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Opportunity Abounds

Designers Maintain Plenty Of Projects On Books Despite Economic Softening

Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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The ups and downs of an economic cycle clearly impact all facets of the lodging industry at one point or another and design is no different. Nevertheless, some designers insist there will still be plenty of opportunity available even in a softening environment.

A pair of Hilton designers spoke on the subject, as well as a few noteworthy design trends, during the recent BDNY in New York City. The company celebrated its 100th anniversary at the event with a uniquely decorated booth entitled “Memento: Experiences Worth Remembering By Hilton.”

In a session entitled “Face2Face In a Designed Space,” Ashley Michaels, design manager, Hilton, spoke about a potential downturn and how it might impact the types of projects available.

“When we do see that [an economic softening] happening we see a lot more conversions coming into the system. It also gives owners an opportunity to really focus and invest back into their properties. It’s a great time to start renovating so that when the economy comes back stronger you have much better product to come back out with,” she said.

Luisa Gonzalez, senior design manager, Hilton, also refuted the notion that a downturn would result in widespread cost-cutting.

“We don’t really see owners not wanting to invest in design. They see the value of investing in it. In down markets they will just make very, very wise choices and pretty much every choice has to do with return on investment. What are they going to get back on that? Can they recapture that?” she said.

Gonzalez elaborated when asked how designers go about convincing owners of a tangible return on investment or even a ‘return on experience’, which may not have an immediate impact on the bottom line. As an example, she noted Hilton is in the process of rolling out its high-tech Connected Room.

“I think the question doesn’t give owners enough credit. I think most owners realize that when Hilton is asking for something that it’s an investment. Some owners are a little nervous right now about the economy but they do know that the guest wants that and the guest is expecting that. If they don’t do that their properties are going to lag, they’re going to fall behind and they’re going to have a product that’s outdated,” she said.

Michaels, meanwhile, detailed some of the more popular design trends she’s observed and what today’s guests are looking for.

“Some of the things that people are really expecting from properties now has sort of evolved to the lobby space. So whether that’s more of a co-working communal space or if that’s incorporating any local food & beverage that’s really drawing in the guests from the neighborhood. Hotels want to create an experience where guests can feel like they actually got to experience the city and not just the property so that I think is really something that guests are expecting,” she noted.

Michaels also touted the continued emergence of lifestyle design, particularly as it relates to her work with Hilton’s collection brands.

“That is really tipping the toe between the lifestyle space and the full-service space. So we’re able to create those unique experiences or really help to kind of cement the brand story that guests are expecting from a collection brand,” she commented.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez offered some insight on the Memento booth at BDNY and her objective to capture the company’s 100-year history.

“Hilton is about hospitality, we’re about travel, and we’re about creating memories. A memento is that little thing that you bring home with you. We designed the outside of our booth to be like a ribbon board; a place where you would stick your ticket stub or that special little polaroid picture. That’s why you see all the ribbons on the outside of the structure. The ribbon board holds our art and it holds our memories,” she noted.

Michaels described the approach on capturing the company’s history on the inside of the booth. “We wanted to focus on separating it out into different eras,” she said.

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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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