Powerhouses of the Middle East
HN spoke to three architecture and design firms that have invested heavily in exciting projects throughout the region to learn more about their vision of the hospitality landscape for the coming years
TOMORROW’S WORLD ENVISIONED
Gensler is an American global design and architecture firm whose annual revenue has, for the fifth year running, surpassed all other firms operating in the continental US. Its Middle Eastern branch has offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. HN talked to Virna Ramazzini, regional client relationship manager, and Sejal Patel and
Lisa Chomondelay, leaders of Hospitality Studio, to learn more about the firm’s recent undertakings, which are aimed at defining very specific trends that will shape the industry in the years to come.
What are some of the most sought-after trends in the hospitality industry?
Gensler’s global hospitality design communities have been engaging with our local/global clients in a dialogue to define and understand the most recent trends in this industry. This enables us to respond with design solutions which are effective and relevant. The results of our research show that the new drivers in the hotel industry are:
1. Dissolving Demographics
While traveler segments over the past decade were primarily classified by business versus leisure, the next generation of traveler classifications will be more focused on behavioral patterns and expectations of their travel experiences. The hotel experience is becoming even more personalized. In addition to varied choices in bed type, room size and food, some are reaching new personalized heights by implementing DNA dining, a combination of sensory dining and holistic healthcare, based on a biological blueprint.
2. Members only
There is a growing culture centered on the ‘members-only’ and ‘club’ mentality. Consumers are looking for exclusive offerings and experiences that set them apart from the mainstream and are willing to pay the price. Hotels within clubs and clubs within hotels are a few of the developments following this trend.
3. Sharing economy
Consumers seeking real-time, communal, meaningful experiences are prioritizing access over ownership, driving the focus away from personal space and more toward communal and collaborative spaces, such as hotel lobbies.
Developers, hotel owners and brands are turning to adaptive-reuse as a method of providing a more unique, local setting with a story for their properties. Keying in on regional differences and localizing a property is crucial in today’s market. Guests want to live within the context of a property’s neighborhood. Offering artisanal décor, products and services allow for that local feel. Local art and local cuisine are also essential elements related to this trend.
The guest journey at hotels is increasingly becoming a digital one. Advances in technology are driving consumers to opt for convenience and look for more control during their stay. Not only are new technologies making the booking easier and totally customized, but an integration in the hotel experience of new elements, like keyless entry, in-room technology for total connectivity and audio-visual (AV) integrated in the customer service to update guests and respond to all their questions are much sought-after amenities.
From a design perspective, where do you see the hospitality industry headed and what areas of focus are available to investors looking to break into the Middle Eastern market?
We believe the hospitality industry will be focused on new lifestyle brands that have a special interest for millennials. Another trend we see materializing is the emergence of new special hospitality concepts for transient visitors, like pod hotels in airports. Lastly, hybrid products with a strong residential feel and/or longstay components will also soon be in vogue, in particular branded residences, such as Ritz, Four Seasons, Emaar Address, Vida, Marriott, Fairmont and Kempinski. This will also be coupled with long-stay
hotel apartments, since the sale of the branded residences helps to fund the hotel component attached and boosts the hotel’s overall return on investment (ROI).
Millennial brands are focused on being both trendy and affordable. The final product has to be aspirationally upper-scale, while remaining within clear midscale investment parameters. This exercise needs an experienced and versatile design team, with good experience across a wide spectrum of hotel brands and types of hotel projects. At Gensler, thanks to the collaborative approach between our 44 global offices, we can capitalize on the best practices and offer this expertise to our clients in the region.
Now that the market in the region is maturing, many hotels are changing hands and brands, hence they need to be repositioned or totally redesigned. Moreover, in an additional trend, many traditional retail developers are looking at enhancing their existing malls by creating new hotels attached or in the neighborhood, which is a reality that proves quite useful to individuals or organizations thinking of breaking into the hospitality scene.
Four Seasons Burj Alshaya, Kuwait