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Hotel Design Held Key to Its Success : Speaker Stresses Need to Plan for Service to Guests

November 10, 1985|EVELYN De WOLFE

The view that design is vital to every hotel's success, and that cooperation between architects, designers and management is essential from day one, was stressed by Jonathan Tisch, keynote speaker at a symposium on restaurant and hotel design sponsored by UCLA Extension at the Meridien Hotel in Newport Beach.

The vice president of Loews Hotels, whose responsibilities include coordinating domestic and international hotel development for the $13-billion Loews Corp., expressed hope for increased cooperation between developer and operator, developer and designer and operator and designer.

"I'd like to point out a few trouble spots on the horizon," Tisch told his audience, "because I think our industry as a whole is in for some rough traveling.

Stress on Service

"The three most important words in the hospitality business are service, service, service. What a guest experiences during his stay in a hotel creates a feeling that will either bring him back or drive him away."

Tisch emphasized that the design of a hotel is fundamentally related to the quality of the guest's stay. Design flaws that annoy any traveler, he said, would include poorly lit bathrooms, difficult-to-find light switches, security hangers, hard-to-read or hard-to-find signs for exits and elevators and air conditioners that are noisy or poorly controlled. "These are all design problems that end up as service problems."

The speaker referred to another set of "indirect" flaws such as hallways with too few outlets for efficient cleaning chores, inappropriately located kitchens that make room service slow, fabric and material choices that wear out easily and are difficult to clean--all of which is a mutually shared operator/designer responsibility that should be dealt with early on.

Attempt to Harmonize

Tisch cited Loews Ventana in Tucson, the work of architect Frizzell Hill Moorhouse of San Francisco, with interiors by Hirsch/Bedner of Santa Monica, as a true attempt to harmonize architecture with the surroundings.

"The Ventana is what we are striving for in terms of aesthetic as well as marketing criteria tied in with intensive marketing studies to target our client needs both in form and function.

"I believe that many of the glitzy, fancy hotels going up all over the country, many in markets we consider overbuilt, are mere tributes to the ego of the developer. Often renovation of worthwhile older properties may offer better opportunities if properly handled."

The New York City hotel market, Tisch said, is one of the most competitive in the world and it has forced every luxury hotel in New York to rethink its approach to the market to maintain a share of the high end of the market. The Regency and Loews Anatole in Dallas, which nearly doubled its size, fit the category where better service through better design makes a significant difference.

'Beyond a Fad'

Tisch said the experience derived from serving the senior-level corporate executive means that "we don't look at a property in today's market without making some sort of plans for a kind of fitness center, for the simple reason that health and fitness have passed beyond the trend or fad stage. People want to work out when they are traveling, and such a facility may be the single deciding factor when they make their travel plans.".

Tisch agreed that only a finite number of travelers can spend $200 a night for a hotel room and there's a far larger market that cares more about value than a chocolate wafer on a turned-down bed.

"In an industry that may well be affected by an oversupply of rooms, and in an economy where new hotel construction is bound to slow down, everything about a market segment must be considered within a cooperative team effort, so that hotels can be created as profitable entities."

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