The Traveler Trends Leading Hotel Design into 2023
From adventure and romance to business and family travel, the ever-changing habits, preferences, and expectations of vacationers continue to revolutionize the hospitality community. As a result, travelers are pushing well beyond their comfort zones – seeking out unique encounters that ignite the senses, promote adventure, and provide opportunities for families to create memories.
For hospitality brands, the shift presents an opportunity for growth by reframing offerings and tapping into new design trends to engage and accommodate the diverse and growing demographic that will soon fill their rooms. So, what are some of the noteworthy traveler trends that the industry should keep in mind for the year ahead?
Experience-Based, Multigenerational Travel
Hoteliers should start by addressing the movement towards experience-based, multigenerational travel, as hotels and resorts must go beyond their traditional offerings to remain competitive. Programming and amenities, such as a spa for adults, a club for kids, and an activity center for teens, must evolve, as travelers of all generations are eager to engage in one-of-a-kind activities of togetherness as opposed to escapes into solitude.
The Evermore Orlando Resort, set to open next summer adjacent to Walt Disney World, is a great example of a property designed for experience-based diversions for multiple generations, offering houses, flats, villas, and a Conrad hotel that are connected by a boardwalk and crystalline lagoon. Guests, who will likely spend a day or two of a five-day getaway onsite, will be able to enjoy a range of watersports such as kayaks and stand-up paddleboards and have access to a diverse bar and restaurant scene. In addition, visitors will encounter unexpected spaces for social interaction, catering to groups and families of all sizes for gathering and unwinding after a long day of adventure.
As such, hoteliers would be wise to provide offerings that extend their site while bringing local culture and activities to the forefront. Think, for example, of reaching beyond a property’s footprint by creating a locally inspired setting for guests to gather for the shuttle that will take them to a hotel-arranged tequila tasting, restaurant hop, or tour of local galleries or historic sites. The key is to offer authentic experiences that the entire family can enjoy.
Diving into Local Culture
The opportunity to experience local culture is another big trend for travelers, as well as an inspiration for imaginative settings at hotels and resorts. Seemingly minor details such as stones used in landscaping, paving on walkways, or the textural details of interior walls and furnishings can be very reflective of a locality – especially when created by local tradespeople. Such touches make a huge difference in people’s perception of authenticity and how they feel during their stay.
A good example of design work focused on local materiality dates from 20 years ago but remains relevant today. It is Madinat Jumeirah, a 940-room oasis resort in Dubai with a cultural village featuring a museum and a souk-style retail complex, and an extensive array of food-and-beverage outlets that celebrate history by recreating the feel of Old Dubai. Opened in 2004, the resort remains a magnet for Emeratis at night, adding to the authenticity guests desire while illustrating how infusing a property with elements crafted by local expertise can create an atmosphere far more rewarding for travelers than that of a typical all-inclusive resort.
With more people working remotely, the trend of blending business and leisure travel into “bleisure travel” has opened the door for hoteliers to design in ways that are appreciative of all scales, from groups on vacation to solo travelers who need to squeeze in work on the road.
Designing for bleisure travelers requires creating spaces that function for groups while rewarding working guests with privacy for productivity, whether they’re on their own or with family or friends. The solution is scaling amenities. For example, rather than surround the pool with cabanas sized, outfitted, and priced for groups, try also offering basic cabanas at a lower cost where a working parent can step out for meetings and calls for a bit while still being close to their family.
Finally, there is a lot of buzz about the importance of sustainability to post-pandemic travelers. A 2022 Travel Survey conducted by The Vacationer, for instance, found that 87 percent of respondents ranked sustainable or environmentally friendly travel as somewhat or very important to them, while a study by Expedia found 60 percent of travelers were willing to pay more fees to make a trip sustainable.
However, the notion of sustainability has reached the point of overtalk and the concept has grown too broad. Rather than stay on trend with “sustainability,” then, a better strategy for hoteliers is to focus on “well-rounded wellness,” with a design that is beneficial to nature and nurturing of well-being for guests.
Consider the elements of Etéreo, an Auberge Resorts Collection address on the Riviera Maya of Mexico. Promoted as “a refuge for wellness seekers,” the property is built on stilts to maintain the healing environment of surrounding mangrove forests and has a light network of boardwalks and a bridge to connect guests to the beauty of the mangroves as they make their way to the beach, restaurants, or Mayan-inspired treatments of the spa. The minimally impactful design gives the hotel buildings the appearance of floating in the forest while inspiring the wellness guests seek.
Taken together, the current surge in travel is elevating the awareness of everyone’s mental and physical state following all that has gone on in the world. Hoteliers who take advantage of this unique moment by keying design into the needs and desires of contemporary travelers stand to benefit as much as their guests.