Creating a hotel experience, not just a service

Hotels in all areas of the market are competing to deliver a memorable customer experience that will keep guests coming back – and spreading the word. Director and hotel architect, Zoe Hooton, discusses the options open to hoteliers looking to create something different.

For high-end, independent hotel operators, well-presented rooms are just the starting point. Significant investment is also going into experience-enhancing amenities such as characterful restaurants and bars, and well-serviced gyms and spas.

The aim is to make top hotels destinations in themselves and boost footfall beyond overnight guests. So how can hotels achieve this and create their own unique story?

Embracing the popularity of homeliness

A good night’s sleep and comfortable room are no longer the defining characteristics of a great hotel experience. Forward-thinking operators are ditching conformity in favour of more distinctive spaces that feature more homely touches.

Lobbies, for example, are no longer anaemic processing areas for checking in and out, but warmer, quirkier and more welcoming spaces. This home-from-home feel can also be reflected in other parts of the hotel, including restaurants and bars.

Vive la difference!

Personalising a hotel sets it apart from its competitors, and different types and styles of room within the same hotel can deliver a refreshingly out-of-the-ordinary experience.

Scheduled hotel refurbishments or new-build extension projects provide the perfect opportunity to do this. But even away from major projects, hoteliers can focus on small interior design changes. For example, photographs and memorabilia that reflect the heritage of the building and the local community can produce an individualised and authentic experience.

Collaborating with local retailers and leisure providers also strengthens a hotel’s brand, providing links to local culture and community roots.

Making food part of the brand

Dining and bar facilities are locations where enterprising hoteliers can strive for memorable and inspiring designs that will set them apart. Though, of course, it’s not just down to the design. The quality of the food and drink offering, and increasingly its distinctiveness and social-media friendliness, is key to getting people talking about a hotel restaurant.

It’s no wonder that the most successful hotels invest heavily in a head chef that can bring not just their culinary skills, but that vital theatre to the table. It’s conveying the story behind the food – its provenance and quality. Hotel kitchens that grow their own vegetables or forage for their own wild food, for example, have a unique story to tell.

Bathrooms as benchmarks

We are in an era where bathrooms say more about a hotel than ever before. Guests increasingly look for an experience they do not routinely enjoy. Jacuzzi baths and waterfall showers can raise hotel bathrooms from the mundane to the impressive. Moreover, guests increasingly expect hotels to offer some level of health and wellness facilities within the hotel.

Making the most of the Great Outdoors

Hotels that have extensive grounds or access to lakes and rivers can prosper by making the most of the space they offer. Can these spaces be used for outdoor adventure and activities? More importantly, can this be made part of the brand story?

Granted, not all hotels are set within their own sprawling estates or rolling countryside, but even those that aren’t have an opportunity to harness the attractions on their doorstep and make them part of the hotel narrative.

Harrison Pitt Architects has extensive experience in working on hotel design projects and hotel refurbishment and extension projects across the UK. 

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