There are many hotels in this world that pride themselves on their beautiful architecture. The Dolder Grand in Switzerland, The Langham Chicago, Hotel ME London, and the Hongta Hotel in Shanghai, China are all examples of stellar design that simply takes your breath away. But there’s yet another reason that makes all these establishments unique – they’ve managed to do something that was thought to be impossible before – balance form with function and marry operational efficiency with eye catching design, without compromising on class or style in any way.
But what exactly is operational efficiency?
Operational efficiency comes in several forms, and is not limited to intelligent design that streamlines staff and service movement. It also has a lot to do with internal energy efficiency, waste management, use of smart equipment and efficient layouts, design that avoids clash of guest and services movements and using the right materials that provide massive returns on your hard-earned investment.
Let’s take a look at a few aspects of designing an operationally efficient hotel.
The Future is Now
If you simply prioritize small term gains in terms of cheap, more expendable materials, you’re in for a hard time. You might have significantly lesser investment, but this will eventually be a maintenance nightmare. This approach neglects the long-term health of the building, and you’ll spend way more than you would have initially.
Hard-surface elements are highly favorable. For example, consider using a wood-grain vinyl flooring as compared to carpeting. Not only is it more efficient, durable, and easy to maintain, it also has a classier feel to it. Carpets tend to get dirty faster, require more cleaning, generates a high equipment cost and occupies more manpower.
Another great way to save up on space is favoring showers as compared to tubs in the bathroom space – this results in no vacuuming, and smaller space to clean.
Over that, hard-surface elements can always be renovated with the help of textiles, that add color and vibrancy depending on your design choices. This type of renovation is also easier out on the pocket.
Minimizing case goods (furniture made of hard materials) is also prudent. When you are deciding to change up the soft-goods, this option makes it cheaper and results in less downtime.
Lighting and HVAC upgrades
Traditional light fixtures may give you an ornate look, but they require more maintenance since they typically have glass coverings that are prone to debris, dirt, and insect collection. Also, the energy consumption is higher and waste disposal is a nightmare due to hazardous materials found in these lights.
LEDs nowadays have incredibly versatile designs, and save costs when it comes to construction and operations. They also average just 20 per cent of the electricity costs associated with traditional lighting. While we understand that the effects of incandescent lighting are hard to achieve with LED, some areas like the signage, guest rooms, lobbies and conference spaces can be optimized to use energy efficient lighting solutions.
Occupancy sensors are also great, since they save you a lot of money by turning off the ventilation and lights when nobody is in the vicinity. Since lighting is required 24/7 due to security and other measures, minimizing costs when needed is necessary. Night-light alternatives are great, particularly for backup.
HVAC needs constant monitoring, and you need to remove rigid points for supplying air and water at the desired temperatures. Switching to an IoT-based, centrally managed system that is responsive and dynamic may be expensive to begin with, but it will result in tremendous savings. IoT also allows you to monitor units for maintenance and upkeep, which if neglected, can bring in a slew of other costs.
Other recommendations in this area include:
- Equipping vending machine lights with sensors
- Retrofitting backroom lighting with low-watt alternatives
- Reducing marquee lighting
Use hotel spaces in a dynamic manner so that you don’t have to construct additional structures, or decommission existing ones.
For example, communal tables can work as bars during the night and can serve breakfast during the day. Hilton’s ‘Tru’ in Virginia has used all its spaces for multi-functionality. They have a huge lobby called ‘The Hive’, which they divide into four zones:
- The work zone with desk space, and cubes for focus
- The lounge area, for communal activity
- A play zone, for indoor games
- An eating zone which is circular, so it also doubles up as a front desk with space for light meals and snacks.
Keeping such considerations in mind, aesthetic, yet functional, design can easily be implemented.
The Tech Edge
Keeping guest preferences in mind can be hard. What is even harder is keeping abreast of all the changes in preferences, and wrapping your head around technological upgrades.
While rooms themselves have a lifespan of years, tech can get obsolete within a short span of time – sometimes months, if not years. This is a problem many are attempting to work around, and the only tangible solution is to indulge in agile architecture that can easily accommodate these changes.
In addition, using analytics and big data will help you get a better understanding of your consumer base, which, in turn, will not give you rude shocks when it comes to implementing a design or new fixtures.
New travelers are mostly millennials. Companies like AirBnB are witnessing a stellar rise in their business because of how personalized their listings are, and the kind of hyperlocal experiences that they’ve been curating.
Branded hotels face a challenge in this regard, and retrofitting design to reflect this is highly recommended. When using materials, for example, pick locally sourced materials that foster local ties with craftsmen and other providers. Having a strong network helps amplify your atmosphere to reflect that local element.
Do not limit your hotel experience to the space you possess. Yet other tie-ups with experiences that are regional will help you personalize further. From every branded property you have, a different experience should ensue to eliminate the monolithic feeling.
The element of ‘geographic’ design is also essential. Your design should exhibit variance. In cold weather, walls that insulate better can result in immense savings in the form of energy consumption required to heat the property up. The same goes for disaster prone areas that need adaptive structures.
This also comes into its own when differentiation is put into the picture. Design elements need to act as differentiators, echoing a versatile brand identity. Design for different segments of your guests, and act according to them, otherwise it may look absurd. For businessmen and corporates, the vibe of the room needs to be more streamlined and centered on minimal occupancy. For families, accommodations need to be more child-friendly. For travelers seeking a truly unique experience, research the latest functional quirks in design.
Do note that the segments also bleed into one another, so being on top of your game will be essential.
When it comes right down to it, operational efficiency is not difficult to achieve. You need to act with foresight and keep the bigger picture in mind. It isn’t enough to fulfill only your short-term goals and take measures that aren’t cost effective in the long run. Sustainable existence has to become a priority for hotels and they have to factor it into their game plan from day one. Once operational efficiency is driving all your decisions, you are unlikely to be lead astray.
Ram Gupta, the author is a hotel management graduate from India and Germany; He is a certified Hotel Administrator from U.S. and MIH from U.K. He has over 40 years of sound experience in the Hospitality, real estate industry in India, Dubai, U.K, Europe and Japan and is well versed with all areas of business including acquisitions, mergers, joint ventures, diversification, strategic planning, development and operations. He has been associated with over two dozen luxury and boutique hotel projects and has launched two hotel chains in India. He is currently an independent hotel consultant and could be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.bcgglobal.com
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