How to… impress through design

24 January 2014
How to… impress through design

Great hotels offer an experience that permeates a guest's whole experience, says Tina Norden.

Once, impressing hotel guests was easy: all you needed was a colour television, room service and a trouser press. People didn't have these at home and they were innately exciting as a result. But not any longer.

Hotel design today is about a point of difference; something unique and memorable. Hotels are about the experience and the atmosphere, both of which are carefully designed to create a destination with a very distinct character.

Defining this attitude will result in a clear concept for the design, the offer and the service style. For example, if you run 
a hip, urban boutique hotel, trainers and a T-shirt may be
an appropriate uniform.

It is important to be specific about the target guest and very clear on their tastes, needs and requirements. Try not to please everybody, as the end product will inevitably be diluted.

Intelligent design will communicate this attitude 
to the guests and shape their experience. Function is as important as form to achieve this, as seamless service is an integral part of the overall package.

Naturally, the room is a large part of the guest experience and getting it right is fundamental, but the public areas also set 
the tone of the hotel. They are the first experience of a hotel 
a guest has, and should make 
a clear statement about the hotel's personality.

Long gone are the days when hotel restaurants were a last resort if you couldn't be bothered to leave the building. Increasingly, food and beverage offers attract non-staying customers or form the main reason guests choose to stay at
a particular hotel. A lively bar 
or a packed restaurant brings an obvious benefit in terms of the bottom line, but also brings 
that elusive 'buzz' that turns
a hotel into a destination.
A great atmosphere and a discernible vibe will make a hotel memorable and bring people back again and again.

Tina Norden is associate director at Conran and Partners

Seven steps to successful hotel design

Identify your target customer
Who are your guests and what do they need? Even more importantly: what are their aspirations? Painting a picture of who you want to walk through the door will allow you to define your concept clearly.

Define the concept
What is the big idea for the project? What is the attitude of the operation and its style? Is what you're proposing a new idea, or has someone done it before? What's your point of distinction?

Create an experience
Designers and operators have to work very closely in developing the overall experience for the hotel. It should inform the layouts, finishes, bathroom fit-outs and restaurant menus, as well as the choice of staff and the way they behave. Personality is key.

Keep up appearances
Maintenance is not the most exciting subject, but keeping everything looking as it was on day one is important to keep guests coming back. A key part of achieving this is getting the specification right in the first place, so the design stands the test of time.

Clever technology
Guests may say they want to get away from it all, but these days up-to-date technology is a virtual must. One important point is that technology must be genuinely clever, easy to use and integrated from the start - nothing is more annoying than not finding the right light switch in a hotel room.

Tell people about it
A well thought-out PR and events strategy is a must. Before reaching out to press and bloggers, ask what makes your hotel interesting for them to write about. The answer may be informed by your events plan: will you hold wine tastings, DJ nights or art installations? Make sure you're telling people about it on your own channels, too - a tweet that captures the spirit of the hotel may be the final clincher for a would-be guest.

Stick to the concept
The concept should become part of the DNA of the hotel, informing every interaction and every stay. Never lose the big idea!

Tina Norden is associate director at Conran and Partners

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