Not too long ago, it seemed the traditional hotel lobby and its functionality would be fully diminished… wiped away by mobile phone apps, digital keys and whatnot. Whilst there is no denying that the mobile phone and tablet has changed the check-in process and the overall arrival experience, the hotel lobby is still very much present and an ubiquitous part of the hotel.
However, this change of consumer behavior, driven by technology and our endless quest for seamless (and fast) experiences, did leave the hotel industry with a very relevant question to struggle with: What is next for the hotel lobby? Do we still need one? If yes, what will be its new function?
I am sure these were headache-inducing questions that all the hospitality leaders were burdening themselves with.
After a few years of trial and error, filtration and various concept realizations, we started seeing more and more SoHo House-style hotel lobbies that, as public areas, are combining work and play, business and pleasure into integrated social spaces. We have seen this shift coming into realization from smaller or boutique-sized properties to even the major hotel brands, trying to create a lifestyle space that brings together co-working spaces, lounge, retail, meeting spaces and casual meet-up spots. All in one place. The lobby has truly transformed from a state of static to a buzzing and happening social hub.
Being in the front line, as a hospitality designer working closely with top hoteliers and industry masterminds, we hear literally everyone looking for the “something” that I have described above. Many a brainstorm session or kick-off meeting for a new hotel is filled with different interpretations of the very same vision. Call it co-working spaces, lifestyle centers, social hubs or (insert new catchy millennial terminology)… But it’s all based on the same need that every hotel, big or small, boutique or luxury, is recognizing for the modern-day traveler.
We can almost say with 100% certainty that the new era of the hotel lobby has arrived and is official now. Rather than being an ambitious idea or conceptual thought, it has somewhat become the new standard.
Which brings a whole new set of challenges – for the hoteliers as well as for us, as designers. When the big idea has become the norm across the industry, the most innovative players amongst us are already looking at how to re-invent this concept into something that is not cookie-cutter, something that is unique from all the other offerings.
This is a continuous quest, to refine and differentiate what’s already there and really put great effort in all the fine details, quality of design and service. Otherwise, there is a risk of becoming one of the many “tried and tested, been there, done that” hotels down the pipeline.
Fresh, new and innovative interpretations are important to not only be relevant but to be industry-leading. And as I said, the new era is here. But we all very well know that “what’s next” is just around the corner.