If you thought the global pandemic had curbed our collective wanderlust, then think again. Call it lockdown fatigue or simply human nature but research shows we still can’t wait to spend time away from home. A survey in early 2021 of more than 8000 people, by vacation rental marketplace Vrbo, found that 65% of Americans planned to travel more in 2021 than they did pre-COVID. Sure, we care much more about hygiene now and about measures taken to ensure our safety. And if we’re going to hit the road, we might now take our time or go for longer. We might explore destinations closer to home and with many of us used to working remotely, we might also combine work trips with holidays.
But even given these changing habits, the hotel trends that existed before the crisis have not gone away. If anything, as travel becomes something not to be taken for granted, we will temper our itinerant desires with more considered decisions. We’ll be much less willing to compromise. Where hotels are concerned, this means every detail counts. If before the pandemic, the hotel brand communicated through the minutiae of booking, the design of the interior, even the manners of the bell-hop, now the hospitality experience must be more imaginative and nuanced than ever.
Mi casa es su casa
the 21st-century hotel must enact a way of life; it must transmit the DNA of where it is located.
Perhaps partly due to the AirBnB effect, many of us want hotels to be more personalised, authentic, and unique. The era of the non-descript hotel chain – or the hotel as ‘non-place’ as French anthropologist Marc Augé termed it – is on the wane. Instead, the 21st-century hotel must enact a way of life; it must transmit the DNA of where it is located. Casa Bonay is a luxury hotel occupying a historic 19th-century building in Barcelona’s Example district. The hotel is the product of the city’s creative talents, of furniture makers, chefs, independent publishers and textile designers. We created Casa Bonay’s visual identity as a bright, sassy collage. From drink coasters to do-not-disturb signs to wayfinding, the combined effect is to convey the spirit of the Barcelona we know. Yes we have Gaudi, tapas and the Sagrada Familia but beyond the touristy clichés, Casa Bonay distils an attitude. It is a testament to Barcelona’s sexy irony, a love letter to the city’s heart and soul by those born and bred there.
Even major hotel chains have recognised this by incorporating new boutique brands into their offerings.
Casa Bonay is just one example of the growing popularity of boutique hotels. According to a report by management consultants McKinsey, this was the fastest growing hotel sector in the US between 2018 and 2019. Supply increased 10.6 percent compared with overall hotel supply growth of 2 percent. Even major hotel chains have recognised this by incorporating new boutique brands into their offerings. Owned by the Intercontinental Hotels Group, Kimpton has more than 80 hotels around the world. For each they adapt their detailed and sophisticated knowledge of the customer journey to a specific locale. So it was when we developed the identity of their Vividora hotel in the Gothic district of Barcelona, we created four distinct logotypes, for the hotel as well as for its café, restaurant and terrace. The elegant identity is unified but layered so that it chimes with the heterogeneous nature of the city.
If for some a hotel is an opportunity to get to know a place better, for others it is an opportunity to connect with themselves. Even before the onset of the pandemic, wellness tourism was on the rise. The idea that people want to feel better when they return home than before they left informed our rebrand of the Salobre Hotel located in the countryside of the island of Gran Canaria. With a logo, constructed of two “S” forms, representing a physical and spiritual path and evocative art-direction, the new brand focused on the idea of total serenity.
Less is more
While some hotel brands require the attentive design of every detail, others should not shout so loudly. For those who want to slow down and escape the pace and noise of urban life, Formentera’s Casa Pacha is an exercise in barefoot luxury. This ethos communicates through an interior comprised of natural materials – earthenware, straw, unfinished wood – and a neutral colour palette. We captured this with an almost undesigned visual language. As well as organising their brand architecture, the hand-drawn logo crowned by a pair of cherries elegantly evokes the sign on a beach shack. The branding succeeds in its restraint and authenticity, cementing the promise of the good, simple life.
In the 21st century, hotels must help us forge authentic relationships with places, ourselves or with one another. Whether the hotel broaden horizons or offers a chance to retreat, every element must work to turn it into a world unto itself. And it is up to the brand to tie these elements together and modulate the total experience.