Thought leaders from all sides of the region’s hospitality industry talk shop on what makes secondary markets hotbeds for hotel development.
By Matthew Hall
THE LATEST LOOKS IN GUEST ROOM DESIGN: Studio Twist founder Michelle Wildenhaus said she’s seeing a move away from “an all-white landscape in every guest room” to environments that incorporate multiple textures and colors. Jayne Menke, president of Artonomy Inc./Miller Gallery, seconded that, noting that designers are expanding the art programs in hotels to include all kinds of media, not just prints, and also are looking at new kinds of substrates to expand the visual/graphic offering. “Designers now want hotel art that will stand out, not blend in,” Menke said.
CR’s Gaddes emphasized that quality, rather than quantity, is key to impactful art installations. “One outstanding and relevant piece of art per room can have more impact than two or three mediocre ones, and with no impact on the budget,” she explained.
SPACE TRENDS WITHIN HOTELS: Architects Plus’ Erdman said lobbies are getting bigger, in response to consumers’ growing demand for socializing/working/dining space in hotels, while guest rooms are shrinking. But Fay thinks the latter trend can be a turnoff to guests. “It’s a mistake to shrink the room footprint,” he said, explaining that while a smaller room might be fine for younger travelers or where real estate is at such a premium that nothing else would be financially workable, “Guests like to have space in their rooms. They want to feel comfortable and they also want to feel they’re getting value for their money.”
FRCH’s Stapleton noted that any hotel built to a very specific brand footprint with unusually small or uniquely laid-out spaces may be hard to convert to another brand in the future. “And because this type of property usually involves custom millwork and built-in casegoods, they’re also expensive to renovate,” Stapleton explained.
But a smaller footprint for another type of venue—the meeting room—can be a boon to boutique hotels, as long as they are inviting, light-filled spaces, says Jeff Eagle, vice president of construction at Winegardner & Hammons Hotel Group. “Boutique properties typically can’t compete with large hotels and their larger ballrooms for major functions,” Eagle said, but there are a lot of training sessions and other small meetings that niche competitors can accommodate.
He adds that meeting planners typically want a room with windows and other amenities that make time spent in the space as pleasant as possible. Several participants agreed with that sentiment, noting that hotels that currently have these spaces in either basements or windowless interior rooms should move them elsewhere.
EMBRACEABLE BRANDS: When it comes to hoteliers they like to work with, Marriott Intl. won widespread praise from participants, especially for its fast-growing MOXY and AC Hotels flags, while Hilton’s mid-tier and select-service brands, including Hampton Inn & Suites, drew plaudits. In addition, Hyatt netted kudos from several participants as a company on the upswing, thanks to such brands as Hyatt Place and Hyatt Centric. Hyatt fans include Fay, who sits on that hotelier’s ownership council. “They listen, and they want to do things right,” he said. However, several participants noted that hoteliers experiencing ongoing changes in their c-suites, such as InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), have left some question marks for owners and franchisees.
SUMMING UP STATEMENT: A local truism (often attributed to Mark Twain) holds that if you want to avoid the end of the world, go to Cincinnati, as everything happens there 10 years later than anywhere else. But that’s definitely not the case with the city’s hotel market, participants said. Summed up Winegardner & Hammons’ Eagle: “Cincinnati is a microcosm for what’s happening in the rest of the country.”
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