Boutique Design New York’s (BDNY) keynote session set the tone and direction for the 10th anniversary edition of the premier trade fair and conference for the hospitality design industry. And the tangible buzz of excitement in the air carried throughout the day, as the leading professionals and greatest minds in the business provided roadmaps for how to create guest engagement that goes beyond the room stay to experiential memorabilia, achieving genuine loyalty.
“What we’re seeing is that in every aspect of our environments, whether they’re digital or whether they’re physical, is that the human instinct is to actually reach out, and participate and influence and even control in some way the experiences around us,” said Amahl Hazelton, in charge of strategy & development, urban spaces, for Moment Factory, who joined in conversation with David Kepron, vice president, global design strategies, distinctive premium brands, Marriott International for Digi-tecture: Create Immersive, Interactive Experiences that Change as Fast as Guests’ Minds. He spoke to the use of light as a medium being a critical building block in creating spaces that respond in ways that awaken our senses. “There are ways that spaces can break down our instinct to isolate and bring us back to a collective experience,” he says.
But it’s also important to remember the difference between spaces and places, says Kepron. Spaces hold “stuff.” And it’s not about “the stuff.” Places hold meaning and memory and drive relationships forward. He challenged the audience to think differently about how they view architecture, because “monuments are moving into moments.” Cathedrals, bridges and more are being transformed by Hazelton and Moment Factory, such as with the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Quebec where they created multimedia storytelling stations. Providing people with the opportunity to do more than just observe and experience something together rather than separately, took visitorship from just 7,000 to 77,000—each paying $25 a head.
Restructuring our way of thought also resounded loud and clear at the Boutique Design booth, #3881, during one of the Master Classes: Human-Centered Brand Creation, with Denise Korn, creative director, Gensler, and Shai Zelering, managing director, real estate, Brookfield.
“If you look at Trip Advisor, the best customer reviews are coming from the valet,” explains Zelering, as they do a better job than the concierge in promoting their sense of place and community. Korn spoke of a project where even the gardeners were trained on how to convey the property’s story and background. In terms of operations, staff and the people that make your project a place of connection, “Ask the question ‘why not’ or ‘how do we change things?’” says Zelering. “Why do we need to have room service, especially today with services like Urban Eats? Do we need a uniform? What is a uniform, really?”
People want experiences that are unique to them, he explains, and they turn around and tell their own version of that story via social media—which is created via the details that speak to them. And if they aren’t authentic they will make it known.
Korn also referenced their work together on Boston’s Kimpton Nine Zero. The hotel’s symbol is a restructuring of the pattern found on the manhole covers of the city streets. “It actually has a lot of meaning. Because everything Shai and I do together isn’t just decorative. It’s all tied to the overall, very deep understanding of what that asset needs to be solidly positioned in the market for the long haul,” says Korn. “Those manhole covers have been there centuries and they’re embedded into our story. Now people are looking down and their looking up when they’re in our property.”
The New in New York session panelists got even more granular, schooling the crowd on emersion therapy. Audience members took deep dives into some of the most groundbreaking projects of the year, such as the funky new Mercado Little Spain in Hudson Yards with Michael Doneff, chief marketing officer, ThinkFoodGroup; the TWA Hotel (which had more than 150 consultants on it mind you, all working towards former owner of the airline Howard Hughes’ inspiration of “make it feel like flight and movement”) with Sara Duffy, senior interiors associate, Stonehill Taylor; the legendary brand MomoFuku’s Kāwi restaurant, also in Hudson Yards, with Anwar Mekhayech, founding partner and principal, DesignAgency.
But it’s not just the higher-end of the market that wants to be transported in fun and innovative ways. When owners and designers sat down at the table for We Said, They Said: What Hotel Owners and Designers Can Learn From—and Teach—Each Other, the two sides discussed how there’s a special focus being placed more and more on flexible F&B and other amenities at limited and select service properties as well. This has forced both to consider new revenue streams, such as with the pop-up retail options within the micro spa (making it seem more robust) and lobby art for sale at the Hyatt Centric in Baltimore that Karin Harrington, principal, Studio Partnership integrated into the project.
Of course, this was just a tiny sampling of all the show has to offer. With one day left, it’ll be hard to fit it all in, but we challenge you to try. We look forward to even more in-depth looks and insights into the future of our industry tomorrow, kicking off at 9:30 a.m. with the Boutique Design Power Players: Women Leaders in Hospitality Breakfast and Panel Discussion in conference room 1E14/15. And follow along with our live coverage across all of Boutique Design‘s social media channels of the Gold Key Awards Gala at 6:30 p.m. at Cipriani, 110 East 42nd Street. The suspense is killing us! Who will win…
This group of designers and owners—members of AAHOA, the association that brings together the owners of nearly half of all the hotels in the United States—spoke frankly of what they can learn from each other.
Left to right, top row to bottom:
Michelle Finn, vice president, Boutique Design; Meg Prendergast, principal, The Gettys Group Inc.; Jim Looney, president, Looney Associates; David Dunphy, principal, Studio HBA; Hitesh (HP) Patel, chief operating officer, Curve Hospitality; Mayur Patel, managing partner, Prosper Hospitality; Nimisha Patel, executive vice president, Vue Hotels, AAHOA female director, Western Division; Karin Harrington, principal, Studio Partnership; Amy Jakubowski, client relationship director & design director, Wilson Associates; Nishant (Neal) Patel, partner, Vue Hotels