Space: The final frontier

When planning a business trip or a holiday adventure we may take a moment to look at the online brochure for the property or scan photos (lobby, rooms, dining) on a website; we may actually look closely at the pictures to see what the interiors look like, if the color schemes and furnishings are contemporary or traditional; we might also try to decide the last time the hotel lobby and rooms were refurbished and how much money was spent to accomplish the update.

While I personally walk through all these steps before selecting a hotel, it is my understanding that most people do not and are more likely to look at the brand, the location, room rates and availability. The public space and room design are not usually on their radar screen for making a decision; however, they do expect that when they arrive at the hotel it will at least be acceptable (design-wise) but would prefer “over-the-top” wonderful! The elephant in the room – is that one person’s wonderful is another’s horrific.

Sensational Hotel Space. How?

How does the new hotelier/developer determine property interiors without design input from “future” guests? If the property is being refurbished or updated – then management has a sense of a guest profile; however, properties that are built for “future” “potential” guests have to rely on more information than available through a psychic or a crystal ball. Beyond the basic beds and toilets, how is the hotel designed and developed? How does one get from an idea to a 24/7/365 building with demands from people with a myriad of interests, distinctive wants and needs and variable budgets?

Although some believe that hotels are designed, developed and administered by magic, the reality is that it takes teams of experts to put together all the puzzle pieces that will ultimately determine the success (or failure) or a hotel.

Designers. Under the Radar

Interior designers are not usually featured in hotel brochures, pictured in hotel lobbies, and portrayed on the front covers of magazines. And yet, without their educated expertise hotels might look and feel like freight containers and not the amazing interior designs we have come to love, admire, enjoy and expect.

Prominent in the Industry

While there are many interior designers there is one organization that dominates the industry and The Gettys Group, started by Roger Hill and Andrew Fay, has a portfolio of success stories that started in 1988. Currently Gettys offices are located in the US, Asia, and the Middle East with the corporate headquarters in Chicago. The Gettys extensive client list includes Accor Hotel Group, Carlson Hotels Worldwide, Dolce International, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Four Seasons, GE Capital, Goldman Sachs & Co., Jones Lang LaSalle, Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International, Peninsula Hotels and Wyndham Worldwide.


Roger Hill, Chair and CEO of The Gettys Group graduated from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration with a BS degree and is a member of the Urban Land Institute, President of the Auxiliary Board for the Art Institute of Chicago, associated with the International Society for Hospitality Consultants, and on the board for the Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago) as well as a member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO).

The President, COO and a Founder of The Gettys Group, Andrew Fay, was born in Australia and graduated with honors from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. He started his career as a hotel management trainee and learned about the business from a technical and practical perspective. With a background in hotel operations, real estate finance, and marketing he is able to evaluate hotel systems and procedures and consider how to make improvements. Currently he is a member of the board of QUO, an international brand strategy and communications organization based in Thailand and a founding member in Getty/Blu, a part of Gettys that focuses on developing hospitality design solutions throughout the Middle East.

Ron Swidler is a Principal with The Gettys Group, an interior architect and designer as well as a project manager and marketing specialist. Noted for initiating the Hotel of Tomorrow Project (HOT) in 2004, this unique industry-focused think tank links 100+ hospitality companies, brands, investors, operators, consultants, media and manufacturers together to envision the future of the industry.


The Gettys Group is founded on the idea that “beautiful design is good business,” and this has thrust the organization into the international spotlight. It was Hill who recognized the need for the organization to have its own in-house procurement department and an internal property development division. Today the organization offers turn-key development-design-procurement projects to hoteliers that are not only well-designed but also deliver profits to the owners. Fay believes that “Great design plays a role in everything that the guests touch and feel, and sensory design combined with innovation ultimately leads to financial success.”

Lessons Learned

It is not easy to design, develop and implement a hotel project that will satisfy the wants and needs of the many people and organizations involved in putting a hotel deal together and then having it attractive to the guest and profitable to the investors.

The Gettys team has successfully navigated these challenging waters by initiating projects that start with a story and end with a positive guest experience. The design team looks seriously at the demographics and psychographics of the potential visitor and assesses guest expectations. If the hotel is built to attract a millennial target market the amenities are likely to include an excellent technology infrastructure including availability of high-speed Wi-Fi. Because this target market sees private and public space as well as food and beverage options “differently” than their parents, Gettys designers are likely to include gourmet take-out and other affordable dining options as well as a bar designed for conversation and informal public spaces available for meetings. The design focus is not the hotel owner, operator or franchisor, all the attention is placed on the needs/wants of the guest.

Space/Time Continuum

The hotel is a multifaceted and unique building project with public and private spaces that must not only be comfortable and attractive, they must be profitable. When designers think through hotel projects they are considering such areas as:

1. Lobby. More than a transitional space from the entrance to the check-in desk, this zone has become multifunctional. The guest uses the space for both public and private activities and different zones are necessary for conversations and meetings as well as personal space for electronics.

2. Guest Rooms. What are the multiple purposes of this space? Are the needs of the business and leisure traveler similar? Does everyone expect TV panels, king-sized beds, an expresso coffee machine? What colors, textures, fabrics will appeal to the target market? Is the technology demanded more than Wi-Fi? Should it include the opportunity to enter the room, adjust lighting, air conditioning and window treatments through smartphones?

3. Bathrooms. More than a necessity, some of today’s travelers expect spa-like features and open space that offers waterfall showers, over-sized bathtubs, giant towels, unique beauty items while others (like millennials) are delighted with a toilet, shower, and a sink with space just large enough for a turn-around.

4. Dining Options. Cooking and eating has become an important part of the guest experience and dining space has been turned into exhibition space, where the chef can be observed as meals are prepared. Design themes are being introduced and periodically changed as guests tastes and preferences are fluid.

5. Indoor/Outdoor. A mashup of spaces are being introduced through the integration of decks and patios and the integration of natural wood paneling, stone décor, green spaces and sky lights as well as living plants, flowers and room-size fish tanks.

Designers are faced with the complex problem of conceiving and planning hotels that will be functional and attractive today and still function 10 years from today. Although it is difficult to accept, from the time a design concept is put into construction it begins to be outdated.

The Gettys Method

Even with the collaborative formula used by Gettys that includes the participation of the owners, the brand, as well as the operating and purchasing teams, all design projects are founded on currently available data and technology. With the rapid changes in the world – from economics, cultures and politics to travel and leisure preferences, the interior designer is faced with complex challenges that are unique to the industry – the plan today must be useful and relevant a decade from now.

Gettys has found that “design is more than just aesthetics. It is a multifaceted, organic process that influences every element of business. It is about creating experiences, destinations, sensations – adding value to each interaction.”

The next time you are searching for a hotel or are walking through a lobby to register at the front desk, make sure to actually look at the furniture, fixtures, lighting, window treatments and floor coverings. If you like what you see, it is very likely that a Gettys designer made it happen.

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