BHN spoke with the founders of architect and design firm THDP, Manuela Mannino and Nicholas J Hickson, about transforming corporate hotels into boutiques as well as how travel trends are shaping interiors and beyond.
• As a result of subdued business travel, many hotels pivoted towards the leisure market. When transforming a corporate hotel into a boutique, what architectural and design considerations are there?
NH: Of course, all travel has been suppressed over the last 18 months, and many chains are reviewing their stock of hotels and how they use them – particularly MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) hotels.
For these huge hotels it is not really the case that they can just become boutique – they are simply too large. In this situation, they take the view to change and update their meeting spaces to make them more adaptable, playful and social; as well as injecting technological aspects to ensure that meetings can be joined virtually with the same ease of joining in person.
For smaller business hotels, it is easier to make them more lifestyle-focused and therefore it might be a good idea to re-flag the hotel into a new more lifestyle category – IHG Voco, IHG Indigo, Hilton DoubleTree and Marriott Moxy are all brands that have been very popular but have really taken off recently.
• Are you seeing greater demand for these types of projects, and is there a popular geographic area/region? Is the desire for boutique hotels coming from owners, operators or guests?
MM: We are working more and more in the southern Mediterranean area, including southern Italy, Malta and Sardinia. Any changes to the hotel are always guest-driven – when all is said and done, the guests are the clients, and the focus will always strive to anticipate their needs and spending patterns, and ultimately deliver an exceptional experience.
• Many hotels were also refurbished or renovated whilst closed. What new or additional features are being incorporated that were not before?
NH: As part of several refurbishments, F&B areas are increasingly becoming food, beverage and entertainment. Hotel chains like Locke and Birch have dedicated zones and areas for learning – running specialist short courses and welcoming guests to participate in group sessions and workshops. For this new use of space to flourish, making spaces adaptable and flexible is often the key.
• What wellness trends are shaping resorts, and what can hotels learn from this?
MM: Wellness has truly gone global, and what we are now seeing is hotels opening in some amazing, remote locations, as the industry makes room for wellness travel. Manic getaways are being replaced by slower, closer and more mindful experiences.
The over-tourism epidemic will be challenged, experiential travel will become a new buzzword, and sustainability demands will mean people will strive to leave a place better off than how they found it. Over the past 10 years, more and more variety has arrived for travellers: hostels; student hotels; short lets and so on; and in response, the big hotel chains have been incorporating more diversity into their brand collection, anticipating the needs for such types of travellers.
Further information about THDP can be found here.