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Travel & Wellness

“A hotel must reinvent itself as an urban club“

The pandemic has deeply modified the customer's expectations of the hotel experience. More open into its surroundings, hotels will become multi-purpose living spaces. French architect Jean-Philippe Nuel, renowned for his luxury interior design, shares his ideas on the future of hospitality.

Cécilia Pelloux

By Cécilia Pelloux01 juin 2021

The swimming pool of the Molitor Hotel, Paris (photo. Zuliani)

In the hospitality business, French architect Jean-Philippe Nuel is renowned for his luxury interior design. From the iconic hotel Molitor in Paris, the Clef-Champs-Elysées to The Croisette Beach in Cannes or the Grand Hotel Dieu Intercontinental in Lyon, the list is long. With offices in New York and Paris, Jean-Philippe Nuel leads a team of 30 professionals who work on very large-scale projects in diverse sectors. The Alto Tower in Paris La Defense or luxury cruise ships Le Ponant are under his signature.

How do you see the situation in the hospitality sector today?

The architect Jean-Philippe Nuel (photo. Eric Cuvillier)

It is still complicated as most hotels are still closed, that means we wonder how hotels can evolve. Similarly, on office buildings, there is a wide reflexion too. The pandemic has changed our working methods. Today, we are even more concerned than before about the environmental impact of short trips. Tourism will not decrease but more consideration about carbon pollution can dissuade travelers in the future from flying long distances around the world just for a week-end. The fight against climate change should eventually lead people to travel less and for short distance tourism.

How do you see the future of hotels?

A lot of things were already in place. The projects of hotels needed to be open onto their surroundings. The goal was already to create hotels linked with locals and not only tourists and business travelers. The Hotel Molitor in Paris was a precursor. You can enjoy their iconic pool and fitness club via a membership or a day pass. Before the pandemic, events were organized for Parisians and locals. I think hotels will become multi-purpose living spaces, both traditional and new and they will offer synergies between all their services.

The hôtel Croisette Beach in Cannes, France (photo. Gilles Trillard)

How about workspaces in hotels?

It will be like in a home or a meeting room in a business office. The objective is to create environments that are conducive to meeting, creativity, isolation and/or presentation. For example, workspaces can be rented on a one-time basis. Some of them, such as connected tables in a hallway opened on a green garden, could even be made available free of charge to guests or as a subscription for people living in the hotel's neighborhood. In order to optimize the return on investment of these spaces, the meeting rooms could even become a children's club on weekends, led by professionals, as part of a staycation offer.

The Grand Hôtel Dieu Intercontinental in Lyon, France (photo. Nicolas Matheus)

Do hotels need to diversify their entertainment services, creating more experiences?

Yes, creating more leisure and experiences was already in place. Again, the crisis will enhance the movement to welcome daytime, weekend and local vacationers. Wellness and sports are of course even more important. Hotels will offer an almost infinite list of possibilities to get together with friends or to get some fresh air: a private screening room, a cooking class, a bike ride to discover the city in a different way, an art exhibition or a conference with a local author. Also, shops in hotels so the guests can have all that they need. It is already the case with a bakery at The Hotel in Barcelona or in the Grand Hyatt in Mexico City.

Hôtel Le Général, Paris. (photo. G. Trillard)

How about the design of the rooms?

The rooms will be more personalized and probably bigger with more functional space. As for example with a small kitchen or a more discreet desk. Rooms will be more comfortable and flexible than ever with the furniture and decor. The objective is to attract more families and win back customers who today are seduced by community rental platforms such as Airbnb.

Do you think the clientele will be more diversified?

We need to create products for everyone. Local customers need to enjoy leisure and sports activities like swimming, cinema, shops, catering, and workspaces. A large offer of products which be consumed punctually or with a subscription. Nothing will prevent customers from choosing a hotel for a staycation. Travelers will look for an accommodation in a different setting like a house or an apartment and they will find access to all the entertainment, professional meetings and sales services within the hotel. As we know, it constitutes a major advantage instead of renting an apartment from an individual.

A room with a kitchenette in the hotel la Clef Champs-Elysées Paris (photo. G. Trillard)

How do you think hotels will generate revenues?

I think hotels will make profit by becoming more diversified. Hotels will no longer be just a place to sleep, eat, workout or attend a conference. It is a personal destination, a club in the heart of a city and a mirror of its environment. The Intercontinental in Lyon is a good example. It has become a real destination for locals, they come to enjoy the bar and conferences are held by companies in the area. The upcoming hospitality industry does not break away from the past, the pandemic has just accelerated its transformation.

How about your latest and new projects?

We finished two hotels just before the pandemic and they should open soon. The Canopy Paris Trocadero which is a new lifestyle hotel brand of Hilton. Their goal was already to open the hotel onto its local environment. Same thing in St-Jean-de-Luz, Hotel Helianthal will offer an immense wellness and thalassotherapy experience linked with proximity. Right now, we are working on a new hotel in l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue which will be completely integrated in the local, social, economic and cultural life of the region.

The hôtel Hilton Canopy, in Paris (DR)

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