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Design Impact on the Guest Experience

According to STR, INC’s Pipeline Report, Nashville now has over 5,200 rooms under construction. While some hotels have opened in the past 6 months, even more have moved from Final Planning to Construction, continually filling the pipeline. Additionally, Nashville has seen 112 restaurants announce openings for 2018.  What has become a more relevant theme throughout each of the new hotels and restaurants is how to impact a guest’s experience within the property. Though service and amenities have always played a part in the guest experience, design has entered the conversation as an element that impacts, not only a guest’s stay, but also their very first impression of a hotel or restaurant and is a determining factor on whether or not they book in the first place. As we discussed in a previous post, existing Nashville hotels have jumped on the bandwagon with design forward renovations, recognizing the intrinsic value of focusing on a unique first impression and updated environment for their guests. We decided to ask some of our design friends  working on some of the properties in the city about what they are seeing as the new wave of hospitality design.

Cultural Capital

Lynley Hammes of IIDA of LYNE, LLC who is currently working on the soon-to-open Dream Hotel Nashville introduced us to cultural capital and the important role it plays in design:

There is a new value system in the hospitality market. Cultural capital is the new currency. The hospitality sector is turning its focus on individualism with the intent to be inclusionary by having a universal appeal. Building cultural capital establishes relevance, deepens loyalty, and increases value. Hospitality design isn’t about using a cool motif, trending color, or popular pattern. It’s thinking about the way we all live and consume. It’s the visible and the invisible. Philosophy, values, products, services, and the attitude of the employees all factor in to the overall feel of a property. Hotel owners and operators want their property to represent an ideal version of their city. Developers are searching for revitalization opportunities. Smaller markets want to bring cultural capital to their cities. Hotels are helping them achieve this. The Emma in San Antonio designed by Roman and Williams, The Restoration in Charleston designed by Identity Atelier, and soon to open, Printers Alley Dream Nashville designed by Meyer Davis are illuminating the possibilities.

Residential Influences

We also asked Nick Dryden of DAAD who recently completed work on the interiors of the new Noelle his thoughts on current design influences:

One thing I have noticed over the past few years with some of my favorite hotels, is that they are incorporating more residential design elements within the interior spaces. Everything from custom furniture, lighting and localized art, these more considered elements create a more welcoming experience for guests. Some of my favorite properties, right now, that best illustrate this are: Hotel San Jose in Austin, TX, the Hotel Saint Cecilia, also in Austin, TX, and the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, NY.

Change is Fast Paced

Historic hotels have an opportunity to impress through design. While moving from traditional interiors to a modern design may not be ideal, color palates do change over time and a refresh of the colors alone can give guests a new first impression.

James Denney AIA, of GHP, who renovated the Union Station Hotel and Sheraton Grand Nashville says:

Design for the hospitality industry is going through extraordinary and fast paced changes. Hotels today, must anticipate and design for innovations that reflect the fast changes in the industry, taking the ever more sophisticated guest to a higher quality experience. Even during Nashville’s “hot market” our clients like the Sheraton Downtown invested heavily in the creation of one-of-a-kind event space, while Union Station completed the second major renovation in 10 years to take the historic hotel and infuse it with a highly urban design that reflects the vitality of Nashville.

Interestingly, while design elements of the hotel play a large part in how guests experience a hotel, we are also seeing a shift in how hotels are using design as an asset in marketing. For example, gone are the days of hotel Instagram and Facebook pages filled with casually shot, poorly lit photos as a tool to engage an audience. Many hotels and restaurants are making the mistake of handing their social marketing to someone who is a less experienced marketer because they fit the generational mold, without realizing that just because someone uses social media, they are not necessarily and expert in social media. Today, social feeds are an extension of the hotel’s brand with well-done images that tell the story of the property just as websites evolved over the past 20 years. Guests are engaging with the brands that understand that and use their interiors and design to help tell the story.

As Nashville’s hotel landscape transforms, the identity of the hotels and restaurants moving in to the market will be defined not only by their service and amenities, but also by the design of the property.  As new innovations and trends continue to evolve in the hospitality design space, hotels and restaurants will have more ways to use their interiors to help tell the story of the brand.

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