The year 2018 reflected the continuation of trends of previous years. All hotels seem to be trying to be boutique style – whatever that means. New brands and sub-brands seem to pop up almost every day. Honestly, I lost track, and I do not see the sense of them in most cases – of course I am a civil engineer and not a marketing expert!
Lifestyle and boutique: Those are the current trend all brands want to follow. For me, it is interesting to watch the balancing act of a boutique hotel, which is individual by definition, be at the same time part of a small or large hotel chain. From the design point of view this works. Hotels can be designed very individually and still be branded.
Open bathrooms and toilets seem to have disappeared from design concepts – I do not miss them!
The basic inventory of a guest room – bed, bathroom, etc. – will remain and the function will not change. The operators and designers will have to focus on the changing working habits of guests. A desk is not a must when you work with your iPad or laptop on the sofa or in bed or in the lobby of the hotel. The most significant changes for me are happening in the public areas. Lobbies and adjacent areas are created as living spaces, where guests work, hang out or spend time – not necessarily talking to each other.
I see a trend of the development of limited-service hotels with upscale room products – the German Ruby hotels are an example. I think this could be interesting, as the guest may not need sophisticated or upscale service, but wants upscale rooms. New technologies will also foster this trend. You can check in and check out, or ask Alexa, Siri or other artificial servants (by the way, does anyone know why they are not named Alex, George, Peter, Ali… ?) for tips for restaurants and bars. Robots bring your orders to your room or collect your laundry. If the guests want it, there is no need to meet anyone on the hotel staff. However, the room product has to fit the requirements with regard to design and quality.
Technology that will be implemented to make life easier for guests, and ideally save money and staff for operators, will require big investments in IT infrastructure. Especially existing hotels will face investments in new cabling and related items to upgrade their systems. I am not sure if all capex plans include the amounts required. If the money is taken from reserves dedicated for FF&E, there is a risk that the quality of the product suffers. There will be a lot to discuss between owners and operators.