SB Architects Announces Top 10 Trends for 2017

SAN FRANCISCO—Based on the quantity, and quality, of work in the hospitality design pipeline at San Francisco-based SB Architects, 2017 will be another strong year for hospitality growth and development. Expect a year of creativity, collaboration, and innovation, with new types of resorts, more co-branded concepts in hospitality, and a continued evolution of just what “experiential travel” means to those in the business of creating those experiences. Following are the top trends for hospitality design as identified by Scott Lee, president and principal, SB Architects.

Urban resorts. For decades, SB Architects has honed its skills in the design of destination resorts. Now, they’re taking those skills to the city, designing resorts that can be escapes and at the center of it all at the same time. You can go toward the action if you want, or you can escape and have a sense of retreat and privacy.

Hotels and lifestyle brands. Baccarat. Equinox. Quiksilver. These are very different lifestyle brands, but they are all breaking new ground in hospitality, representing an unmistakable lifestyle experience, and a great sense of design. This is aspirational travel—each brand represents who the guest wants to be, at least for a time. The connection between these lifestyle brands and hospitality makes sense, and there are certainly more examples to come.


Wine and food. Nothing celebrates an authentic, immersive, yet glamorous lifestyle like a wine country resort. Wine tourism has been increasing around the world for the past decade. What is new is the wish to be fully immersed in the lifestyle—in the making of wine, the growing of wonderful food, and the preparation of meals. In a large and complex world, it is a micro-experience of place at its best.

Small batch everything. What lies beyond farm-to-table? Anything is possible. Like wineries, breweries and distilleries are expressions of their locations, (Telluride Brewing in Colorado and Park City’s High West Distillery are great examples). And why not Shinola, a brand that has become synonymous with Detroit and with American-made? Hospitality experiences that grow from these locally-made brands link multiple trends: the local, authentic, hands-on experience of the maker movement, the immersion of experiential travel and the aspirational aspects of cross-branded hospitality.

Zen and adrenaline. 2017 is just the tip of the iceberg of resorts for enthusiasts. Mountain biking and surfing are the first things that come to mind, but they are by no means the end of the story. The key is that you can travel with a group of enthusiasts or make new connections, take your choice of adventure to its limits, then come back to spa treatments, meditation and yoga. It’s not only about wellness, it’s about well-being: health, comfort and happiness.

Transformative travel. We want to come back from a vacation better off than we were when we left. Schloss Elmau, in the Bavarian Alps, is a perfect example. It combines a spa retreat with cultural offerings that create an enriching experience, with a bookshop, library, concert hall, workshops, sports camps, and a host of outdoor activities.

Traveling together. Whether it’s millennials travelling in groups, empty-nester couples traveling together or multi-generational family groups, hospitality needs to plan for group travel. Hostels, hugely popular with millennials, are starting to re-invent themselves, (nine out of 10 now have private rooms), and some brands are developing hostel-like properties to meet the demand. Family-friendly suites at destination resorts have moved from an option to a necessity.

A new look for meetings. Why travel across the country, or out of the country, for a corporate retreat and then spend most of the time in a ballroom with no windows? Why should spaces for business meetings be dull and boring? Ballrooms may start to go the way of the front desk: the function will be there, but they will look very different. Meeting spaces will be more flexible, connected to the surroundings, and transparent.

Marijuana resorts. As strange as it may sound to some, this might be the next frontier. Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia now have laws on the books making marijuana legal in some form, and six of those have approved it recreationally. These resorts will blend agriculture, leisure, maker, experiential, even medical travel. It will be interesting to see if it takes hold.

And what about Airbnb? In 2016, hoteliers worried about the effect of Airbnb on the hospitality industry. After all, Airbnb offers just the kind of singular, immersive, experience of place that travelers are moving toward. Except for two things that turn out to be extremely important to today’s traveler: a sense of community and a sense of design. Staying at an Airbnb property can be immersive, but it might also be lonely. Where is the great room to gather with the old friends you came to visit, meet new friends or just people-watch? Where is great bar with a local musician performing on Friday night? This is a cue to all hospitality design professionals to continue to bring an A-game to the design of dynamic public spaces that are a central element of the hotel experience and of the community at large.