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A New Fusion – the trends transforming hotel lobby design
Margarida Caldeira
4th June 2019

The hotel sector is booming again. After a fallow period following the crash a decade ago, the hotel industry is now growing at an average of 6-7 per cent a year and currently accounts for around five per cent of global GDP.

But it is a very different sector today than it was just a few years ago. Increased competition and changing lifestyles are creating an unprecedented diversification of product.

Traditional boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred as operators seek to satisfy the changing expectations of their guests. The result is a process of metamorphosis with the hotel becoming a hybrid of different sectors and the evolution of a new design language that blends modern and edgy with ‘luxury for less’ is becoming increasingly prevalent across the sector.

First impressions count

This divergence of ideas in the sector can be seen in all aspects of hotel design but nowhere is it being seen more clearly than in the hotel lobby, the most important space of any hotel according to Broadway Malyan director Margarida Caldeira, who heads the practice’s hospitality team and recently led the design of the architecture and interiors for Portugal’s first Moxy hotel in Lisbon.

“The lobby must work harder than ever before,” said Margarida. “If the façade and the entrance are the cover of the book then the lobby is the first page where, as designers, we have to create a compelling plot that grabs the reader and persuades them to keep turning the pages.

“Whatever the hotel’s desired audience, first impressions count. The lobby sets the tone for the rest of the guest’s stay and offers a window on what the hotel represents, its brand and its outlook.

“Understanding different audiences and the various needs of the each hotel is paramount but ultimately we are still trying to create a wow factor.

“There will always be a place for the grand and opulent hotel lobby that offers guests the escapism they crave and transports them to a time and place of their dreams but for others, they want something much more dynamic, vital and exciting.”

“Understanding different audiences and the various needs of the each hotel is paramount but ultimately we are still trying to create a wow factor.”
Margarida Caldeira, Head of Hospitality, Broadway Malyan

The growth of the business traveller

The fastest growing customer base in the hotel sector is the corporate business traveller at around six per cent a year and it is this group, combined with the disruptive influence of the Millennial generation, that is having the greatest influence on hotel design trends.

Hotels are increasingly creating lobbies that are lifestyle driven, catering for guests who don’t want to work in their rooms but are instead demanding facilities to work in cohabitable spaces where they can interact socially and network.

The rooms are also smaller, further encouraging guests to work, engage and spend money in the lobby, which in turn creates a culture with other guests.

Business and leisure have now become interchangeable (‘bliesure if you will) and according to David Whitehead, a director from Broadway Malyan’s Lisbon studio, the Millennial generation have their own expectations and demands from the traditional hotel lobby.

“The demographic of the business traveller has shifted hugely over the past 20 years,” said David. “Directors might now be in their 20s and 30s and more transient than ever. They buy into a hotel brand and the “lifestyle” it has to offer, like they buy into a company like Apple. It means something to them and it is the designer’s responsibility to create spaces that resonates with the values that are important to them.

“There was a time when the major operators had a formula that they rolled out across the globe but the guest has become much more sophisticated and demanding. They no longer want a non-descript hotel that could be anywhere in the world – they want to feel the vibe of the city in which they are in.

“Increasingly we are focused on creating designs that offer a unique experience and are rooted in their local environment, whether that is the urban chic of a city centre location with graffiti art, stripped concrete and exposed M&E or a five star hotel offering a luxury experience that tells the story in the architecture with high ceilings, great furniture and beautiful art.”

A new revenue stream

While the design of hotel lobbies is being driven by customer expectations, it is also providing a new revenue opportunity for operators in an increasingly competitive sector.

Lobbies are becoming usable spaces for customers who may or may not be staying at the hotel with break out areas for business meetings, conference calls, strategy days, product launches, parties and performances.

They are becoming more integrated with the food and drink offer of the hotel with the introduction of everything from coffee shops to nail bars to galleries, creating an offer that is more quirky and esoteric and giving guests fewer reasons to ever leave the hotel while also becoming an amenity space and place to meet and hang out for the local community. The lobby has become a social meeting place in its own right.

“Ultimately the guest is now looking for an experience,” said Margarida. “The modern traveller is less concerned about their hotel room and as more emphasis is focused on the lobby, so we are seeing rooms become smaller and more functional.

“Instead they are looking for fulfilment through being able to work remotely, meet new people, explore new places and immerse themselves in different cultures. Our job as designers is to facilitate these new lifestyle trends while creating that sense of excitement and anticipation that every guest should feel when they walk into a hotel lobby.”