Enhancing experiences with design and style

'Design for Every Style & Need’ was the topic under debate for the second panel discussion on the fourth day in the weBBlast series by BW HOTELIER and Hansgrohe on ‘Design – Innovation to Conservation’.

The fifth panel discussion of the series and second session of the day was themed, 'Design for Every Style & Need’, the session was moderated by Bobby Mukherji, Chairman, Bobby Mukherji and Associates. Other panellists included:  Reema Diwan, Associate VP Design & Techinical Services, IHCL, Mumbai; Vandana Dhawan Saxena, Principal, Studio IV Designs; Arun Raju, Vice President and Head of Projects, InterGlobe Hotels; James Murray, Director Sales Global Projects, Hansgrohe; Sreejit Narayanan, Director Projects – Design Services, Hyatt India;  Suraj Sahai, Regional Manager, Architecture Design & Construction, Eurasia, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts; and Bhuvanesh Khanna, CEO BW Communities, BW Businessworld

The discussion touched upon topics like ‘Development/expansion in New Normal’, ‘Contemporary trends’, ‘Design for luxury and budget’, ‘Challenges in the current scenario’,  ‘Technology innovations for guest experience’ and Brand USP and customer service. 

Hotel design to please guest psychology

Starting the discussion, Bobby Mukherji asked Reema Diwan to share the panel about how they manage the dominance in design for each category satisfying every style and need, especially with the most demanding new-age guests. She said, “Earlier dominance of design was focussed on the demography of the guest. Now, hotels designs have evolved as per the psychography of the guests. One needs to think differently and act differently. Bathrooms have emerged as one of the selling points of the guest room, bathroom is an integral part of it. Design them more like an influential chamber, making them more fabulous and functional. We have to blur the boundaries to make it more alluring and need to recreate the experience. Meanwhile technology helps to be more sustainable and eco-friendlier, give more experience to the guest, helping him to banish fatigue without using too much of more water.”

Intuitive and empathetic design

Hyatt claims that “Care is at the heart of our business”, elaborating further, Sreejit Narayanan said that care is the purpose of their business. Wellbeing of the guests and the employees is central to their ethos.  He said, “The key aspect to keep in mind is to have intuitive and empathetic design. The bathroom is a primary opportunity to impact the guest experience beyond the guest expectations. We try to bring in a relationship between the bathroom and the bedroom so that they are officially connected keeping in mind privacy of the guest which is at core. It makes the room feel more expansive, unique and adds to the functionality of the space.”

He further added, “We care for people is by having strategies that help in saving the planet and contributing to the wellbeing of the community. Sustainable design and construction of hotel becomes critical at this stage.”

Drive the business objective through design

Elaborating on Wyndham Hotel & Resorts’ development and expansion plans, Suraj Sahai said, “Regarding development, we are primarily focussed on growing our franchise portfolio and having a steady and sustainable growth. We have been always steadfast in our commitment to continue global growth and expanding our operations across Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa. In this region, we have seen demand for branded hotels particularly in tier-2 and tier-3 cities and are well equipped to cater to this demand. We are working extensively on the recovery plan and all our business verticals are aligned in moving up ramping business and building trust.”

Talking about the design as a key element in the hospitality industry, he further added, “We aim to make all spaces across our portfolio functional and fitting to the destination they are located in. So, in this business of hospitality, the focus is always on getting the basics right. And as technical people, it is my responsibility to drive the business objective through design. So, for any guestroom, good sleep experience and a delightful shower are paramount.”

Innovation is key

Reverting to moderator, Bobby Mukherji’s query on technology advancements in terms of multi-utility of design and space that Hansgrohe come up with,   Murray stated, “There has been an evolution of the customer needs, and we have tried to bring in a wealth of sophisticated technological innovations to design. Hotel bathroom is becoming more cosy, as space is more limited. We like to bring in product innovations like the Raininfinity  shoulder shower, where you have a shelf within the shower itself, to store shampoo, bottles etc where space is limited and secondly the shower focus is on the shoulder and neck, the stress areas and can provide a good guest experience within an area that can be of all sizes. It can help relieve stress. The shower trims can be smaller on the walls if its built in. We try to minimise size of the product, relevant to the size of the bathroom, where we are trying to work with multi-utility of design.” Murray went on and said that design and experience are important elements. 

“The bathroom many years ago was a cleaning area. Today it’s about the feeling of wellness, feeling of relaxation and we are not breaking away from the design for exceptional customer experience,” said James Murray. 

Bouncing back with 40-42 per cent occupancies

Responding to Bobby Mukherjee’s query,  as to what are InterGlobe Hotels development and expansion plans in the new normal in India, Arun Raju explained that in last 2-3 months their sites have come back to over 95 per cent operations and work is going on full steam. Raju further shared about the ongoing projects and said, "We have got six hotels under construction out of which three are in Mumbai, two in Bangalore and one in Goa. We stay committed to our expansion plans and already have invested 2,000 crores into our portfolio.”

Discussing creating new space, a cafeteria for employees, redefining the outlook of co-working spaces, creating a new sitting style in the lobby; Raju emphasized and said, "The focus is there on design. We are looking at adaptability and interchangeability in every aspect."  Raju shared the good news that they are already hitting at 40 -42 per cent occupancies’, they believe 'to be back soon' and their expansion plans are in place to take care of that.

Get the cultural ethos into design

Delineating her thoughts, Vandana Dhawan Saxena stated, “India, as you know, is very rich and diverse and seeing that something is Indian could have multiple connotations. When I study vernacular architecture to the depths of what Indianness means, there were a lot of intelligent steps that were taken in the olden times and of course, it got carried on as traditions and became a part of our culture. If we go down to the basics of what Indian designs meant, we will be able to develop more meaning in our design. If we go down to the core principle of what Indian is, we will be able to challenge and create or innovate in a better way. “

She opinionated, “Besides that, there are other ways one can incorporate Indianness in contemporary design, I think we should go down to the basics of using local materials like incorporating linens into our guest rooms, probably having local craftsmen embroider the cushion covers. If we go down to studying each region and incorporating those elements in our design, then we will really be able to create unique identities in the hotel projects that we are able to build. So, the key to design is multi functionality and creating diversity.”

She conceptualised it as, “If we go down to study core of the Indian design, we will be able to innovate and create unique identities in hotel projects keeping the look of the space very contemporary.”

Sharing the key take-aways from the panel discussion, Khanna summarised and said, “Earlier dominance of design was focussed on demography of the guest. Now, hotels designs have evolved as per the psychography of the guests. Key to design is multi functionality and creating diversity. If we go down to study core of the Indian design, we will be able to innovate and create unique identities in hotel projects keeping the looks of the space very contemporary. Hansgrohe brings more product innovations for good guest experience in a limited space. The focus is such that there is more utility out of the minimal design.  Key aspect is to have intuitive and empathetic design. Bathroom is a primary opportunity to impact the guest experience beyond the guest expectations. Sustainable design and construction of hotel becomes critical at this stage.” 

Sharing his thank you note for the weBBlast series, Gaurav Malhotra, MD India and Regional Key Accounts Asia, Hansgrohe said, “We have had five webinars, It’s been a great learning and humbling experience and core has been to learn and engage. We are initiating these steps with the industry and going forward we will be looking forward to more engagement with the industry.”


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