Hotels upgrade bathrooms for more demanding guests

Hotels upgrade bathrooms for more demanding guests © Wyndham Hotel Group Hotels are getting more creative with guestroom bathrooms, including Wyndham Hotel Group, which has open layouts.

Bathrooms have become as important to travelers as bedrooms, and hotels are taking the plunge into more creative guestroom lavatories.

Marriott International, the world's largest hotel company, upgraded its bathrooms for its signature brand — Marriott Hotels. The new design has an open shower with floor-to-ceiling glass to make it feel larger and more luxurious.

“We’re spending more time focusing on bathrooms because so many of our customers have upgraded bathroom experiences in their own homes with fancy amenities, elaborate finishes and integrated technology,” says Lionel Sussman, vice president of Marriott global design strategies.

Marriott’s Innovation Lab is testing a feature that would allow guests to personalize common hotel room objects to perform bathroom duties. For instance, a full-length mirror can be programmed to show yoga moves and turn on the shower without having to touch a knob. Many more features are being tested in Marriott’s lab, including using terrazzo vs. tile for bathroom decor.

Hotel chains from economy to upscale are introducing features to bathrooms in terms of design, lighting and technology.

“The hotel guestroom bath used to be very basic. There was a vanity, a tub/shower combination and a water closet. That’s about it,” says Amy Hulbert, director of design for Best Western. “Now we are thinking about the residential trends in bathroom design.”

Hilton is building more “deconstructed bathrooms.” That can include the blurring of the entry space and grooming area — separating the spaces with elements such as barn doors and electric frosting glass.

Vito Lotta, vice president of design for Hilton’s full-service brands, says guests want larger bathrooms in proportion to the room size. They also want showers vs. bathtubs, so they can have more space for a vanity to get ready for the day or evening. Lighting has become more important, he says, as guests want to have the best illumination for grooming. LED lighting seems to be the best option, he says.

“Travelers expect their experience to mimic and be in line with their daily living preferences,” Lotta says. 

In the future, Lotta sees no need for a hotel bathroom phone.

“Most people rely on their mobile devices for both voice and texting, and often they also make their way into the bathroom,” he says. “Fortunately, many mobile phones these days are waterproof.”

He says guests may eventually see built-in speakers in their bathrooms that can sync wirelessly to their mobile phones. Toilets may include automated bidet features and heated seats.

AccorHotels — parent company to Fairmont, Raffles, Novotel and other brands — incorporated rain showers, soft lighting and music into its bathrooms.

“The bathroom is a very key part of the experience,” says Damien Perrot, senior vice president of design and technical services for AccorHotels.

Bathrooms can be part of the bedrooms, he says. The N’Room by Novotel, for instance, has an open bathroom with a rain shower. Sliding walls are available for those who do not want their bathrooms and bedrooms combined.

“From the economy to luxury segment, bathrooms are turning from functional to emotional places,” Perrot says.

The Moxy Times Square, one of Marriott’s new brands aimed at younger travelers, turned its bathroom experience into a whimsical one.

Vanities are carved from volcanic stone, glazed and fired. They are almost like a piece of pottery.

At Choice Hotels — parent company of Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn and Cambria Hotel & Suites — measures are being taken to improve guest bathrooms at all its brands, regardless whether they are upscale or economy.

In terms of design, guests prefer clean lines and uncluttered, white vanity surfaces. At Cambria properties, a lighted mirror in the bathroom has Bluetooth capability, so guests can listen to their music or podcasts.

“Our guests are looking for functionality and convenient use of space in the bathroom when traveling,” says Anne Smith, vice president of brand management and design for Choice. “They are also seeking a relaxing, soothing bath experience.”

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is replacing traditional framed mirrors with back-lit ones, which provide even light distribution around the edges.

“The back-lit mirror provides a brighter atmosphere in the bathroom to allow guests to prepare for their day,” says David Breeding, vice president of architecture and design for IHG Americas.

IHG has focused on making its bathroom experience a sustainable one to align with its Green Engage program, an online system that lets hotels measure and manage their impact on the environment.

“Installing low-flow faucets, toilets and shower heads helps to make a sizable impact in our efforts to reduce water consumption,” Breeding says.

Wyndham Hotel Group is also adopting more environmentally friendly showers.

“You can get low-flow shower heads that still get great water pressure,” says Chip Ohlsson, executive vice president and chief development officer for Wyndham Hotel Group in North America.

Hotel designers will continue to experiment with the guestroom bathroom, Hulbert says.

She envisions televisions becoming more a part of vanity mirrors as the technology gets less expensive. Other technology will become more mainstream.  

“I have the ability to stream my music through a shower head at home via Bluetooth and would love to be able to do that in my hotel room as well,” she says.