Hospitality on the Horizon Event Recap

  • Christopher Imbeau
  • Marketing Director
  • Rafn Company

The hospitality industry is in chaos. But don’t worry; the hospitality industry is always in chaos. That was the underlying message at a recent BISNOW event called "Hospitality on the Horizon - What's New and What's Next for Seattle Hotels".

First up was a discussion about what the consumer wants by a panel of designers and hospitality industry consultants. It was interesting to learn that while many of the hotel parent companies are consolidating, their brands are fracturing. This is why we are seeing more and more "lifestyle" brands which aim to provide a more authentic experience for their guests, specific to the city or neighborhood they are in. When a guest comes to Seattle, they want to experience Seattle, and that is now more important than a nation-wide standard experience. This shows that the industry is adaptive, and on the flip side, one of the panelists predicts that one half of the new brands will be gone by the end of 2017.

This panel also spoke briefly on sustainability as a consumer draw and concluded that a reasonable level of green is assumed by most guests. Operators feel that green is fine as long as it positively affects their bottom line. This shows up as occupancy sensors to turn off lights and climate controls, to gain energy savings. The next focus of green is local sourcing, i.e. chef's gardens on the roof and beekeeping among others.

Finally, the topic of technology was discussed. Consumers want their hotels to be tech savvy, not necessarily tech-centric. They feel technology should be invisible, but there when you need it. Interestingly, younger work travelers work more in the common areas of the hotel, whereas older workers tend to work in their rooms. This is pushing hotels toward larger amenity areas and smaller rooms, similar to the old national park style hotels.

The second panel of the event focused on the topic of property development; what's new and what's to come. One topic of interest, especially to contractors, was the adoption of modular construction in new hotel projects. Not something new to the industry, but now being accepted, and in some cases encouraged, by the major hotel corporations which had previously been a major barrier to adoption. Modules constructed off site in a controlled environment can have better quality while also realizing time savings by being built at the same time as the new hotel’s site work. Completed room cubes, complete with strapped-down furniture, are then hoisted into place on site.

And finally, the topic of mixed-use projects: buildings with hotels, apartments, and office spaces being developed together. Also, co-branded hotels side-by-side and joined or stacked at the same location. For example a boutique brand alongside an extended stay would benefit from construction and operational efficiencies. This combination would have one gym, shared dining, a shared front desk, larger public spaces, and one "back of house".

All of these great initiatives and strategies come and go in the chaos that is the hospitality industry. However, they still don't seem to have as large of an effect on a consumer choosing which hotel to stay at during their next trip as the old industry staples: location, location, and location.

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