Mr. Roberts

Architecture & Design

Smart Design is Universal Design

By Alan Roberts, Global Head of Embassy Suites by Hilton, Hilton Worldwide

To meet the needs of the guest of today and the desire for a unique experience, not just a place to lay one's head at the end of a long day, a hotel's design now needs to provide both a 'You Are Here' and a 'You Can Feel at Home Here' guest experience. This has become true for almost every category of hotel, regardless of the scope of the property. At the same time, for upscale All Suites brands like Embassy Suites by Hilton that require more lead time to build, taking a thoughtful forward-thinking approach to design is essential. Careful attention must be paid to delivering a prototype that not only adapts to various locales, but also allows for ongoing adjustments to ensure hoteliers stay on the forefront of trends, as well as travelers' ever-changing styles and demands.

The Beauty of Flexibility

Design has always been about change. It is a direct reflection of the evolving world around us interpreted into spaces that make our lives easier and elevate our overall lifestyle.

Understanding this, adaptation was central to the creation of the new prototypes for Embassy Suites and our sister All Suites brand Homewood Suites by Hilton. Several years were spent perfecting each design, which included both customer research and ongoing collaboration with owners to create prototypes that made it easier than ever to build an All Suites property that meets customers' changing needs no matter the location.

The new Homewood Suites prototype, for example, allows for up to 85 percent studio suites in the room categories for a property - an option that wasn't offered previously. Similarly, through the "kit of part" approach offered by Embassy Suites' Design Option III, which allows for a mix of up to 20 percent studio suites, owners' room configurations can be tailored to maximize occupancy based on a particular market's demands. Moreover, both designs provide flexible, yet intimate, public spaces that can easily be infused with local touches and adapted to the changing desires of a wide variety of travelers.

Flexibility was also built into the design of Home2 Suites by Hilton. The youngest All Suites brand in the Hilton portfolio utilizes modular furniture allowing guests to personalize their suites. This customization also extends to Home2's public spaces, especially its Inspired table F&B program which offers more than 400 unique breakfast combinations, and outdoor patios where guests can relax and enjoy the local scenery.

From Cityscapes to Coastal landscapes

There is no question that the All Suites brands' flexible and scalable prototypes have been key to growth in high-barrier-to-entry urban markets. These creative cost-saving building models have vastly increased the number of potential sites for an All Suites hotel. In fact, in 2017 alone Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites have opened locations in New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans, bringing the All Suites brands' current footprint of urban properties to more than 30 hotels.

The All Suites brands have also embraced adaptive reuse to penetrate metropolitan markets where real estate is at a premium. Conversion of the historic Plymouth Building, an landmark building listing on the National Register of Historic Places, into the Embassy Suites Minneapolis Downtown is a prime example of adaptive design with a sense of place, as well as history. We paid homage to the building's original Beaux-Arts architecture by preserving historic details such as the tall entry doors, marble guestroom corridors, granite staircases and oversized guest room windows, while making sure we still offered the modern amenities and conveniences Embassy Suites guests love.

Adaptability has also been important to the expansion of our footprint in resort destinations. Historic resort towns often require a very specific design aesthetic that hotel owners need to meet. Providing owners with versatile brand designs ensure properties like our upcoming Embassy Suites St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort in Florida will blend seamlessly into the local coastline. This hotel is one of only five beachfront resort properties within the Embassy Suites by Hilton portfolio, but reflects the increased demand for suite-style hotels in coastal destinations, one we are meeting through flexible design.

Creative Use of Space to Infuse a Sense of Place

Public spaces are ideal for showcasing the local flavor of a town or city - a few unique decorative touches in the lobby or creative approaches to the F&B offering instantly connect your hotel with the location.

This was a driving factor in the creation of Embassy Suites' Atrium Refresh program, a renovation initiative that transforms the original hotel atriums from traditionally large, open-air spaces filled with live plants, large scale water features and multiple elevation changes, into scalable and often localized, social lobbies that invite guests to work, dine and interact in comfortable spaces. Currently, 45 percent of Embassy Suites hotels are undergoing a renovation aimed at this kind of modernization. Between new openings and the high percentage of hotels planning a complete Atrium Refresh by the end of 2019, more than 70 percent of Embassy Suites properties will have a modern interior less than six years old.

These modernized interiors are not only strengthening guest satisfaction and loyalty, but also providing the opportunity to give travelers a truer sense of place. For example, the recently renovated Embassy Suites by Hilton Raleigh-Crabtree includes a scientific aesthetic that pays homage to the hotel's location within the heart of Research Triangle. The atrium's refreshed dining areas feature a bar area displaying scientific charts and graphs and a blackboard wall covered with Einstein-inspired chalk calculations. The 2015 redesign also targeted the meeting rooms, all of which were renamed after famous inventors. The walls of the boardrooms were replaced with solid glass panels covered in a film resembling a DNA matrix, and designed to encourage visual collaboration.

Our new Embassy Suites in midtown Manhattan is another illustration of a hotel that reflects its location. The name of the hotel restaurant, for example, is The Heist. It is a playful nod to the hotel's historic Diamond District location, home to New York City's vast collection of jewelers and diamond wholesalers. Custom art and furniture throughout the property contribute to its upscale experience for guests.

The developer and Embassy Suites team worked closely on the hotel's unique, overall design to make the best use of the available space in a way that appeals to the urban traveler, and attract business from locals through its F&B offerings and meeting spaces. The suites are smaller than the standard for All Suites offerings, but remain spacious compared to other options for travelers in New York City. The unique approach was the best design strategy for this distinctly competitive location because it provided a higher key count and a greater return on investment.

Although a one-of-a-kind Embassy Suites property, the hotel still offers signature amenities and a brand-standard, full-service experience. The design aesthetic amplifies the roomy footprint of the suite while still separating the living and sleeping areas. This provides guests with a closer experience to home. Embassy Suites Midtown Manhattan maintains the brand's commitment to offer rooms with these two distinct areas, even in urban markets with a smaller footprint.

Translating Design Abroad

Smart design is universal and speaks volumes about a brand in any language. But just like our expansion into new U.S. destinations, when the All Suites brands by Hilton enter international markets, it is essential that we balance local, cultural considerations with our core brand pillars.

Once again it has been our strategic approach to design that has enabled Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites to expand internationally. The flexibility of the Design Option III prototype has also allowed the Embassy Suites' brand to grow its Caribbean footprint in established resort destinations, such as our upcoming property in St. Kitts & Nevis. Located in Pelican Bay, the resort will be part of a condo-hotel development and is being customized to meet the needs of individuals and families visiting the island with added features including multiple dining options, a kids' club and a spa.

Likewise, Homewood Suites' Caribbean and Latin America design emphasizes efficiency of space, while staying true to the brand experience by creating a clear sense of place. Guests of the pending Homewood Suites Latin American properties will be welcomed by an inviting, open-concept lobby that will include a full-service bar and lounge, another feature added to meet the needs of the market.

Ultimately, keeping up with constantly changing design trends, and the tastes of travelers that shift with them, doesn't have to be trying for hoteliers or hinder new hotel development. It simply requires thinking ahead and investing upfront in versatile, shared spaces and smart suite designs that keep cultural considerations in mind. Whether their travels bring them to an urban center, a historic neighborhood or an overseas destination, delighting guests by incorporating the local flavor or unique significance of a property plays to their sense of adventure. Additionally, providing guests with the comfort, amenities and sense of home they come to expect from the All Suites brands by Hilton continues to bring them back for more, more often.

Alan Roberts, Vice President & Global Head of Embassy Suites by Hilton, serves as chief strategist and champion for the brand. His focus is product and service standards, unit distribution strategies and ownership relations. He is also responsible for operational excellence, profitability and the further expansion of the brand's portfolio. A 30-year veteran of the industry, Mr. Roberts has served in many capacities. He started his career on the Brand Performance & Sales Support team for Hilton Garden Inn (HGI), as a Director. He also served as Sr. Director, became HGIís Vice President, Brand Performance and Sales Support. Mr. Roberts joined Embassy Suites by Hilton in 2013. He was named to his current role in 2016. Mr. Roberts can be contacted at 703-883-1000 or alan.roberts@hilton.com Extended Bio...

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