Ms. Miller

Architecture & Design

Hotel Design: Creating an Individual and Unique Experience

By Tammy S. Miller, President, Alternate Resources

There is a generation of young people that have redefined travel for all of us. Actually, they have redefined many things for all of us! The advent of social media platforms and the influx of visually stimulating photos posted everywhere have enabled people to open their minds to new ideas. Where the unknown used to be scary, there is very little unknown these days because you can tap into new experiences from friends and strangers gaining comfort in your interests. You can follow innovators and be exposed to what others are seeing and what they are experiencing and put those ideas on your bucket list.

The millennials may have led the charge, but the Baby Boomers and even the healthy elders are getting on the band wagon. People won't settle for the mundane any more, not in technology, not in work environments and not in their travel experiences. Hotels large and small, independent and branded are being called to task to be original and if they don't respond they will fail.

Personally, I have raised three boys who are now in their 20's and two of them have studied abroad for a semester and the third is about to choose his abroad destination. They seek "once in a lifetime" experiences and can often accomplish them on a shoe string financially. At the end of their fingers sits a full blown computer, masked as a cellular device that they can instantaneously access real time data and fuel their ideas. They seek unique and authentic experiences in hotels, food, tourism and culture.

What might have been out of my comfort zone being born into the Baby Boomer generation has become what I seek because I watch how easy it is to do. My parents born 25+ years before me were being pulled along initially and now are looking at their own trips in a different light. The hospitality industry is being tasked with more creativity and innovation in designing hotel space with the local culture in mind and bringing forth new ideas for how to attract and retain a client base.

Vacation travel was once a luxury available only to the wealthy but now it is much more affordable because Hoteliers are targeting all levels of "stars and diamonds" and striving for authentic and meaningful. The goal is to create fulfillment and offer an interactive approach to planning what a visitor wants from their experience. Social media makes these experiences visually available for many to share in the moment and gets recorded for others to call on when seeking a new experience. Photos posted on line by travel, hotel and food followers inundate the senses and expand the desire for new experiences truly defined however you want them to be.

The focus of hotel design regardless of the type of experiences your guests are seeking tasks professionals to offer ideas and solutions that are authentic, immersive and interactive. If the design doesn't mirror the experience the customer wants, regardless of age, they walk away disappointed. So how do designers achieve this? We do our homework and we challenge our inner creativity, training, knowledge and expertise to do our best work for each client.

Each project needs to be treated as unique and Designers need to focus on the local area surrounding the hotel and dialogue with the sales and marketing team to define what is bringing the guest to the location in the first place. Is it near the corporate headquarters of a large company and catering to the business clientele? Is the property near wineries and vineyards? Is it near an amusement park? A water park?

The "X" Hall of fame? A sporting arena? A big city/urban environment? A Theater Company? Why are people coming? What makes the location stand out and what should be the design focus? What will be memorable about the trip to this place? What is memorable should be the central focal point of the design direction. This challenges designers to think outside the box and create experiences for the guest stay that will make the memories last a lifetime. People will want to share their experiences and encourage others to visit and engage.

Disney is exploring a "Star Wars" hotel concept where your whole stay would be interactive and the guest cabins might look like a space ship. One would be able to customize the experience, including enjoying "views of the galaxy." The Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora has the infamous "over water suites" that every honeymooner lusts over. If pearls are your thing, you can harvest your own pearl thanks to the Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Mexico. You can work with biologists to plant a piece of resin in an oyster shell and 730 days later you can retrieve your half Sea of Cortez pearl.

Interactive experiences are being built into hotel rooms of today, whether that be of high tech features like being able to play your own movie on the television, order dinner delivery service from your cell phone from a selection of local restaurants or choose the accent lighting color to create a different mood. Amazon's Alexa and Google Home are being interfaced with smart technology making the voice command integral. Soon you will be able to speak to open the door, or turn the shower on to the perfect temperature.

Lobbies have become event spaces in their own right. The materials used, the colors, the décor transforms the space into what the designer wants it to be. Eco friendly products, living walls that change with the season, digitally changing artwork can all be used to transform the lobby space into the theme of an event. The collaborative and open lobby spaces brings people down from their rooms to interact with others or to enjoy food and beverage. The size of guest rooms has become less significant because the interactive and modular spaces are readily available and desirable.

Wellness, fitness, and health have become an obsession of our society, a very positive obsession and wellness centers and "Zen" spaces are becoming part of the hotel landscape. Fitness, spinning, Zumba, barre, Pilates, strength training circuits are plentiful and hotels are called upon to offer these services or offer concierge services to assist guests in finding alternatives. Good food with healthy ingredients is sought by the food connoisseur and the "farm to table" approach is popular as people are seeking a healthier, more satisfied life. These offerings are considered when travelling and hotels need to be designed with these goals in mind. The "grab and go" has to be reimagined to have fruits and vegetables and healthier offerings versus the candy bars lined up by the registers of bygone eras.

Designers, hotel owners, hotel brands and management/operating companies have to focus on the unique, on what they can bring to the table to set your hotel apart. How can we create that individualized and unique experience that results in your clients wanting to share it and wanting others to come and experience it? Creativity has no bounds and specialty experiences that encourage interaction are welcomed and sought. Good design needs to be incorporated in the changing landscape of what a hotel looks like. What a hotel has to offer that an Airbnb doesn't is service and consistent quality. Many travelers do not want to stay in someone else's home, they want to be able to ask for a dinner recommendation, rent a boat to tour the island, have a tequila tasting, sit with their laptop and be served a glass of wine while changing their pod color to purple. The guest wants to know it is safe to schedule a massage in their room, or work out late at night in the fitness center within the hotel, or take a swim in a gorgeous pool.

They want help getting theater tickets or know which subway to take or which local shop sells the most delicious fresh cheese. They want to experience industrial or rustic or glossy or bright white or whatever they are looking for in their surroundings. They want to be in touch with the location they have chosen to visit and the area that have researched extensively. They don't want to be disappointed. They want to immerse themselves in the local culture and taste the local fares. They want to know what the region is famous for and experience it. They want to hike in the mountains or ski the trails and come back for a beautiful fire pit and a hot toddy. Guests don't want the hotel to look like every single other one that they have ever stayed in. They want each experience to be unique and authentic, they demand it.

Building a new hotel in Sonoma or Napa, key into the local wineries and offer tours, tastings, and drivers. Building a new hotel in Colorado, spend some time understanding the ski mountains and trails, the specialty restaurants and the music festivals. How about Wyoming or Montana and providing first class meals to the hungriest of cowboys after their day riding horses or taking two step dance classes? Enjoy a wildlife adventure in South Africa while "glamping" (Glamourous camping) in commanding outdoor environments. Guests are seeking experiences in their travel and they want those experiences to be authentic, interactive and immersive. They want to participate in the planning, make the decisions on what they want it to be and experience it to the fullest. Hotel Design and Architecture should be spearheading new ways to bring these interest to life!

Tammy Miller is a thirty year veteran of the Interior Design and Purchasing world. She founded Alternate Resources in 1991 to address a need for high quality personalized end-to-end project management. Ms. Miller has built Alternate Resources on the knowledge that a good designer understands purchasing, design intent and how to manage to budgets and deadlines. Ms. Miller helps create the vision of the owner. She then finds the means to achieve this vision. Bringing her skills to hotel owners and management firms, she fills a principal position on a project team and brings years of experience to a build or renovation. She can help develop the design, select and specify products, while managing the procurement and financial processes. Ms. Miller can be contacted at 914-713-1001 or Please visit for more information. Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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Feature Focus
Architecture & Design: Authentic, Interactive and Immersive
If there is one dominant trend in the field of hotel architecture and design, it’s that travelers are demanding authentic, immersive and interactive experiences. This is especially true for Millennials but Baby Boomers are seeking out meaningful experiences as well. As a result, the development of immersive travel experiences - winery resorts, culinary resorts, resorts geared toward specific sports enthusiasts - will continue to expand. Another kind of immersive experience is an urban resort – one that provides all the elements you'd expect in a luxury resort, but urbanized. The urban resort hotel is designed as a staging area where the city itself provides all the amenities, and the hotel functions as a kind of sophisticated concierge service. Another trend is a re-thinking of the hotel lobby, which has evolved into an active social hub with flexible spaces for work and play, featuring cafe?s, bars, libraries, computer stations, game rooms, and more. The goal is to make this area as interactive as possible and to bring people together, making the space less of a traditional hotel lobby and more of a contemporary gathering place. This emphasis on the lobby has also had an associated effect on the size of hotel rooms – they are getting smaller. Since most activities are designed to take place in the lobby, there is less time spent in rooms which justifies their smaller design. Finally, the wellness and ecology movements are also having a major impact on design. The industry is actively adopting standards so that new structures are not only environmentally sustainable, but also promote optimum health and well- being for the travelers who will inhabit them. These are a few of the current trends in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.