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Mitu Mathur: The future of hospitality design

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Established in 1979, GPM – Architects & Planners provides comprehensive services across architecture, engineering and project management to all genres including Mix-Use, Commercial, Institutional, Townships, Residential, Industrial, Infrastructure and Hospitality projects. Mitu Mathur, director, GPM Architects and Planners, shares her perspective on the future of hospitality design

Travelling is one of the top things on everyone’s to-do list, especially during holidays, it significantly contributed to the economy and supported livelihoods of millions of people attached to the hospitality industry. With the Covid-19 pandemic, the hospitality industry is one of the hardest-hit sectors to feel the impact, as people are more conscious of hygiene and chances of exposure during travel. This will end up having an impact on the number of people. It’s very difficult to tell how quickly it will reset, and whether or not it will go back to normal. However, in terms of leisure, there might be a spike because people will be anxious about being coped up and will want to compensate after the pandemic passes.

The current scenario has taught us a new meaning of leisure and rejuvenation. The focus is more towards care, love and happiness – keywords that define wellness and revolve around enhancing immunity and longevity, rather than just luxury. A shift will be seen, as the hospitality industry will witness an inclination towards wellness and overall well-being of the body, mind and soul. Nature-inspired healing and treatments are likely to create an edge with natural Ayurvedic therapies, rejuvenation activities like Yoga, Pranayama and other yogic practices. Since people are now going to look for physical and mental wellbeing when these stressful times are over, more emphasis will be drawn towards locally available resources and practices. In the same spirit, the next generation of upscale hotels and resorts will greatly benefit from integrating experiential programming and lifestyle activities to offer more variety to a wider clientele. These trends are likely to be integrated on a much larger scale, bringing a revolution in the industry.

The future of hospitality design must cater to the context and the needs of the travellers – whether for business, leisure or family gatherings. Upon analysis of the needs and aspirations of the surrounding communities, activities within a hotel should be planned, so as to reduce superfluous maintenance and associated costs. Subsequently, hospitality integrated within mixed-use complexes will greatly benefit by offering a plethora of options for dining and recreation, which can otherwise be commonly available for the neighbourhood visitors as well such as F&B, cinemas, entertainment; thereby substantiating the initial and maintenance costs.

Hotels are becoming conjoined with this long line of what one might call the new way of living. The fluid boundaries are becoming interesting and this gives numerous opportunities to designers to experiment. This revolution is going to be layered on top of where the hotel has to morph to become much more extended and fluid, further loosening the modern definition of hotels and hospitality. Another important design intervention needed is the effective use of spaces. Since most hotels are now well equipped with technology, easy and quick check-ins have led to people spending less time in the large lobbies and waiting areas. So, one needs to see if such underused spaces can be clubbed with any other activity and hence serve better purposes.

The future design also needs to see more inclusion of sustainable design and architecture that not only integrates passive design techniques but also ensures efficient use of resources and effective use of the spaces. The majority of the hotels are already including sustainable practices in their design and functioning. This also includes general practices that can avoid wastage of resources. For e.g., some users leave the air conditioning system while they head out. The integration of smart technology can help avoid wastage of electricity in such cases. Another very important design aspect is to design the spaces effectively to serve the purpose. Large size bathrooms equipped with lavish bathtubs and 5 fixture panels etc. breed the wastage of water. Also, one of the core aspects of sustainability is to think locally. There will be a huge shift in supporting and buying local, which is one of the pillars of sustainability.

The very aspect to bring down the costs in designing hotels is to go Local rather than Global. The need is to pour in the locally sourced materials, which add an element of the immediate surroundings. Opting for locally available resources not only helps in bringing down the costs but also provides better opportunities for the local craftsmen in the region. It becomes a symbiotic process rather than standalone, as local manufacturing generates a business model for both the hotel owner and the craftsmen.

Furthermore, reducing redundant is necessary. Wastage of circulation areas, installation of expensive materials or items in lesser-used spaces, etc. needs to be omitted. A state-of-the-art design cannot necessarily be achieved by importing expensive materials from across the world, but can also be achieved through the use of local resources if organised properly. There has to be an element of trust in the local culture, and we can ensure that consumers will want to know more about where things have come from.

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