How Hotels Can Use Design to Improve Guest Experiences
A guest's first impression of a hotel lobby informs the rest of their experience. If they enter a reception area which has a drab color palette, poor lighting and art that looks more obligatory than attractive, they're going to form a negative opinion. And then they'll carry that opinion like extra luggage for the rest of their stay.
In much the same way, excellent hotel design can enhance a guest's experience. If that guest enters a reception area which is warm, agreeable and accommodating — with all the elements of good design — they'll feel far more comfortable as they check in. Naturally, this results in greater satisfaction.
In his book "Blink," Malcolm Gladwell examines the phenomenon of "thin-slicing," in which a person makes a judgment about something or someone in as little as five seconds. It's particularly relevant to the hospitality industry, where the perception of the space is one of the most influential factors in a positive review.
Hospitality professionals should give thought to thin-slicing and its implications. In those critical five seconds when a guest is looking around the lobby, are they going to feel happy or unhappy about their choice of hotel? Will the design of the reception area make them want to stay — or search elsewhere?
Of course, hotel design extends far beyond the lobby, but the point remains the same. A hotel's appearance determines much of its success. Because of this, professionals in management positions should make design one of their top priorities. So what should they focus on to improve the guest experience?
Minimalism and Practicality
A survey from the American Hotel and Lodging Association found that 40% of hotel stays are for business purposes. These business travelers are often tired from a long, arduous day where they've met with associates or networked at a conference. In short, they want to find their room, kick off their shoes and fall asleep.
When they arrive at that room, they don't want a sensory overload of artwork and accent pieces. They want a practical space where they can organize their belongings and prepare for the next day. If a hotel room is excessive in its decor and accents, a guest has less freedom to make the room their own.
Exhausted business travelers are grateful to see a minimalistic space. "Minimalistic" doesn't mean a single bed and a solitary nightstand, but rather a simple, stress-free arrangement that doesn't overwhelm the guest. When decor or accent pieces seem extraneous, it's usually best to remove them.
Royal Interiors and Luxury
Some hospitality professionals may see the appeal in more luxurious design choices. If they're not working within the limitations of a strict budget, they might decide to invest in mahogany furniture and elaborate crown molding. Dominant colors like umber, emerald green, royal blue and purple are effective.
On the subject of color, it's smart to respect the interior design of the entire hotel. While a hotel suite is separate from the rest of the standard rooms in its quality and layout, consistency is key when planning a color palette. Hospitality professionals need to look at their individual design choices within a broader context.
They should also review the essentials of an attractive hotel bathroom. Sophisticated materials, skyline views, adjustable lighting and statement art make for an impressive bathroom and a memorable stay. Other features like oversized mirrors, spa-inspired baths and separated bathing areas are a wise investment as well.
Biophilic Design and Relaxation
The emergence of biophilic design trends in the hospitality industry isn't surprising. With greater attention on sustainability, it's easy to understand why guests would prioritize hotels that support their values. More and more travelers are placing higher importance on properties which implement eco-friendly practices.
Concerning the principles of biophilic design, hospitality professionals should consider the addition of indoor greenery, natural lighting, running water and nature-related decor. The comparatively low-cost inclusion of common houseplants is more than enough to improve a guest's experience, calming and relaxing them.
In terms of results, hotel lobbies with biophilic elements had a 36% higher dwell rate than conventional lobbies. Guests are more willing to spend time in these revenue-driving areas when they're less artificial and more natural. All it takes is a few small adjustments and hotel managers will see a potentially measurable difference.
Design a Positive Impression for Guests
When a guest steps into a reception area, those first five seconds are formative to their experience. By extension, those first five seconds are critical for their eventual review of your establishment. Hospitality professionals should acknowledge this and do everything within their power to ensure a positive impression.
Whether they reduce their clutter with a minimalistic approach, implement the principles of biophilic design or invest in a more royal interior, they can feel secure in their design choices. Moving forward, those in the industry should evaluate their options and plan their next improvement.