How France’s hotels are rethinking style and space

Design has long been important to the hotel industry as a way to attract new guests and turn them into repeat visitors

05 mars 2019

In recent years, however, new brands to the market have raised the design standards to stand out from the crowd and win over a new generation of traveller looking for unique experiences. Faced with these new norms and higher guest expectations, long-standing establishments and big chains across France are rethinking how they use their space, as well as the look and feel of the hotel itself.

“The idea is to break with established design codes, to deconstruct old styles and reconstruct them in a modern way to create vibrant settings and enhance the atmosphere,” says Gwenola Donet, director of Hotels & Hospitality at JLL France. “By refurbishing reception areas, as well as bedrooms and communal areas in a style that speaks to their target audience, hotels want to show guests that they can provide a personalised experience and meet their micro-needs.”

Many Parisian hotels have recently been given a new lease of life such as the Grands Boulevardspart of the Experimental Group which dates from before the French Revolution, or the Bienvenue from Adrien Gloaguen with its speak-easy bar and modern design.

And whether they’re a boutique offering or part of a revamped chain, their aim is the same; to become a place where people want to spend time rather than just providing a bed for the night. Lobbies and restaurants are therefore increasingly open to locals as well as guests, helping to create a buzz that people want to be part of.

“Communal spaces have become places to socialise where hotel guests and locals are welcomed especially during special events,” says Donet. The Shangri-La Hotel in Paris, for example, has debuted a seasonal pop-up bar dedicated to the golden age of China’s Song dynasty with specially created food and cocktails.

But refreshing a hotel isn’t just about appearances. “Good design can leave a lasting impression but guests still want quality service and an experience that is unique and personalised,” says Donet.

From luxury to budget

It’s not only high-end hotel that are reassessing how they can create memorable experiences. Many of today’s travellers heading to mid-range and lower price hotels also have high expectations but lower budgets.

“It’s still necessary to add in new technology and create stylish spaces at lower price points,” says Donet. “But the question is how.”

Some hotels are opting for smaller bedrooms and bigger communal spaces, all artistically designed, creating more opportunities for guests to spend on food and drink.

“The idea is that hotel brands are not just selling the room alone but all areas used by the guests,” says Donet. “By creating high-quality communal spaces, hotels can offer smaller private spaces – a trend we’re seeing in the coworking and coliving sectors. This is driven by guests’ changing expectations but also by a need for better use of space in high price city centre real estate. The end result is that guests get a better experience for their money and hotel owners get a better return on their investment.”

With new design focused hotel brands joining the lower end of the French market, competition is heating up rapidly.

Mama Shelter, which combines open plan living and working areas with design-led bedrooms, has expanded its network into Toulouse. Motel One has also joined the mix in Paris with its individually-designed rooms aimed at budget travellers.

Big chains take note

The growing presence – and popularity – of ultra-modern hotels has led the bigger global chains to think about how their existing brands fit into the changing French market. Some are launching new brands to compete. Hilton, for example, is opening its first lifestyle hotels in France; the Canopy by Hilton Paris Trocadero will launch in mid-2020 and Canopy by Hilton Bordeaux Chartrons will welcome guests from early 2021 and are designed to reflect the local art, culture and cuisine.

“The success of new entrants will depend on how they use service and space, as well as their ability to create an experience and build a community to ensure rapid brand recognition,” says Donet.

“Many big hotels chains have a somewhat outdated image, especially among younger consumers. By bringing fresh new brands to the French market, it’s a chance to revitalise their image and attract new guests.”

Indeed, as the French market evolves to meet the changing tastes of today’s travellers, no brand can afford to stand still.

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