Hotel trends: Ten reasons why hotels are changing so much

In 2007, Dubai had 32,616 hotel and resort rooms. The following year the landmark Atlantis The Palm opened, adding 1539 to that tally. Late last year, with the opening of The Westin Dubai in Al Habtoor City, the Emirate celebrated its 100,000th room. It's expected to add more than the whole of that 2007 total by the end of next year to have 134,000.

That's part of huge growth in the retail value of hotels and resorts over the past decade.

But as spectacular as growth is, the bigger story is change.

Since 2007, TripAdvisor has risen and risen to become a household name. The continuing growth of its former parent, Expedia, including Expedia's hotels.com as well as the global giant booking.com, has encouraged similar online sites, vastly increasing travel consumer keyboard power. And since its 2007 inception, an outfit called AirBnB has changed the way we stay, thus transforming the global hotel industry. (And changing other behaviours and industries, too – it effectively kicked off the sharing economy.)

From the time Conrad Hilton started rolling out his hotel chain in the early 20th century, a sameness to a hotel family's offering became de rigueur for purposes of economy and brand recognition. Now, in the face of all this change, the big headline is difference.

Even with huge hotel companies merging and subsuming smaller brands, choice is key. Consider French giant AccorHotel's multibillion-dollar acquisition of FRHI Holding, owners of Fairmont, Raffles and Swisshotel, and how it has allowed those brands to maintain their own identity. Where such purchases used to be all about foothold, in this market, that individual identity is an equally valuable commodity.

NEW GENERATION HOTELS

The most direct response to AirBnB has been the proliferation of the Millennial hotel. Major hotel groups have launched spin-off brands to meet Gen Y tastes (and those older folks with similar sensibilities), with a focus on authentic response to location. Each hotel under the brand is thus different, but united by approach. The trend has now reached Australia, in the form of Hotel Jen Brisbane (Shangri-La) and Perth's Aloft (Starwood).

Even airport hotels are getting interesting, as are many budget properties.

Concept hotels are springing up, too, playing to our emotions and desires. Sydney's QT led the Australian charge, with a sexy, playful vibe that pays homage to the theatrical and garment industry heritage of the buildings it inhabits.

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Hotels and resorts have also responded to the huge growth in the wellness industry, with better spas, gyms and finely honed retreat offerings.

Downside: the proliferation of meaningless faux hipster decor (exposed globes, subway tiles) in properties keen to cash in without really engaging with what "Millennial" means in this context.

JUST LIKE HOME (ONLY BETTER)

In-room espresso machines and pillow menus are almost standard now as hotels aim to create that homely vibe.

The likes of the Art Series hotels offer free bicycles and Smart Car use.

And our 24/7 connectivity at home means we expect it away. Hotels are responding accordingly. Paying for Wi-Fi is pretty much a thing of the past.

Breakfast bain-maries have been replaced with Le Crueset pots in rustic displays and made-to-order eggs. And the grab-and-go breakfast has proven popular. Some hotels, like the Line in Los Angeles, will give you your brekkie in a paper bag, just like mum used to do with your school lunch.

Downside: Based on research, wardrobes are out of fashion. Not all of us use the "floor-drobe" at home, surely. And Wi-Fi may be almost uniformly free, but strength is a lotto.

FIGHT FOR THE FOODIE DOLLAR

Breakfast isn't the only meal to get a do-over. Hotels continue to respond to the never-ending growth in food tourism. Ensconcing a name chef in the hotel restaurant is nothing new. But to keep inquisitive foodies coming back, hotels are inviting culinary mega-stars in for a changing roster of pop-up experiences.

Rene Redzepi's took up a sell-out residence at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo in 2015.

In June this year, Mayfair's Westbury hotel hosted a series of Wednesday dinners featuring Ana Ros, voted The World's Best Female Chef 2017 by The World's 50 Best Restaurants, among other luminaries. And New Zealand's Kauri Cliffs regularly hosts culinary weekends, with past guest chefs including River Cottage's Gill Meller.

Downside: Sometimes you just want a club sandwich and fries.

WHAT'S NEXT

Consider the fact that Japan already has a hotel manned solely by robots. And in Palm Springs, Arrive Hotel is all about you controlling your experience from your own personal devices.

It's safe to say technology will feature greatly in changes across the next decade, as will eco-credentials. Ten years ago, many hotels simply paid lip service to environmental challenges by encouraging you to reuse your towels. Now, mainstream industry players are committed to greenhouse gas reduction as well as being a good local citizen.

TEN GAME CHANGERS

THE RITZ PARIS

After a €200 million refurbishment that shut it down for four years, the venerable icon reopened to set the benchmark on combining heritage sensitivity with modern standards of amenity and tech. See ritzparis.com

ATLANTIS, THE PALM, DUBAI

When it opened in 2008, it redefined extravagance, opulence and size. With suites looking directly out to the 65,000-creature aquarium, mind-blowing luxury shopping, and an adjacent theme park, it opened as the GFC hit, and its resilience is emblematic of the Emirate's own. See atlantisthepalm.com

SOUTHERN OCEAN LODGE, KANGAROO ISLAND

Bailli Lodges' flagship Southern Ocean Lodge opened in 2008 to instant global acclaim, and has since consistently won awards and accolades for its dedication to providing extraordinary experience. Combining a ruggedly beautiful location with magnificent architecture plus world class food, wine and spa offerings, it's the standard bearer in its genre. See southernoceanlodge.com.au

PEPPERS SOUL, SURFERS PARADISE

Since 2015, the locally-based Mantra group has run this beachfront luxury apartment hotel in the 77-storey Soul building, renaming what was once Sea Temple, Peppers Soul.

Riding the Gold Coast's wave of increasing inbound tourism from China and the Middle East, its high standards and awesome views make it a go-to for cashed-up families seeking long-stay respite in hot northern hemisphere summer months. See peppers.com.au

IBIS ADELAIDE

The flagship for the budget Ibis brand proved cheap could be definitely cheery. And downright fabulous. Edgy, modern, casual and super functional, with rooms affording views to the Adelaide Hills, it's been a hit from the moment its doors opened in 2014. See ibis.com

1 HOTEL BROOKLYN BRIDGE, NEW YORK

Open only since February this year, this luxury boutique hotel has remarkable sustainability credentials. It runs on wind power and 54 per cent of the building materials are recycled. Add in low-energy light bulbs, hemp mattresses and a philanthropic partnership with the charity Action Against Hunger in a property that also happens to be very handsome with great views.

See 1hotels.com

THE PENINSULA, SHANGHAI

Peninsula Hotels often inhabit a heritage building. In the absence of the right fit in Shanghai, the luxury group built its own. It opened in 2009 with reviewers raving about attention to the most minute of details. There are plenty of luxury hotels springing up in China. But Peninsula's the place where they get things just right.

See peninsula.com

ELEMENTS OF BYRON, BYRON BAY

Australia's hippie holiday spot had been (for better or worse, depending which local you talk to), lacking a large resort-style property. Elements has managed to fill the void successfully, but remain sensitive to both local vibe and physical location. See elementsofbyron.com.au

THE SAVOY, LONDON

London's most famous property reopened in 2010 after a huge refurb. Since then, the UK hotel scene has boomed, despite security threats. The city continues to have the largest amount of hotels in the pipeline in Europe. See fairmont.com

MARINA BAY SANDS, SINGAPORE

At the time it opened, it was the world's most expensive standalone casino property. The massive edifice with the world's biggest rooftop pool was a frontrunner in a growth spurt in Singapore hotel openings and refurbs. See marinabaysands.com

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