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Andrew Linwood (Areen Hospitality): Residential-style spaces and limited-service concepts are the emerging trends in hotel design

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Andrew Linwood, the Head of Design Areen Hospitality talks to TravelDailyNews Asia-Pacific about hotel design concepts and trends around the world.

We asked Mr Andrew Linwood, the Head of Design of Areen Hospitality, one of the companies which is involved in the design of the mega hotel development project in Mecca to describe us the latest trends, concepts, challenges in the world of hotel design.


TravelDailyNews: Which are the major differentiation factors in hotel design among the various geographical regions, like Asia, Europe, USA, South America, Middle East?

Andrew Linwood: It’s the wrong question: the issue is not the differences between regions so much as the differences between mature and emerging markets as a conceptual issue; they are common across several regions. For example, in London I choose to cycle to work because it’s healthier, quicker and more pleasant. In India or Africa, if I cycled, it would mean I couldn’t afford a car. In design terms, the current fashion for retro, residential-style hotel interiors, while totally acceptable in London, Paris or Berlin would be viewed as poor, second-rate and unfinished the Middle East or South Asia.

TDN: Do you believe that the local character and atmosphere is threatened from the expansion of the international hotel brands?

A.L.: Not if skilled, professional designers, with international experience are part of the developer’s consultants team. International operators have responded to market changes with new, niche lifestyle brands aimed at different segments of the travelling public: young entrepreneurs, wealthy retired travellers as well as business travellers. The days when a Hilton, Sheraton or Marriott in Dallas looked the same as their namesakes in Dubai for example, are long gone. Ironically, it is often local, one-off properties that offer bland ‘international-style’ environments and F & B experiences because of their reluctance to respond to current market trends.
 
TDN: To which extent materials and elements selected can affect the friendliness and "healthiness" of a hospitality environment?

A.L.: It depends on how such materials are used: for example, raw concrete can look great if combined with complementary materials; perhaps highly polished stone, timber or glass. Clearly materials produced by toxic industrial processes, such as certain ply-woods and paint-finishes must be avoided to prevent the release of dangerous elements into the immediate environment. The ‘green’ agenda has been largely accepted by the hospitality design industry. Indeed, international operators are at the forefront of pushing such reforms; often their insurers will demand such practices. Whereas, referring to my previous point about local one-off hoteliers, they are often reluctant to embrace ‘green’ technologies for fear of increasing their operating costs.
 
TDN: Which are the biggest challenges a hotel interior designer has to deal with?

A.L.: Unrealistic client expectations regarding programme and budget; opening dates and costs are often underestimated and professional advise based on experience, ignored.
 
TDN: Which are the fast-emerging trends in hotels' interior design?

A.L.: I would say it’s the move to more relaxed, residential-style spaces in mainstream hotel design in the economy and mid-scale markets, often accommodated within a ‘limited service’ concept e.g. no restaurant or room service.
 
TDN: What kind of innovations you expect to see in hotels' design in the next decade?

A.L.: Technology will of course become even more common place: guests will expect free and fast wireless access. Conversely, there may be less gadgetry in the rooms as guest tire of working out TV menus for room service or using a tablet to close the curtains. Bathtubs will be replaced more often with luxurious showers. More personalised choice for meals and services will also become available. Guests will want to experience their local environment more than simply staying in the hotel.

TDN: Boutique hotels or mega-projects? How do you see the future growth of the hospitality industry?

A.L.: Both trends will continue in different markets. For example, we are currently design a small, 70 room hotel in north India as well as a 10,000 room pilgrim hotel in Makkah.
 
TDN: Which are the future projects your company is involved in?

A.L.: We expect growth throughout Africa: we currently have proposals submitted for projects in Mali, Madagascar, Kenya and Tanzania. But also, Pakistan, Spain and Saudi Arabia.



Andrew Linwood is the Head of Design for Areen Hospitality. Andrew has designed interiors for the world’s leading hotel operators, holding senior positions at well-renowned hospitality specialists. After studying Interior Design in London and working in the UK and Europe, Andrew became Senior Designer and then Managing Director of regional Interiors group GTD in Hong Kong. He went on to became Senior Project Designer with globally-renowned hospitality specialists Hirsch Bedner Associates in Singapore, designing luxury projects in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Russia and Thailand.
On his return to the UK he worked at Richmond International- part of the Areen Group- and in 2008 he established Areen Hotel Design, now known as Areen Hospitality.
As Head of Hospitality Design, Andrew is involved in and monitors all aspects of a project, from conception through to on-site installation. Areen Hospitality is currently working on projects in India, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
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