SINGAPORE – With 16 offices across four continents, hospitality interior design giant Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) counts many of the world’s top hotel names as clients, from Waldorf Astoria, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons to St. Regis. With growth exploding across Asia today, Associate Belinda Chia from the Singapore office tells ARTINFO about the hottest industry trends and the hotel openings to watch this year.
HBA has been behind some of last year’s most exciting hotel launches, such as the Four Seasons Guangzhou. Where are you working this year and which are some of the outstanding projects?
HBA is working on projects in more than 50 countries around the world. Some of the most exciting projects that will be opening later this year include the Fairmont Baku in Azerbaijan; Four Seasons Shenzhen, St. Regis Abu Dhabi, and the Raffles Istanbul Zorlu Center in Turkey.
China has an especially strong line-up, signaling growing demand in the destination - which do you see as the next big travel spots in China?
For the next few years, we are still going to be seeing a lot of growth in Hainan and Yunnan. Based on the concentration of projects, Hainan is expected to be a big draw. Guangzhou continues to boom. Other potential up and coming travel spots are Chengdu, Hangzhou, and Xi’an. Popular destinations such as Shanghai, Lijiang and Dali will continue to pull in the crowds.
As a global agency working with diverse brands and locations to design distinct properties, are there any characteristics you would say define the HBA signature?
Each project is unique in its translation of local culture and aesthetics, while being keenly attuned to modern sensibilities and contemporary notions of luxury. HBA is committed to excellence in design. That informs everything we do. We also respect our clients and their budgets, the needs of the operators we work with and the design process as a whole. When taken together that becomes a very powerful tool for pushing boundaries and generating groundbreaking work.
Can you share some insights on what travellers are looking for today?
We see an increasing number of travellers looking for authenticity in design, a sense of place and a personal connection. Luxury is no longer restricted to beautiful finishes and attentive service. It's about experiences, feelings and memories. We're finding that clients increasingly want to know what the story is behind the design.
When it comes to art, travellers are incredibly savvy and look for value for money even at the luxury level. A great art collection provides a certain intellectual-chic quotient.
What other factors are driving hotel design trends?
Technology continues to drive innovation, both in the lobby (tablet-based check-in facilities) as well as in guest rooms (smart phones as room keys and tablets to provide guest information). With the advent of new and innovative materials, sustainable design is finally reaching the higher end of the market.
Any lifestyle trends we ought to be looking out for?
Rooftop bars. Take your pick – they're everywhere!