Last October, I was at the New York Comic Con having the best time at the Javits Center immersed in nerdvana. I’ve always loved visiting New York with its incredible energy and rich layers of architecture and culture. It was the Big City and very much the archetypal urban experience.
I have traveled every year for much of my adult life, spending two months of each year traveling and experiencing so much of what the world has to offer. My travels tended to be either short work trips or prolonged family vacations. This has allowed me to have a love-hate relationship with hotels. I love staying at storied old hotels immersed in the history and culture of its city or at brand new avant garde hotels that showcase the best facilities and architecture you can find. I hate staying at hotels whenever I’m traveling with my family or friends, where each of us are relegated to our rooms and wake up only to head out and explore this new place without having the time to actually quietly enjoy each other’s company.
This pandemic has pulled the travel industry to a screeching halt and the recovery will highlight the changes that have increasingly come to our places of hospitality in recent years. Spending on experiences has increased and the lowering cost of travel has allowed more and more people to experience traveling as never before.
When I stay at a hotel I look for a couple of things. Service and cleanliness are non-negotiable. Our recent experience in our own hermetically sealed homes will make us more aware and critical of the cleaning standards and procedures of not just guest rooms, but also all other hotel facilities. Services that make our stay smoother—with less unwanted interactions, in the form of in-room services or facilities, anticipated check-ins, and check out key drop boxes—will no longer be luxuries but vital features of any hotel.
One thing I try to look for in a hotel is a strong historical character that can allow me to have a feel of the local culture, especially if I won’t be able to really go around and see the city. In trips where you are just in and out of a city, it is always pleasantly surprising to find that the hotel you’re staying in has a story or two to tell about the city. This allows us to imagine the opportunities for adoptive reuse in our own cities’ heritage buildings. History can be a rather strong and robust feature for travelers.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve chosen to stay at a hotel because of the architecture or decor. Architecture can give a hotel a rich and diverse character instead of a dull bland homogeneity that one faces when design becomes merely an afterthought. We travel to see new things and are immediately uplifted when we find ourselves in strange new but incredibly comfortable environments.
There is nothing more delightful than finding nature in the concrete jungle. Hotels that integrate nature into its interior spaces and allow it to be not just another feature but a vital part of the experience are heaven-sent oases especially after a long and tiring day. Hotel gardens that showcase the local flora and allow us to see unique and attuned garden features briefly insert us into a different world.
Shared spaces, serviced apartments
Whenever I travel with family or friends, my overwhelming preference is to stay at an AirBnB or serviced apartment. Shared spaces with their much friendlier rates and appealing locality have been one of the incredible growth stories of recent years. These spaces have grown from an extra couch or room, to entire apartments and homes, or even castles and palatial mansions.
Personally the single most important reason to stay in an AirBnB are its social spaces. Once you’ve tried staying in one with your family or friends, I find it hard to imagine reverting back to dreary hotel vacations. Our personal vacations tend to be weeks-long affairs and more often than not, it is the time spent with my siblings just loitering on the couches that I enjoy the most.
While the bedrooms and bathroom facilities are never comparable to any hotel, being quite pedestrian and never really enough for however many bedrooms there are, it is the living and dining area, the kitchen and verandas that are truly important. Having multiple bedrooms open up and connect to these areas are, for me, irreplaceable. Being able to stock up on food, and having just about any snack you want at any time of the day or night, is a luxury I covet for my vacations.
If the future of travel is to become more and more experiential, then architecture will have an increasingly bigger role to play. The desire to create a genius loci is inherent in architecture and it will be needed to reimagine how our places of hospitality should evolve to better serve our wandering needs. Shared experiences will define how we can all grow together. A future that increasingly covets and cherishes time will seek these shared narratives to heighten our relations and sense of belonging.
Communal spaces that bring us together, from internal private spaces to public social spaces like lounges and dining amenities, will define the future of hospitality.