Why hotels are designing picture-perfect spaces

Stunning images shared on social media have become a powerful force for travelers and hotels

August 02, 2019

Finding images of the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort in Abu Dhabi rising like a mirage out of the expansive desert aren’t hard to find. The hotel, with its fortress-like structure and stunning pools, has been named World’s Most Instagrammable Hotel 2019 by website Luxury Travel Advisor.

Social media platforms, especially those that focus specifically on images, have become a powerful force in the travel and hospitality industries. On the back on travelers sharing their experiences, destinations have been launched, and restaurants made famous.

Hotels have not been ignoring the impact, and are incorporating eye-catching designs created with sharing in mind.

“Through images and videos, social media allows hotels and their guests to convey powerful messages instantly,” says Sashi Rajan, Senior Vice President, Strategic Advisory and Asset Management.  “It’s a channel that represents the sharing of both curated content as well un-edited consumer experience. Instagram has achieved a stickiness effect that perhaps have made them more used than other social media platforms for hotels.”

Design priorities

With social media proving to be such an effective buzz machine, hotels are putting greater care into their aesthetics. Depending on the clientele, these photogenic moments are becoming more important than traditional luxury bearers such as room size or a full-service restaurant.

In some cases, hotels are even making these picture-perfect elements a central part of their design. Architects working on hospitality projects have revealed clients are demanding “Instagramability” in their brief.  

How does that design brief translate to real life? Think walls with neon effects and funky murals, colour palettes of neon pink or brushed brass, and textured furnishings set amid lush greenery.

Hoteliers such as the owners of the seven-room riad in Morocco, Riad Jasmine, have based their entire strategy on marketing through influencers on Instagram and successfully getting a stream of customers. Guests make a beeline for the hotel just to take similar pictures of its famed pool.

Photo: Le Riad Yasmine Instagram

It’s a trend that coincides with the fact that properties are also getting leaner in terms of amenities and space.

“Developers have to build on smaller footprints and maximise the gross floor area to ensure the financial model stacks up due to rising land costs,” says Rajan. “The popularity of having these photo-worthy design features is perhaps down to moving the attention away from the more simplified room experience in terms of product and amenities.”

“These features play a critical and complementary function,” he says. “They allow for creative and efficient use of space, while upping the experiential aspect of vibrancy, currency and fun.”

Living it up for the mobile phone

Tech-reliant millennials and Generation Z will make up the bulk of world population in a year, at 31 percent and 32 percent, respectively. This means the willingness, and desire, to share is not going anywhere.

Photo: QT Gold Coast Instagram

But could a hotel guest be turned off by an Instagram wall?

“I believe this group of guests are few and far between,” Rajan says.

And essentials in hotels like technology touch points, design, and experiences will continue to evolve to meet these customer behaviour and needs.

“New platforms will be introduced and could disrupt this current trend,” says Rajan. “Hotels will have more clutter to cut through to get even smaller window to capture the attention of that right customer.”

He cautions hotels against being overly design-centric with the sole focus of being Instagram-friendly.

“Look towards creating relevant features that also bring function,” he says. “The guest experience should still be a meaningful one.”