Mobile Apps Are Already Changing Layouts for Hotel Design

Future hotel guests may be able to see reconfigurations of public spaces as a result of apps that change the way customers interact and interact with the property.
The pandemic caused by the hotel industry's focus on pushing more features via smartphone apps has long-term implications for how future properties will be developed.

Yotel and other brands were among the first to adopt technology in order to free up hotel space before the pandemic. During the pandemic, major hotels like Hilton and independent hotels relied more heavily on mobile apps to manage everything, from checking-in to ordering room services. These features will likely remain long after the crisis and this will allow for a new approach to building hotels.

Contactless technology will allow for a complete overhaul of lobby, fitness, and back-of-house areas that only employees use.

A new approach to hotel layouts could provide financial relief to an industry still recovering from the pandemic's devastating impact on travel demand.

In an interview with Skift, Rami Zeidan (CEO of Life House, a boutique hotel operator and technology company) said that we have been focusing on smaller hotels.

Life House is a tech-enabled operator of hotels that relies on software to manage and streamline its operations. Tech means that there is less real estate space required, but this doesn't translate into revenue.

Other than removing square footage dedicated to check-in counters and other guest experience spaces such as gyms, technology has also affected these spaces.

Zeidan stated that we have developed an Apple TV product which allows for customized in-room exercise programs, eliminating the need to go to a gym. Covid was the catalyst.

Hotel Spaces Meet Apps

Gensler architect Tom Ito who founded and runs the firm's hospitality practice said that check-in areas are still being used by some industries. He says the concept is still in testing mode.

This is changing as more apps are available online to allow guests to manage their experience, and customer service responds to requests for casual interaction.

The development of guest control means that large public spaces, such as lobbies and corridors, can be redesigned to allow for more flexible uses, such casual dining or meeting rooms.

Ito observed that technology-induced design shifts are more common in new constructions than during renovations.

Another potential use of space is co-working. Before the pandemic, hotel developers had been looking at co-working options. Accors' push to so-called lifestyle hotels that rely less on local guests driving revenue includes co-working at its Ennismore spinoff.

They believed that hospitality and co-working should be a part of the same thing, Edouard Schwob, executive Vice President of JLLs Hotels and Hospitality Group, stated of the wider trend.

Big Space, Big Opportunity

This type of talk is a great opportunity for large spaces in convention hotel and their best use after the pandemic. Flexibility was a common feature of large spaces during the pandemic. This topic is still being discussed for new-build hotels.

We were interested in smaller meeting rooms that could be interconnected with technology. This would allow you to connect to the room from outside and also make it possible to share the hybrid idea you see in the workplace, Schwob stated.

Ito stated that this concept could be expanded to outdoor spaces partly for safety reasons, but also because it offers an enhanced experience.

Atari Hotels joined forces with GSD Group and Gensler, hotel managers to capitalize on the popularity of online gambling. The details of the Las Vegas first Atari Hotel project are not yet clear. However, the development team has confirmed that the check-in area will not include a standard front desk.

Ito stated that you won't have to go through a traditional check in counter. A portal will be used.

Back-of-House Efficiencies

Another space-saving opportunity is the reduced need for point of service systems to support back-of house operations like inventory management and repairs scheduling that are essential for providing a great customer experience.

According to Schwob, he can see a system in which housekeeping could send an app a message letting them know that a lightbulb needs replacing or that a sink needs fixing. The software could even prioritize the work flow. Other tasks, such as stocking supplies, would be simplified and maximize space usage.

Ito said that when designing a hotel, we spend a lot of time in the back-of house. We spend most of our time planning the back-of the house, because guest flow is also considered from the service perspective.

The industry's willingness to invest in them will determine where hotel apps may go next.

Global travel is booming and investment will be crucial. However, many hoteliers are stuck in survival mode and are unable to invest the money they don't have into the most recent tech features.