Hotel designs needs to change, says industry chief
Speaking during The Hotel Show yesterday, Tuesday 17 May, at Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre today, Michael Scully, Managing Director Hospitality at Dubai-based hotel developer, Seven Tides, pinpointed innovation and authenticity as the key dynamics for hotel differentiation rather than brand conformity and ‘corporate’ design aesthetics.
While strong brand identities and conformity to design have proved effective for hotels in the past, he emphasised the need for more pervasive innovation spanning every aspect of the guest experience.
“Guests in the future will be more inclined to favour an authentic cultural experience, entertainment, ambience as well as creative food and beverage initiatives. These aspects need to come through a flexible design to create an overall experience that would be memorable by being different,” said Scully.
He highlighted multi-branding strategic partnerships as an effective way for hotels to attract increasingly discerning guests and access untapped markets. This has already been seen to some degree in Dubai, with hotel chains leveraging the cutting-edge design and reputation of international designers such as Armani, along with other planned properties from Versace and Elisabetta Gucci. To make these designs cost-effective, such partnerships could be made on equity-share arrangements in maximising value for both partners.
Another approach suggested by Scully involves larger hotel chains could look at a ‘fusion’ approach, integrating certain brand assets to create an individual hotel offering a unique guest proposition.
Such innovation could assist regional hotels to capture increased business in a highly competitive international marketplace, especially with a considerable new regional hotel supply pipeline.
“Gulf hotels presently focus too much on capturing western demand while reacting slowly to the growth potential in the booming economies in Asia and the Far East,” said Scully.
“Innovative design will be essential if hotels here are to create new opportunities to exploit more niche markets and by doing so, broadening their overall appeal,” added Scully.
Emphasising the need to access international markets, Scully highlighted the beach, sand and sun approach that is now synonymous with the region’s hotel experience. This has proven effective in capturing Western demand so far, but less so in catering to guests from China, India, Indonesia, Korea and other nations in Asia and the sub-continent.
Demonstrating the huge potential of these markets in the East, Dubai hotel stays by Chinese nationals alone jumped 57% in the 12 months between June 2009 and June 2010, according to figures from the Dubai Department of Tourism Commerce and Marketing. More than 81,000 Chinese nationals visited Dubai between January and June 2010, up from 52,000 in the same period 2009.
Scully then went on to make valid points regarding entertainment, conformity and technology.
Underlining the importance of ambience and guest experience in attracting these visitors, Scully also drew a comparison with shopping malls. These have evolved over recent decades from utilitarian retail spaces to vibrant dynamic centres, where people visit for the experience as much as the shopping. “Entertainment in hotels must transcend race, age and gender and where appropriate, appeal to the entire family,” added Scully.
However in certain market segments, conformity has its place. “Three-star hotels for price-conscious business travellers need simple designs that keep development costs down and support a competitive room rate structure,” said Scully.
While being careful not to over-invest in guest-room technology, which is an expensive and often ineffective way of differentiating a hotel brand, Scully also emphasised the need for intuitive technology in competing for customers. For both leisure travellers, he pointed to fast and secure WiFi, in-room management systems and the latest entertainment offering, along with video conferencing technology for corporate guests and conferences.
Launched in 2004, Seven Tides is a privately owned luxury property developer and holding company with a portfolio of exceptional properties in some of the world’s most coveted locations. Seven Tides has developed and owns a variety of projects spanning residential, commercial and resort properties. Whether creating homes of distinction, transforming the work place or offering laid-back holiday escapes – each and every offering is carefully planned and meticulously crafted.