Ahead of the Curve: New Rules for Hotel Design, Planning & Development

At the International Hotel, Motel & Restaurant conference this weekend, I really enjoyed the BDNY panel on the above topic from industry leaders:


  • Lawrence Adams, Vice President, Forest Perkins, and co-author ofHotel Design, Planning and Development
  • Ted Brumleve, Director, Technical Services, Dolce Hotels & Resorts
    Christopher Ostapovicz, Vice President, Asset Management, Host Hotels & Resorts
    Pamela S. Parsons, Senior Vice President, Forest Perkins
    Larry Traxler, Senior Vice President, Global Design Services, Hilton Hotels Corp.

Here is what I took away thanks to:


Eco-tourism 4 C’s

The coolest overnight stay option in Africa is the Mobile setup, where a guest is shifting locations. A mobile crew sets up camp in advance, driving 8 hours ahead of the guest. The guest lands in the evening & camps. This is a true experience African wilderness experience.

Commerce, Conservation (Tourism is feeding the people who are empowered to protect the animals from poachers. Don’t cut down trees, build it into design), Community (business drives encouragement of education, schools & construction of libraries. The community builds & create a hospitality school to train the next generation.), Culture (embracing local culture & exposing children to wildlife in order to teach them to protect them). The people in this community make $200/yr but in order to monitor a rhino it costs $750/day.


Urban Resort themes by Hilton

Room as a spa. Use of local materials creating metaphorical connection to the idea of the place you are visiting. Floating seating on pool for restaurant.



Multi-branded properties

What’s your market? See pic

Home Stay /Extended Stay Projects that are multi-branding:
LA Live – courtyard @ residence Inn is being built there. PROs: Looking at different customer segments. 30% reduction in costs. Don’t need 2 housekeeping depts. =  operating efficiencies such as sharing 1 pool, 1 facility to maintain, 1 gym, same sales team. That’s a significant savings. CONs: brand confusion – so there needs to be a different check in, entrance, and circulation. If one hotel serves a free breakfast, they don’t want other hotel guests eating it. There is cross circulation if back house cross guest circulates.


Let’s see if they make it work:
An interesting example of none related brands in 1 space: Starwood (extended stay) meets Fairfield inn (economy stay) in a dual branded property. There is also an example of multi brands in the same building such as a regular sized guest room as 1 brand & the suites being a totally different brand.

PODSHARE connection!! Imagine if the Hilton hotel wanted to have the ground level as pods with suites above, since hotel guests prefer upper floors but Podestrians enjoy the common Joe/Jane ground level access.

Are restaurants/bars amenities or profit generators for hotels?
Complimentary breakfast is correlated with good guest scores. However, this is not profitable, it’s a low hanging fruit.

Ideally a restaurant partners to help pay the rent. For example, Sandman hotels in Canada partnered with Denny’s & became the largest franchisee. The grab & go experience is growing dramatically. Room service is under utilized so much so that Hilton midtown got rid of it & now focuses on grab & go meals. This is a unique approach to answering labor costs within a union hotel and the guest has flexibility to go down within their own time frame. Douglas Hotel offers plating: the guest can order takeout & the hostel staff will plate it & serve it warm (microwaved).



Boston Liberty Hotel is a mid 19 century jail that, historically was the first to allow outside light in (as a topic of inmate comfort) . They have 2 restaurants that leased space in the hotel but have their own identity because of separate entrances. If you bury a restaurant in the lobby they are lost leaders – separate entrances give them a fighting chance.


Farm to Table Movement

GoodGrub.org showcases the produce of moment. Fresh brought direct to market.

TheFarmery is a Kickstarter project based around sustainable agriculture: 4 shipping containers are setup as a greenhouse – people can buy fresh produce in middle of the structure & on the side containers, farmer Ben is growing mushrooms.

Fairmont Hotels have 22 properties with rooftops converted to beehive communities. Honey is prevalent in their hotels and they give little gifts to customers. It all started when the hotel had a paper wasp problem. They brought in honey bees to chase them away and then continued to build whole grounds setup w wildflowers. How beautiful!



Conference & co space can contain a garden that the restaurant cooks food from. — on site gardening. In the restaurant, chefs can stand or for a casual socilizing aspect in breakout rooms. Create a place for chef or food preparers to engage with guest for healthy alternatives and ingredient explanations.

True Food Kitchen in San Diego has herb carts (Things growing w/in food area) and a kitchen countertop engagement with guest & food preparers – kitchen areas are becoming dining areas. See it made your way, custom ordered. Design: Easy seating down low, speed rail, bar keep down low living room scale.


Fitness Centers in Hotels:

People now want 1400 sq ft minimum floor space with good day light and a stretching room. Ideally, outdoor space for morning yoga and a 2 mi hike. Very important for a spa to have a good shower head. Create a personal & large space rather than dedicated treatment rooms.



Green Trend Hotel

According to studies, corporations are pushing harder than guests for green hotels by requiring managers & employees to stay in green hotels. Hotel industry fostering because of a sense of responsibility mixed with a profit saving motive.



We used to think that branding was only driven by service in 1980s!

Millennials express key points that are important to them: public spaces that have free WIFI, small rooms don’t bother them.



Yotel opened in June 2011 but the industry already thinks of it as a standard new brand. Starwood’s Aloft is another example of style at a steal

Embassy Suites is the fastest growing suite brand & easily defined by an atrium of some sort with green walls & fountain. This branding is consistent & strong.



Check out this Water tower converted into a hotel in Germany
Fiat factory, where the test track was turned into a running center at the hotel

Supply & Demand for New Hotels – New York is close to 8% growth in supply in 2014 but occupancy is still there. International travelers visit NY most followed by Washington DC (whose hotel economy was recently hurt by the government shut down). Few locations are artificially driven like China (government requires hotels are built) & the Middle East (which isn’t business driven). Everywhere else, the demand for hotels is business driven.

Airbnb is not a threat to hotels in New York because it works well for certain travelers but not group or institutions who need services from a hotel. These are different markets.

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