Lobby design has evolved dramatically in the last decade, becoming the primary focus of attention as the ﬁrst point of connection for both staying guests and non-guests. While traditionally a decorated space with check-in/out as the main function, lobbies are being used today in ways that have changed dramatically on the back of the shifting expectations and preferences of the modern guest.
From decorative spaces to active areas
In the past, lobbies were primarily adorned spaces with impressive high ceilings, crystal chandeliers and coffee-serving outlets. The latter is often a quick solution to bringing activity to a sometimes quiet space, such as at Crowne Plaza on Sheikh Zayed in Dubai, which features pastel-colored painted ceilings and stone-cladded columns. However, recent years have witnessed a shift toward lobbies becoming more active and functional. Today, they serve as vibrant social hubs, where guests can engage in small-scale business meetings or work comfortably, taking advantage of technology and connectivity. Hotel brands have realized that transforming F&B spaces into fully ﬂedged destinations within the lobby generates higher revenue and attracts both staying and non-staying guests.
Embracing the lobby as a destination
An excellent example of the evolving lobby usage approach is the London Edition, which features a bustling bar and lounge, complete with wall art, and can be accessed from street level, rather than having check-in counters at the forefront. This concept attracts a bustling crowd of non-staying guests, creating a dynamic and lively ambience. Following suit, several operators, such as IHG with Crowne Plaza and Accor with Pullman, have adopted this new lobby design philosophy.
Balancing traditional and modern luxury
While the active and energetic lobby concept appeals to younger generations, it may not be suitable for all brands. Luxury hotels targeting a different generation with more traditional values often maintain a conventional approach to lobby design. The perception of luxury, especially for mature guests, may still encompass a more formal ambience. Understanding the target market is crucial in striking the right balance between traditional and modern design elements to meet guests’ expectations. A commendable example is Four Seasons in Doha, Qatar, where the lobby features standout marble interiors and suitable furniture.
Reﬂecting guests’ demands
A hotel’s success lies in it being an accurate reﬂection of society, adapting to changing lifestyles and understanding diverse guest preferences. This includes lobby design, which should align with the desires and needs of modern travelers across the spectrum, as can be seen in the designs at Moxy, at the lower end of the scale, and Park Hyatt at the higher end.
Seamless integration of technology
In an era dominated by digital advancements, integrating technology into lobby design has become a necessity. Smart check-in systems, interactive displays and mobile concierge apps are streamlining guest experiences, allowing for effortless arrivals and departures. From keyless entry to personalized service requests via mobile devices, technology is today creating a seamless and efficient connection between guests and hotel staff.
Modern lobbies are transitioning from mere waiting areas to multifunctional social hubs. Embracing the concept of ‘third spaces,’ brands such as Aloft, Mama Shelter and Rove have had their lobbies designed to foster interactions and create memorable experiences. Incorporating ﬂexible seating arrangements, communal workspaces and inviting lounges encourages guests to gather, socialize and collaborate in a relaxed and comfortable environment.
Hotels are increasingly using their lobby spaces to showcase art as a way to captivate and engage guests. Incorporating local artwork and culturally signiﬁcant pieces adds a touch of authenticity, while creating a visually stimulating environment that sparks conversations and leaves a lasting impression. Some hotel owners are investing in a curated art collection, such as the Autograph Sifang Nanjing, a property partially designed by David, where a huge yellow Yayoi Kusama sculpture greets guests.
Authenticity and local culture
Today’s travelers are seeking authentic experiences that connect them with the local culture. Al Bait Hotel by GHM in Sharjah does this brilliantly with a lobby design that integrates and reﬂects the destination’s heritage and traditions through its beige stucco walls, interspersed with deep red and green authentic fabrics. Employing locally sourced materials, indigenous artworks and traditional craftsmanship helps create a sense of place, immersing guests in the local culture and creating a memorable stay.
Sustainability and conscious design
As environmental awareness continues to rise, sustainability has become a fundamental consideration in the design of public spaces. Introducing green initiatives and communicating sustainability efforts through lobby design reinforces a hotel’s commitment to responsible hospitality. Six Senses, among other brands, incorporates eco-friendly materials, energy-efficient lighting and sustainable practices to not only reduce the hotel’s ecological footprint but also heighten its appeal to environmentally conscious guests.
A remarkable lobby is one that people will remember because it stands out among the hundreds of others out there. Some of those found in the Middle East excel in capturing the essence of grandeur, such as Royal Atlantis, with its impressive art collection, Mondrian Doha, where theatrical design is used in an opulent manner, and Burj Al Arab, where the lobby becomes a multi-story atrium. These lobbies seamlessly integrate lavishness and elegance. Another eye-catching example is the 25 Hours Hotel, which creates an engaging and immersive experience for guests through its exceptional activation of space.
Always remember your market
The world of lobby design in the hospitality industry has undergone a signiﬁcant transformation, shifting from purely decorative spaces to dynamic, multifunctional areas, catering to guests’ evolving expectations. The integration of active areas, ﬂexible workspaces and social destinations within lobbies reﬂects the way people live and work today. However, it is important to strike a balance between traditional luxury and modern design in any approach, taking account of the target market and its perception of luxury. Seamless integration of technology and celebrating local authenticity are all crucial elements in creating captivating and immersive lobby spaces that enhance the overall guest experience. Ultimately, the success of a hotel lies in its ability to adapt, reﬂect guest demands and create eye-catching lobby spaces that enhance the overall guest experience.