Could you list Marriott or Sheraton as your second home? There’s no doubt that hotels are a large part of a meeting professional’s life. If you aren’t busy booking room blocks, negotiating rates and evaluating meeting spaces, you’re a guest yourself, calling for room service and connecting to the property’s Wi-Fi to do your work.
And, although hotel stays are not always glamorous, they aren’t exactly a hardship either. The hotel business is competitive, and that makes most hotels, especially chain properties, work hard to outdo the property down the street.
Guest rooms are remodeled, the newest in televisions and coffeemakers are ushered in, mattresses are regularly replaced, meeting spaces are revamped, restaurants are refreshed. Hotels constantly reinvest and reinvent themselves. So what will they be tinkering with this year? Here’s a look at a few expected trends.
Banging Hammers and Buzzing Saws
Odds are good that you’ll run into renovation and construction at hotels this year, so it is more important than ever to ask whether your event dates coincide with a hotel’s projects. About one-third of them plan to renovate in the next 12 months, according to a Hotels magazine and Readex Research report. The theory is that social media has made the industry more likely to stay shipshape, proof that the possibility of a bad review on Trip Advisor can make properties less likely to delay needed upgrades.
Have you ever heard the term biophilic design? Me either. But in reading about hotel design trends, this term popped up repeatedly. Biophilia is the theory that humans naturally seek nature; biophilic design, then, incorporates natural elements like plants, water and natural light. A lot of hotels are sold on the concept, convinced by evidence that shows that biophilic design can decrease guest stress, improve air quality, lower energy costs and, perhaps most important, get more positive guest reviews.
Biophilic design goes far beyond a few potted plants, with green walls, indoor forests, scenic views, natural light, moving water and natural building products like wood and stone. Most hotels use biophilic design mainly in their lobbies because studies have shown it increases the amount of time a guest will spend there by 40 percent, which could generate more profits in terms of lobby bar and restaurant business.
As a meeting planner, booking a hotel with an appealing lobby has a number of pluses. Pulling more attendees into the lobby means more networking and informal meetings, and more camaraderie and connections, all of which make people more satisfied with the conference and more likely to return next year.
Also, many new hotels are taking aim at the massive millennial audience by emphasizing lobbies as gathering and co-working spaces as they downsize individual hotel rooms, some by as much as 50 percent.
Cutting Down on Cookie-Cutter Experiences
There’s a lot being written about how millennials want more authentic experiences, which might explain why many of them book accommodations on Airbnb instead of rooms in the hotel block. An industry study showed that one in three guest rooms is booked outside the block. I’m not a millennial, but I, too, seek hotels that have local flavor. For example, a couple of years ago, I chose a small chain hotel in Columbus, Indiana, because its decor mirrored that town’s reputation for modern architecture. It also had a resident dog, a bichon frise named Miles.
Hotels are paying attention to research that shows adding local art, local food and drink, programming partnerships with local attractions and other localized touches not only lures guests but makes them want to stay longer. There’s a new term for this type of hotel — bleisure — a property that appeals to business and leisure travelers.