• Design hotels mature

The design hotel concept has gone, according to Chris Sanderson of the Future Laboratory. "The categorisation has shifted. It is no longer design with a big D" he told delegates at last week's Sleep Event conference.

The blurring of the line between leisure and business – bleisure – means a more concierge experience has to be delivered to consumers, he argued.

Sanderson rattled through a listing of key trends, including that the business centre will be the future profit centre of hotels. But he did not mean that this was because hotels could charge for the extra amenities but rather that it would become the centre of the hotel experience.

Rather than price sensitive consumers the future was about value added, consumers were being careful with money but they were prepared to spend for the right experiences. He said the key buzzwords for providing this experience were authenticity, intimate and spiritual.

Among the specific design trends were rough luxe, a luxury that was "rooted, honest and simple" through such ideas as mismatched furniture.

Citizen M was lauded for "rethinking what a hotel can do" including having a vending operation. At the upscale end of the market, Sanderson predicted the return of the Grand Hotel but with a modern twist.

 

HA Perspective: Design trends typically take years to feed through to the mainstream but the explosion of lifestyle concepts, notably Starwood's W and Schrager's various properties, have focused investors' attention on the segment.

Morgans Hotel Group, formerly Ian Schrager Hotels, last week showed that even being a style leader does not make you immune to the downturn. But EBITDA declines have at least slowed and were down 55% for the third quarter with revpar down 31%.

Last month Morgans secured $75m equity financing from Yucaipa, the Californian private equity firm founded by Ron Burkle. Yucaipa is also raising a property investment fund that will offer Morgans the opportunity to manage hotels it acquires.

In a separate move but one that also shows the increasing maturity of the lifestyle sector, Starwood has sold its Bliss spa and product company for $100m to Steiner Leisure. Bliss will remain exclusive to Starwood in the hotel space.

This shows maturity because hoteliers are realising that their focus is on running hotels, not on the ancillary flim-flam that it is tempting to be diverted by in the lifestyle space. Similarly, Morgans, having shed its founder, Ian Schrager, is now emerging as a focused operator of hotels rather than a flashy property development play.

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