By Tim Harlech-Jones
There is more to what the future holds than robot services and virtual reality experiences-the future of hospitality includes innovations which will positively transform the industry in general across a number of different operational and design elements. It must be said, though, that over the past few years,technology has developed exponentially and the hotel industry is constantly keeping up with these advancements as the industry grows.
One of Bentel’s latest hospitality projects, the Marriott Hotel and Marriott Executive Apartments in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, is an example which includes some of the latest trends and innovations including technological advances like Bluetooth access control, mobile guest registration, Wi-Fi and USB charging in all FOH spaces, and design features like the state-of-the-art gym, a quadruple volume pre-function area and a member’s only VIP Club Lounge. The direction it has forged makes these innovative advances appealing to the tech savvy target group of between 25-45 year olds, who also want new experiences and unique product offerings.
Now faced with the recent global pandemic, hospitality designers are redefining existing projects and beginning new ones with a focus on social distancing and contact-free systems. That means we can expect to see fundamental changes to hotel meeting spaces, lobbies, guest rooms, and food and beverage options in the near future. In particular, multi functional and flexible spaces will be incorporated and conference rooms will ideally require a direct connection to the outdoors, and more natural and ecological solutions.
However, the future of hospitality does not only focus on technology, as hospitality’s focus is the human element in order to give the guest the full experience of a property. The hospitality sector pays attention to the guest’s needs,and after the recent worldwide pandemic, we don’t foresee the physical connections and experiences been removed completely, but the touch points, particularly, are an area of focus and in making sure that guest are comfortable in their environment.
We have noticed that many hotel brands are shifting away from homogenization and uniformity, towards a more localized approach of a ‘neighbourhood’ concept. Brand standards are very much still relevant, whilst the design intervention is bespoke and reflective of the community and location of the hotel. This is partly due to the aspirations of global travellers and their prevalence for experience over commodity, but has also, historically, been driven by the smaller independent operators.
Bentel’s designers are constantly looking at ways to enhance the use of sustainable design techniques and principles,in order to create a more resilient future. In order to realise this, we need to look back at the earliest examples of architecture and design as they responded to both site and climate and incorporated natural “passive” climate control strategies. One of the more common sustainable methods is to maintain good orientation practices, with the use of shading devices if required a high thermal insulation factor and utilising high ceilings, breezeways and other design solutions to cool. It should be said that passive inventions are the preferred choice and this leads us to the growing focus on sustainability and design that is more efficiently in tune with the environment. Therefore, we must stay ahead of the curve regarding new construction techniques, the creative reuse or up-cycling of materials, and landscape design innovations that will help us deliver low-impact, connected, beautiful and well-conceived hotels and resorts.
As much as design is important in a hotel, the services and support systems which are specified provide a comprehensive system, including the Building Management Systems (BMS), the Global Property Network Standards (GPNS) and Room Management System (GRMS),and combine to control electrical consumption while optimizing the guest experience. The use of motion sensored LED lighting, as an example, is a good way to reduce energy consumption, particularly to parking areas, passages, BOH areas and the like. Gas is in important constituent for water heating(in lieu of electrical heating) as it has a lower default temperature (and reduced consumption), and heat recovery systems can be utilized for mechanical systems. There are also multiple ‘off the grid’ solutions to consider which all contribute to the efficiency and reduction in operating costs down the line.
As day-to-day fitness has become a worldwide phenomenon in recent years, the days of rows and rows of treadmills and dumbells are very much numbered. Fitness spaces are likely to shrink and increasingly move into the privacy of guest rooms. Certain brands already have specific room types or suites which have their own gym equipment already in place. Perhaps the next thing is a room service-type approach of ordering gym equipment for use in one’s guestroom? These are definitely scenarios and very real concepts which can be explored and which will ultimately change the face of design.
A number of hotels have been established in mixed-use developments and precincts, so to cater for a wider customer market by providing other offerings such as retail, offices, recreation and entertainment all within a convenient proximity; this in itself is an innovation that the hotel industry has encompassed to meet the customers’ holistic needs. As with the Marriott Hotel in Melrose Arch(Johannesburg), which we were involved with over a 5 year period, a double-volume perimeter retail component was envisioned to create a more human scale interface with the public at street level, and to expand the existing retail/commercial offering within the adjacent mixed-use precinct.
There are countless ways in which innovation will play a part in the future of hospitality. The name of the game is flexibility, by creating spaces that will evolve with the realities of public health as well as with the needs and preferences of guests. Most importantly -these concepts and innovations are designed with an eye on the future whilst making sure that they serve the purpose of the current demands and guest experiences.
This article consolidates the thinking of Bentel’s hospitality design team in Johannesburg, which covers Architecture, Interior Design and Way-finding Signage. About Bentel Associates International Bentel is a leading African and Indian-based design firm which has a dedicated and focused service offering in the design and execution of hotels and resorts, be they branded or unbranded. Over the past years, Bentel has been fortunate to work with numerous distinguished brands and operators such as Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International, Inter Continental Hotels Group, Radisson Hotel Group, Tsogo Sun and Sun International.
Since the firm’s inception in Johannesburg in 1960, Bentel has grown to offer integrated design solutions, across multiple sectors,comprising retail, office, residential and hospitality projects. Bentel’s projects are renowned not only for their design and sense of place,but also for their commercial value and success for our Clients. For any media inquiries please contact: