Hoteliers need to pay more attention to creating multifunctional spaces within lobbies and public areas, according to a panel at the Annual Hotel Conference last week.
When questioned about the profitability of public spaces, a panel of interior designers and architects agreed that lobbies were important for creating a buzz, and in that sense pay for themselves.
Susanna Kingston, senior designer at Ennismore, owner of the Hoxton brand, emphasised the importance of getting local residents into the building. Sara Cosgrove of Sara Cosgrove Design said bringing in locals created an emotional connection between the city and the guest as a result: "People create energy. You'd much rather have a lobby with energy rather than an empty lobby," she added.
Jason Holley, director of Universal Design Studio, which designed the Ace Hotel London, agreed: "You need people there first and foremost. Deliberately attract people [locals] to give it a buzz and as a result people [hotel guests] will feel connected to that city immediately. They will start to buy coffees because that generosity is seen and repaid. They will return and tell people about it."
Director at the Manser Practice, Jonathan Manser, concurred that having a space people want to use increases occupancy levels, and that getting people into the building is one step towards getting them to stay in the building. However, such spaces need to be carefully considered in order to be successful.
"What is the meeting you're trying to facilitate?" Holley advised delegates to ask themselves, and to ensure this was communicated clearly to guests while also providing choice. Even corporate groups want something that "feels more human" than they used to, he added. Cosgrove suggested this was because managers want to take their staff to places "where they can think differently" to the office.
She stressed things like Wi-Fi and power are now "non-negotiables" and a critical part of hotel design.
Manser concluded: "As public spaces become more multifunctional and you reduce the size of the bedroom, less time is spent in the bedroom and public areas start to earn their keep."