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The future of hotel public spaces

Can Faik talks to Martin Goddard, one half of Goddard Littlefair, about the future of hotel design…

We are seeing a great era of change in the hospitality sector, with trend drivers converging from all angles. First of all from technology, where on-the-move devices have impacted on everything from bedroom size to the gradual phasing out of traditional business centres. Next, social and demographic change, with particularly strong trends arising from experiential-inclined millennials. Thirdly, fashion-led trends, including the fluid, party-oriented public spaces in hip hotels; a trend that began in fact at the very lowest end of the market, but one that now sees even the very grandest hotels considering removing their lobbies in order to be instantly immersive when guests enter. The final major driver is increased competition from previously-unpredictable sources - everything from design-aware youth hostels to members’ clubs now offering accommodation.

Even established hotel offers are changing. Spas, for example, are moving away from a single focus on health, fitness and wellbeing towards a shared focus on pampering and indulgence. Today’s spa visitors are as likely to settle into a beautifully-upholstered chair and order champagne, as they are to perch at a deli bar and order a cold-pressed juice.

Boundaries are blurring and dissolving in every direction. So how do hoteliers and brands cope and future-proof their offers? Flexible spaces are certainly a big part of the answer. Lounges are no longer places where guests should linger without being encouraged to have a coffee or snack, for example. All public space needs to generate revenue and design has to be intelligent, with layouts and furniture carefully considered, so that every seating group, for example has a table at dining height or where sofa heights are lowered so that guests can eat comfortably off a coffee table. Hoteliers also still have one of the biggest cards to play in the face of new competition: service. It’s too easy to forget the potential impact of brilliant service, whether that’s the buzziest breakfast server, the coolest cocktail-maker or the most dynamic restaurant maitre d’, preferably locally-sourced, just like the food itself.