This post is Part 1 of a 2 part series on hotel trends impacting the guest’s experience. Below is Part 1 on Macro trends. If you’ve read Part 1, continue on to Part 2 on Micro trends in the hotel industry.

The hospitality industry is constantly changing and evolving to adhere to guest expectations. As a result hotel brands are on the lookout for new ways to improve their customers’ stay and exceed their expectations. The brands that are succeeding are staying ahead of the curve and anticipating what customers want now and what they will want in the future. For this reason, identifying the latest hotel trends has become crucial in an industry built on making people feel happy and taken care of when they’re away from home.

At its most basic level, the hospitality sector specializes in managing human interaction while trying to maintain the perfect balance of personalization and technological accommodation for their guests – a practice that every hotel brand, large and small, engages in. An essential part of this formula is a hotel’s design.

The design, both interior and exterior, is often the most effective way to make an exceptional first impression – a first impression that guests new and old use to distinguish between brands. By incorporating bold and unique designs into a brand identity, a hotel is tapping into our most basic senses, an important step towards maximizing the guest experience and setting themselves apart from the crowd.

After an analysis of our elite designers covering large, small, and emerging markets throughout the US and Canada, Ambius has identified a collection of macro and micro trends that are driving hotel designs today and into the future. Macro trends are trends that affect architecture, engineering, and design on a large scale. In Part 2, we discuss Micro trends, which are defined as small-scale trends that are typically aesthetic or topical in nature.

Looking ahead, these dynamic hotel trends offer opportunities for management, engineers, architects, and interior designers alike to get a glimpse of what’s to come.

 Macro Trends


Natural Materials & Biophilic Design:

This trend is more than hotels simply integrating more plants into their design, it’s bigger than that. Hotels are turning to the many benefits of biophilic design to enhance their brand and their guests overall experience by tapping into the wellness and well-being properties associated with this design trend.

For those who don’t know, biophilic design is based on the concept of biophilia, which is the theory that we have an innate tendency to seek out nature, natural elements, and natural forms. The Natural & Biophilic Design trend is spearheaded by the biophilia philosophy, which is characterized by:

  •         Exposure to natural lighting
  •         Views of nature / Room with a view
  •         Natural architectural patterns
  •         Use of sustainably sourced materials
  •         Living green walls / Vertical gardens
  •         Direct and indirect exposure to nature
shopping mall

“Well-being, biophilia, and even concepts such as hygge, are becoming increasingly well understood and embraced across all industries and business types,” says Kenneth Freeman, Director of Innovation at Ambius. “We’re witnessing the wellness and well-being economy go mainstream, and there’s no sign of the trend slowing down anytime soon.”

As biophilically designed spaces continue to gain momentum, high-end and mid-tier hotels alike are reaping the benefits associated with the trend including reduced stress responses, better air quality, lower energy costs, and more positive guest reviews due to their investment in biophilic décor and design. In fact, a new report from Terrapin Bright Green suggests that guests will spend on average 36% more time in hotel lobbies that have biophilic elements. 

The immediate effects of the natural and biophilic trends occur as guests enter the hotel, and are multiplied for hotels in urban landscapes due to the lack of nature in cityscapes. Guests entering these spaces can expect to find things like salvaged or reclaimed woods of all types, reclaimed metals, sustainably sourced stone, exposure to picturesque landscapes or the incorporation of plants and greenery.

The effects of biophilic design in hospitality settings was explored further in the Human Spaces Biophilic Design in Hospitality report, which found that when comparing biophilic and conventional hotel guest reviews side by side, maintenance and service were mentioned most in guest reviews of conventional hotels while reviews of biophilic hotels mentioned nature and design most. This finding suggests that this trend plays a strong role in creating a unique guest experience.

“Hoteliers are aware that nature-inspired elements enhance their hotel guests comfort and well-being, which is why we’re seeing more of it,” says Ambius design expert, JOanne Craft.  “There’s been a tremendous amount of interest in green walls and preserved moss panels because of their exciting and innovative nature, and these products offer a unique one-of-a-kind “Wow” focal feature for the hotel”.

Key Trend Motivators:

  •         Biophilic design reduces overall stress levels
  •         Biophilic design increases guests mood
  •         Natural design elements improve brand image
  •         Consumer demand for environmental responsibility

Showcasing Local:  

There is a growing emphasis on artisanal, handcrafted, and locally sourced everything, and this trend doesn’t only apply to food and retail. Increasingly this trend applies to the hotel and hospitality industry as the demand for hoteliers to showcase local products and art has taken on a new level of importance.

“Showcasing local artists is a way for hotels to distance themselves from the overly generic feel that once permeated the hospitality industry,” says Ambius designer, Chris Karl. “Guests notice when something feels unique and handcrafted or created.  This has led to sourcing more local artists, craftsmen, and artisans to incorporate into the overall design and aesthetic of the hotel. These local touches may be relatively small but they make a big impact on guests’ perceptions of the property.”

The Showcasing Local trend is quickly gaining steam and the hotel industry is changing rapidly to accommodate. The reason for the momentum is due in part to the overall trend towards local experience and getting to know an area.

custom image

A 2017 Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA) survey of over 1000 hoteliers found that “Guests are looking to have enhanced experiences that are unique and not cookie-cutter. They want to experience the ‘place’ and not just the amenities the hotel has to offer.”

It’s also a reaction to the success of Airbnb and the home-sharing experience that provides a local experience built into its walls. This emphasis on local and regional goes beyond the décor that guests experience in lobbies and guest rooms however, it also applies to the restaurants, bars, and eateries that are often found within or attached to the hotels.

Demand for more and more local is what lead to the farm-to-table movements which have created a growing localized meat and produce market. This is a trend that is destined to have a lasting effect, as it falls in line with a growing segment of Americans, especially millennials, that prioritize sustainability and social responsibility as a purchasing driver.

Key Trend Motivators:

  •         Guests desire for localized or regional experiences
  •         Helps hotels compete with home-sharing companies
  •         Provides a more immersive, genuine experience
  •         Improves guest reviews
custom image

Co-Work // Life Spaces:

One of the newest and most pioneering ideas on our trends list is the growing number of co-working spaces and co-living hotels that are popping up across North America. This trend creates spaces for both work and play, and springs from guest’s desire for connection and social opportunities.

“Business travelers are increasingly utilizing co-working spaces in hotels when they’re available, driving demand,” says Janice Nath, a San Diego-based Ambius designer. “These spaces are taking over hotel lobbies at the moment.”

Co-working and Co-living spaces are beginning to shift the Hospitality industry’s primary focus away from the guest room and towards public common spaces, such as the lobby, in an effort to position themselves as hubs of social engagement, entertainment, and business networking. The idea of co-working spaces is not a new one, but adding co-working space to the lobbies of many of the world’s largest and most recognizable hotel brands and simultaneously changing the traditional functionality of the lobby is a huge deal.

The lobby and the surrounding areas are incredibly important to the overall image and reputation of the hotel, as this is where a guest will make their crucial first impressions. It’s this first impression that is paramount to the guest experience for many hoteliers, and designers are exploring new and exciting concepts to capitalize on this pivotal moment while still retaining the spaces functionality, visual appeal, and overall balance.

Co-working spaces are designed for both work and comfort and are highlighted by:

  • Workstation areas / Workspace versatility
  • Balancing Luxury and Functionality
  • Green features / Indoor-Outdoor spaces
  • Office-level technology / High-speed Wi-Fi / Video capabilities
  • Spaciousness / Open concept
custom image

Equally as exciting, the co-living space is a trend on the rise and is one of the more controversial and interesting trends occurring in the hospitality industry. The co-living space trend is rooted in the upstart sharing economy spearheaded by disruptive companies such as Airbnb and Uber.

Popularized in Europe and Southeast Asia, the co-living hospitality approach has its origins in the hostel tradition which is prominent in those parts of the world. Although similar in ideology to hostels, co-living hotels have much more accommodations, are more expensive, and can range from high-end luxury to mid-tier level.

Across the industry, the co-living hotel is garnering some serious clout, to the point where AccorHotels is investing in a new Jo&Joe co-living brand. This is reflective of the increasing emergence of digital nomads and remote workers and travelers. This trend is on the horizon stateside as well, and many in the tech industry are already anticipating this innovative new approach to the hotel space.

Key Trend Motivators:

custom image

Old Hotel Trends Have to Go:

Out with the old and in with the new is the hotel industry’s new mantra. According to a Hotels Magazine and Readex Research report, 37% of hotels have plans to begin renovations within the next three to 18 months, with 32% occurring within the next year. A motivating factor causing the recent uptick in renovations is that we live in an era where a hotel’s reputation can be irreversibly damaged by negative reviews and negative social media.

In this industry environment, hotels are forced to constantly look for ways to improve themselves and their offerings. This requires hoteliers to keep their fingers on the pulse of consumer habits and guest trends. The hotels that survive and prosper are the ones that are restoring and renovating for the future.

custom image

There are a multitude of reasons why hotels renovate, however they mostly revolve around keeping the hotel as fresh and current as possible. Regular and ongoing maintenance is always part of the plan, but the new “do more with less” approach recommends hotels start in selective focus areas, rather than splurge on a top-down renovation during the slow season.

The measured renovation approach focuses renovations on the following areas in order:

  1. Rooms: The room is the space in which hotels will make the biggest impact and receive the greatest ROI.
  2. Food & Beverage: Keeping restaurants up-to-date while streamlining kitchen and wait staff processes will always be the key motivators.
  3. Lobbies: Balancing functionality and extravagance is the key to a great lobby renovation. A swing too far towards functionality could lead to a loss of the “Wow” factor. A swing too far towards extravagance and you’re likely to overspend on your budget.
  4. Meeting Space: Without an investment in meeting space, you risk losing or alienating business travelers – a key demographic within the hotel industry. Although on the bottom of the list, it’s a necessity to keep conference rooms and meeting spaces current and up-to-date.

“Renovations are happening everywhere right now,” says Seth Hardy, an Ambius District Manager in a major East Coast hospitality market. “We’re seeing every major hotel brand in our area undergoing major interior renovations. That’s when they call us in for the plant design and accent decorations associated with their updated brand standards.”

Key Trend Motivators:

  • 37% of hotels are planning to renovate in the next 18 months
  • 63.5% of hoteliers surveyed in a recent BLLA Survey reported that their hotels favored renovating an existing site versus 36.5% who favored new construction
  • Staying current drives positive reviews, reduce negative reviews
  • Industry trends drive renovations

With their careful attention to detail, deep understanding of contemporary design styles and trends, and knowledge of current customer habits, Ambius design experts know best how to keep a hotel on-brand while maximizing the guest experience and balancing with the right amount of technology.

Did you enjoy the first installment of our Hospitality Industry Trends series? Continue reading Part 2 where we discuss the Micro trends transforming the hotel industry.  

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about the trends and the influences of design, you’ll love Exploring the Hottest Office Design Trends of 2018.

*This article received expert contributions from Ambius design and plant experts, Janice Nath, Chris Karl, Joanne Craft, Roel Ventura, Seth Hardy, and Kenneth Freeman

Ambius designers are experts in enhancing the office space of businesses just like yours. Contact us to speak to one of our specialists and get the ball rolling for improving your space today.