practical things such as virtual room keys or
connected call centers. Beside smarter and more high-tech facilities, some changes, already taking effect, can help us get a glimpse of what’s to come: Bathrooms will get bigger, guest rooms will get smaller, and air-conditioning will be controlled via mobile phones.
More demanding travelers
Nowadays, well-traveled and globalized people are more educated in the appreciation of design. They have a more critical vision when they go to hotels, and have higher satisfaction and expectation standards, according to El Khazen. “The architects and hospitality project designers must be creative in adapting to people's and travelers' needs rather than only bearing in mind the hotel operators' requirements,” said Ezzeddine. Hotels, from the outer envelope as far as their internal spaces, must be designed to give more comfort and easy access to rooms and entertainment facilities, Ezzeddine said. According to El Khazen, hotels of the future will be designed in a way as to give guests what their homes will never be able to give them. He describes the concept as 'heterotopia'. It is an existing space that detaches you from the real world. “As if you were thrown in the rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland,” commented El Khazen. Italian architect Simone Micheli, believes that hotels and restaurants of the future will increase their ability to lead visitors into a magic and ultra-dimensional atmosphere that embraces and welcomes them. Spaces will become more hybrid and divisions among areas will lose their consistency; transforming places into uniquely ambient areas. Thanks to the silent use of advanced technologies, it will be possible to personalize the answers of the different areas by following the users’ needs.
New building materials
The entrance of new building material into the business market will have primary place in changing the future of architecture, according to Ezzeddine. The newfound availability of cross-laminated timber panels; engineered to be stronger and more fire-resistant than traditional wood, has allowed architects to build taller and taller with timber. But wood probably isn’t the only ancient building material we will rethink in the next few years. There are new methods constantly being tested, like rammed earth, an ancient technique (using a dirt mixture) that is still used to build houses in places like Australia, South Africa and the southwest United States. “Technological advances in wood/timber construction have made it possible to reimage some well-known building types. I would expect that other technologies will have a similar impact in the near future,” Ezzeddine said.
According to Anil Mangalat, design director at MMAC Design Associates, the last decade has seen the 'boutique hotel' category coming across strongly. Hospitality giants like Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt and others, have special brands among their bouquet that embody the essence of a boutique hotel. Initially coined to describe non-conformist hotel properties, today the term boutique hotel is wide ranging in its meaning. A hotel could be categorized as 'boutique' based on its distinctive design style, the unique theme under which it operates, its modest room count or the unusual nature of its owner, Mangalat said. The Middle East will soon be home to some of the forerunners in this segment with the opening of the Edition (in 2016 and 2017) and Delano (in 2017) hotels, he added. He said that in an industry that's overrun with standardized brands that leave little to the imagination, boutique hotels with their eccentricity and originality are a welcome respite. The traveler of today is ever discerning in his/ her search for the unique experience. Without the existence of the boutique hotel that call will go unanswered. Also, boutique hotels have long been fertile grounds for questioning conventional practices in both design and operations. They are playing a pivotal role in the shaping of the hospitality design industry. Mangalat highlighted a rising trend in the past five years: Boutique designer hotels. The trend has widely spread in Europe. Owners of these hotels range from wellknown chefs in Paris to Scottish tennis players. They infuse their hotels with a touch of their personality and offer a twist on traditional hospitality. “I believe that the Middle East will not be immune to the boutique hotel trend. A few of the larger well-known international 'boutique' brands like the Edition, Morgans, etc. have already made their way here. I suspect that smallscale boutique hotels with their unique offerings will spring up in the coming years to meet the demands of the new age traveler,” he said. But according to El Khazen, designer hotels could act as a good marketing tool and could make more sense if the designer is already related to the industry.
Countries of the region will receive these design trends in different ways and aspects. According to Ezzeddine, GCC countries, and the UAE more particularly, are leading the hospitality sector in terms of traveler services, facilities and entertainment compared with other MENA countries. The political crisis and the hasty economic sector in most of MENA countries have a negative impact on the development of the hospitality sector and its industry. "I believe that the new trends and hotel technology will reach other MENA countries before one decade is over," Ezzeddine said.