More Interactive Lobbies

During the recent years, the hotel lobbies in the realm of Indian hospitality industry have undergone a sea change. They have evolved into active social hubs with cafes, bars, computer stations, and more. They often amalgamate business and fun creatively, and can be treated as revenue earning avenues.

The trend is to make the hotel lobby area interactive. The   traditional hotel lobby is getting transformed to a contemporary gathering place.

I discussed with experts about how hotel lobbies have significantly changed over the years and got their opinion on how can hotel lobbies can be made more functional, business-oriented and trendy.

Changing Face of Hotel Lobbies

“The hotel lobby has always been regarded as the guest’s first impression upon entering the hotel. As hotel design has evolved, the idea of the lobby solely being a place for guests to check-in has undergone a marked shift, and this change is for the better. Today’s hotel lobbies are taking on a multifunctional approach to engage the guests in a social setting,” asserted Nishant Agarwal, General Manager, The Westin Pune Koregaon Park.

“Developing a more functional hotel lobby can contribute to the guests’ satisfaction. According to many hospitality consultants, in 2018, across hotel lobbies in the Indian hospitality industry more front desks will be replaced with sit-down, comfortable concierge desks and sofa check-ins would be handled by staff equipped with iPads while guests sip on beverages. Additional design changes will aim to induce guests out of their hotel rooms and into dynamic social spaces,” Agarwal pointed out.

“Hospitality brands are reinventing their hotel lobbies to accommodate a range of activities focused around work, relaxation and play. Increasingly, hotels are moving towards a more integrated lobby model that offers a comfortable, convenient space to congregate, enjoy food and drink, socialise and conduct business,” averred Jaswinder Narang, General Manager Complex, Sheraton Grand Pune Bund Garden Hotel.  

“In the past, hotel lobbies while being palatial in size, used to have a lot of large empty spaces. The lobbies used to be decorated with ethnic artifacts based on different traditional themes, had plush & extravagant set-ups with limited seating options, used to have decorative flower setups; thus spelling grandeur and luxury. The hotel lobby used to have more of an opulent look and feel to it and less of an interactive space which would be warm and inviting towards guests. There were very few hotels which provided food & beverage offerings at the lobby level, and even those that offered had very limited options,” recollected Ishaan Malik, Front Office Manager, Conrad Pune.

 “However, these days hotel lobbies have evolved into   more interactive spaces. Even though they still evoke a feeling of luxury and grandeur, they are designed in a more modern manner with high ceilings, with provision of ample natural sunlight and with contemporary artefacts. The hotel lobby has now become an extremely dynamic and central place of a hotel, where a resident or even a non-resident guest feels welcome to use it to accomplish various tasks like completing pending work, host quick meetings, network with friends, grab a quick meal on-the-go or even use it as a waiting area,” Malik proffered.

Industry Developments

“Westin Hotels and Resorts as a brand has always been known for lobbies which are designed with a minimalist approach. Generally our lobbies have ample sunlight and a clutter-free space with few seating options. The Westin Pune Koregaon Park is no exception to the same. Recently we have added few more elements to make the hotel’s lobby more engaging for the guests. We have tied up with an organisation to showcase their artworks at the lobby, which changes every three months. We have also engaged with wedding planners and decorators to do a small display of a wedding set-up at one corner of the lobby. This not only adds vibrancy to the entire lobby area but also gives the guests a glimpse about the weddings that we can host at the hotel,” Agarwal elaborated.

 “At the Sheraton Grand Pune, we have a multi-use lobby which is Wi-Fi-enabled and features a mixture of furniture types and spatial configurations. Lounge seating for relaxation, semi-private pods for meetings, namely ‘Den’ which provides all the necessary features of a meeting space and can accommodate 3-4 people and work stations with charging capabilities are features of our lobby,” Narang added. 

“At the lobby, we offer a wide range of food & beverage options, which include assorted sandwiches, smoothies, fresh juices, health drinks & snacks for guests who would like to grab a meal/drink while on the go,” disclosed Narang.

“At Conrad Pune, we provide complimentary Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the lobby to facilitate our guests to execute their day-to-day tasks seamlessly. There is also easy to access power points all across the lobby to ensure that there is no problem when it comes to working with a laptop or for quickly charging one’s phone,” Malik disclosed.

 “The lobby of Conrad Pune definitely exudes contemporary luxury.  As soon as one enters the lobby of Conrad Pune, the first food and beverage outlet that is likely to catch the attention of the guests is the in-house cafe & delicatessen named ‘Pune Sugar Box,’” Malik asserted.

 “An ideal place to recharge with a quick bite and/or a refreshing cup of tea or coffee, the deli offers deliciously baked pastries and savouries, fresh salads, a range of sandwiches and pastas as well as hand-made chocolates and specialty cookies. Pune Sugar Box is an integral part of the lobby; an ideal outlet for catching up with friends, families and colleagues over quick meals,” Malik pointed out.

Hotel lobbies can also be the ideal places for leisure, after a tiring journey. “This year, most of the staff at our front desk operations have been equipped with iPads to handle check-ins and photo IDs, while guests sip on coffee or soft drinks at leisure,” Malik stated.

 “The lobby also houses a 24-hour business center, equipped with Mac and Windows PC options, high speed Internet, print, photocopy and fax options to assist our guests to catch up on work in case they are not carrying a personal laptop. They can even print a quick boarding pass prior to their flight,” conveyed Malik.

According to him, “Varied set-ups of plush sofas and dynamic seating arrangements in the lobby assist business travellers in having discussions and quick meetings with their colleagues.”

That is not all. “Another way by which Conrad Pune has adopted the ‘home-away-from-home’ concept is by re-designing the public areas from business like, pragmatic spaces to living room-like spaces that are warm and inviting. Additional design changes will induce to move guests out of their rooms and into dynamic social spaces in order to encourage community building, bonding and togetherness amongst our guests and patrons,” Malik explained. 

 “Just as a living room is central to every home, so too is the Park Hyatt Hyderabad lobby. Here the traditional concept of a hotel lobby has been re-imagined and transformed. Its highlight is a sparkling water feature that surrounds a 35-foot tall white abstract stunning sculpture designed by John Portman,” informed Mohit Malhotra, Executive Assistant Manager, F&B, Park Hyatt Hyderabad.

 “The outlet named The Living Room at the lobby is Hyderabad’s new destination for casual rendezvous over freshly brewed beverages, with a rich influence of local flavours. It showcases eye-catching interiors. The outlet is known for its unique combination of Indian and western snacks, fine selection of gourmet patisserie, assorted cookies, Irani chai, Osmania biscuits, & more,” observed Malhotra.

 “The Living Room offers its guests with an experience of sophisticated ambience, tastefully furnished with generous touches of contemporary features, which makes it ideal for small discussions over freshly brewed coffee,” Malhotra added further. 

 “At the lobby level and complementing the interiors of the space is our ArtWalkWay. Showcasing the fine works of budding as well as acclaimed artists, the ArtWalkWay at Park Hyatt Hyderabad is one of the city’s leading galleries, and hosts some of the fine art masterpieces,” expressed Malhotra.

Experts Suggest

Narang also went on to give some key tips towards making hotel lobbies more functional, business-oriented and trendy.

“Hotel lobbies can be generally percceived as  large open and inviting space, with few structural walls.  It should have three separate functional areas — a welcome area, a social and business area, and a personal area.  These areas should work together smoothly and flow together seamlessly through the strategic placement of assorted furnishings and technology-based guest services,” opined Narang.

“The key game changer will be the innovative use of technology to encourage guests to spend more time in the lobby and at the same time subtly providing them with the relevant information about the food and beverage and other services at the property, like spa. The check-in area of the lobby should become more casual and informal. The traditional front desk should be replaced with comfortable desks and chairs where guests and staff can sit casually,” Narang explained.

“The hotel lobby nowadays should be a true oasis of culture, a place that surprises and delights in its alchemy of artistic expression, human connection and palpable energy,” pointed out Malhotra, while adding, “The lobby should ideally be the heart and soul of a hospitality property; the indispensable hub of its functional and social activities. This vital gathering place should unfold as a series of vignettes, sketching a vivid depiction of all the hotel has to offer, thereby establishing a true spirit of the property.”

“Whether you want to make it grand, sophisticated, or homely and intimate, design the hotel lobby with a living room in mind—a place that serves as a social gateway for people to gather together. Use comfortable furniture and unique flooring, floor coverings and light fixtures, keeping within the hotel’s style and setting,” advised Malhotra.

 “Warm and welcoming lighting, visually engaging art, reading materials, and easily accessed pathways should be the characteristics of hotel lobby spaces,” affirmed Malhotra. 

To conclude, according to Malhotra, the hotel lobby’s interior look and feel should always reinforce its exterior perspective, location, and contextual surroundings.

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