After an adventure in Iceland, one of our Baskervill teammates came back to the office with lots of thoughts on what makes for a memorable hospitality experience. At their last stop, a highly-rated boutique hotel, she found herself swept up in the little things: a “Northern Lights Out” sign to put on the door instead of a standard do not disturb hang tag, a no smoking sign used as an opportunity to briefly tell guests about Reykjavik (which translates to Smoky Bay). “All of these little additions and nuances made me stop and interact with the space, connecting me with the hotel.”
In today’s market, it’s these connections that resonate with guests, driving the ever-increasing demand for lifestyle, luxury, and boutique properties. And our colleague? She’s not the only one taking a hard look at what makes for a memorable guest experience.
The hospitality bandstand
Gary Inman, VP of Hospitality at Baskervill, has played a big role in High Point Market’s evolution over the last 20+ years from the world’s largest home furnishings trade show to the ultimate hospitality design gathering. “There hasn’t been a strong platform for hospitality designers to come together, seek inspiration from each other and share what we’re learning on projects,” explains Gary. This year’s High Point Market was sort of homecoming for Gary who recently took part in a plethora of panels to discuss fresh ideas among fellow design authorities and tackle rising industry challenges. Let’s explore three hot topics that hit the High Point stage, with a little sneak peek at what he’ll covered at a panel at BDNY in November.
HOT TOPIC 1: WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN
“When it comes to luxury hospitality, I’m seeing a reconnection with the roots of our industry and a renewed investment in great service, beautiful amenities and lots of recreational opportunities,” says Gary. Imagine travel before technology—opulent dances, outdoor adventures galore, and detailed and extravagant culinary menus.
Today, we see these tangible, craftsman elements playing out with:
- Vibrant colors with large-scale interpretations of historic prints such as English florals, damasks, paisleys, stripes and lush velvets
- Local artists and blacksmiths tapped to craft quality furniture and decor pieces tailored to specific historic periods
- Activation of loggias (semi-enclosed spaces built for relaxed leisure) and terraces, and 24/7 culinary wonders—with increased emphasis on local ingredients and themed cuisine
“I believe we’ll continue to see various periods and iconic designs reworked, in some cases with great innovation and in others much more literally, but we’re in for a long phase of traditional design,” adds Gary. Where we’re seeing a great deal of experimentation is around recreational activities that are built to engage diverse definitions of adventure.
HOT TOPIC 2: UNEXPECTED EXPERIENCE
“Luxury is bold, seductive, tactile and attentive without being intrusive,” explains Gary. “Above all, it must be memorable and authentic.” The challenge for hotels and designers alike is how to find a rock-solid identity in an era of mass-production and easy accessibility. “We’re performing the same web searches, reading the same historical articles and we’re getting connected with the same vendors. So how does Hotel A and Hotel B that both want to both deliver a unique experience in, say, New Mexico get what they need to stand out? How can we offer an experience people can’t get at home?”
Gary’s practicing what he preaches on a current project to echo the cultural impact and soothing nature of the James River into the resort’s design and associated activities. “The colors are crisp and airy, taking cues from the light and watery tones of the river. They play well with the coastal grey shingles and white trim of the resort,” says Gary. “We’re also using grass cloths, bold fabrics and carpet derived from oriental patterns that came to Virginia aboard merchant ships in the 17th and 18th centuries contrasted with modern lighting fixtures.” A highlight is a custom curated art program that will be thoroughly modern yet symbolically linked to the region.
HOT TOPIC 3: RUNWAYS AND REFLECTION
It’s probably no surprise that high-traffic public spaces continue to get the lion’s share of attention. “Lobbies are becoming fashion runways for hotels, where people come to see and be seen. There’s extra attention being paid to how the lobby connects with bar and lounge amenities,” says Gary. With a refocus on guest experience, each area is becoming a theatrical stage with different characters and personalities. Designers are tasked with determining how to construct movie-worthy memories that stimulate the senses and meet the needs of large groups and intimate gatherings alike without disconnecting guests from the larger setting itself.
Here are some key considerations:
- Invest in share-worthy focal pieces that can travel the globe and entice guests over social platforms
- Seek inspiration from unconventional sources–think set designers and film specialists
- Determine spots with flexible installations or furniture pieces to keep design fresh, relevant and engaging
“We’re seeing opportunities to elevate the in-room experience, and I’m interested in exploring how signature fragrances, variable mood lighting and personalized wellness activities can lead the way,” notes Gary. Enjoying your room with a view, while doing a customized yoga program sounds pretty nice, right?
While the industry may be returning to its roots in the classic traditions of hospitality, it’s clearly a new era for designers. “We need to step away from catchphrases and formulas and reboot how we curate spaces,” says Gary. “We still have much to discover and uncover,” says Gary. “We’re historians, experience planners and strategic partners now. That’s what it takes to build the holistic types of experiences guests demand.”
Gary will be here, there, and everywhere talking about these topics and more. Find him at November’s BDNY conference where he’ll moderate a panel called “View From The Top: What Finicky Travelers Want And How To Please Them” (see the full agenda here). Catch up on all the High Point buzz here and here.