Sifting through the sameness in hotel design


Designers love trying new things. But a copycat ethic permeating the industry makes it tough for truly distinct designs to either be implemented or to stand out for a meaningful period of time.

This one isn’t as nefarious as it seems. There aren’t are many designers and hotel executives out there outright stealing ideas from other creators. Nah, what’s happened is that as an industry we have decided widespread imitation is called a “trend,” and we rarely think about how that impacts the overall creative influence and individual hotel earning potential in the business.

On Fleek or Copycat Design?

The problem is so deep and so widespread, the average industry executive doesn’t really consider this an issue. Until this epiphany, I was right there with everyone else. Near universally, decision makers think about the “trends” and how to leverage them. However, a massive problem of sameness and design rigidity is creatively stifling. Worse, it’s again steering the industry toward product commoditization. And that will destroy future profit potential.

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This all became clear to me while I was at HD Expo a couple of weeks back in Las Vegas. Not Scientology clear, but pretty clear nonetheless.

I started wondering if as an industry we’re working hard enough to add new and exciting elements to hotels, or are we destined to simply rehash and reproduce the same ideas over and over until they become stale.

Unfortunately, I think the latter is true, as I’m seeing the same ideas rehashed and repurposed as hotel brands are reinvented, reintroduced or debuted. And while I appreciate the tons of consumer behavior research that arm executives with the ammo they need to confidently implement a specific design feature, it’s starting to feel like research is backing up a pre-baked concept rather than leading to interesting breakthroughs.

Sense and Lack of Sensibility

And its leading to lame sameness that’s once again giving consumers reasons to not connect with one hotel brand or company.

Here’s an example: I’m constantly being told that millennials are not brand loyal. My retort is perhaps they are too young and inexperienced with travel to have settled on their favorite brands. They’re in the experimental phase still of their lives and trying to understand what works for them.

Lately, however, I’m thinking my above assessment is only a half truth. Maybe what’s happening is the lack of consumer brand loyalty is the industry’s fault for serving up the same exact ideas over and over again by creating fungible products that don’t stand out.

How can we truly expect a hotel brand to stand out when they all seemingly have active lobbies with communal tables, hidden breakfast areas and fire pits out back? In the room, it’s all about showers, slimmed-down case goods, white bedding, bad lighting and not enough outlets (can we fix those last two issues please?).

Breaking the Design Mold

The sameness is tiresome, boring and doesn’t fully utilize the design talent that I see around the industry. I’m looking forward to seeing many of the industry’s top designers June 20-23 at HOTEC DESIGN where I plan to challenge the industry to find new ways to capture consumer attention through design differentiation.

But, today, I want to open up this very big issue to everyone. Is there a way out of the design commoditization trap or are we destined to repeat design victories until they are meaningless?

What are some of the ways you can convince owners to be bold and try something new? Drop me a line at [email protected] or on Twitter and Instagram @TravelingGlenn.

Glenn Haussman is editor-at-large for HOTEL MANAGEMENT. His views expressed are not necessarily those of HOTEL MANAGEMENT, its parent company Questex Media Group, and/or its subsidiaries.

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