The ever-changing evolution of traditional hotel spaces

1 October 2022
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Speaking at the 2022 No Vacancy Hotel Expo in Sydney, Associate Director Rebecca Trenorden joined her industry peers to discuss the current pulse of Australia’s hotel evolution and the associated shifts they as designers are welcoming to the sector.

United Places offers travellers a true Melburnian experience, with easy access to local cafes, restaurants and the adjacent Botanical Gardens. Photography by Sharyn Cairns.

With the panel represented by some of the industry’s leading design firms, the talk unpacked the different ways hotels are developing to be more than just places for travellers.

From progressing beyond traditional hotel brand standards, to harnessing neighbourhood connection and ramping up food and beverage offerings, we round up the panel’s top considerations for the industry’s changing tides.


Dissolving conventional hotel brands standards

Traditionally, hotel brand standards have opted for a wholistic and standardised design language. A unified look and feel, regardless of city or state, with the purpose namely to strengthen brand recognition while also providing guests comfort via recognisable design elements.

However, this approach is evolving away from the conventional model, with hotels and travellers alike seeking originality. The result is a hotel of its place, where the design is inspired by its location, history and wider context.

To accommodate this, hotel brand standards are adapting to allow the nuances of the local culture to influence the design direction and outcome. As quasi-social scientists, designers are welcoming the shift to use the surrounding location and context, as a springboard for developing a guest experience.




The darkened corridors at United Places feature bronze spotlight lamps and matching suite numbers acting as cinematic beacons. Photography by Sharyn Cairns.
Adelaide Oval Hotel where the guest experience from beginning to end is sumptuous and refined.

Offering a precinct experience  

Hotels are expanding their offering and prioritising experiences. Leveraging an international hotel model, Australian hotels are evolving to be destinations in their own right: engaging and welcoming places to convene, dine, drink, work and socialise. The result is a hotel precinct catering to the needs and wants of travellers, but also locals, blending people and creating an authentic local experience.

Through detailed precinct analysis, designers are working with hotel owners to uncover valid opportunities hotels can add to the existing neighbourhood. Integrating meaningful spaces that offer spaces to work and collaborate, through to entertaining and dining, extends to support local workplaces, residential areas and mixed-use developments.


Bringing locals on the journey

Creating a genuine local experience relies on understanding the local area itself. With this shift, designers are turning their attention to engaging with the local community for insight on the immediate and surrounding neighbourhood. In turn, a two-way dialogue is established, allowing the community to participate in the creation of the hotel precinct. The outcome is a hotel precinct that is welcomed by the local community, creating value for the local economy, supporting local culture, and offering a memorable destination experience.

Adelaide Oval Hotel's ceiling is the focal point in the reception space, a celebration and a statement that draws the eye.
Over 10,000 globes transform the ceiling of Jackalope's Doot Doot Doot into a blanket of golden, textural art that wave in an enthralling glow for the diners below. Photography by Sharyn Cairns.

Design sector blur

Hotels are facilitating more activities than ever before, calling for an evolution of hotel spaces. From incorporating work libraries and lounges for those working remotely, to long-stay rooms akin to residences. As a result, the role of hospitality designers has expanded to include workplace and residential sector knowledge.


The rise of food and beverage

In a noticeable revenue shift, hotels have recognised that where revenue was split 60-40 in favour of hotel keys, this has flipped to see food and beverage offerings driving 60 per cent of the total hotel revenue, with hotel keys equating to just 40 per cent. This food and beverage evolution is one of the biggest changes to the hotel model, shifting the focus of the overall design approach.

As a result, for example, placing restaurants, bars and cafes in strategic positions, such as at street level to draw people in or on rooftops for optimal views, has become an important hotel design consideration.



As hospitality designers and hotel brand standards continue embracing the evolution of what a hotel can be and can offer, the possibilities for travellers and local communities will only expand with it.

Thank you to fellow speakers Alex Hopkins, Director at Studio Tate; Juliet Ashworth, Owner & Creative Director CHADA and Mathew Dalby Co-Founder and Creative Director at StudioFab; and moderator Rosie Morley, Principal at Fender Katsalidis, for what was a truly engaging conversation on the evolution of hotel design and the role designers play.

Jackalope's signature bar, Flaggerdoot, celebrates the mystery and whimsy of alchemy and the art of transformation. Photography by Sharyn Cairns.