Capturing the Instagram Aesthetic in Hotels 

With the rise of Instagram and competition from Airbnb, hotels are increasingly having to create striking and unique interior designs to attract customers. Charlotte Edwards speaks to hotel experts about the Instagram effect, and what steps designers need to take to help lure in this vital customer base

As the popularity of Instagram continues to grow, so too does the need for hotels to have the most picture-worthy interiors. Competition in the now social media-obsessed tourism industry is rife, and design can provide a vital edge.

Some hotels are going to extreme lengths to provide memorable and photo-friendly interiors as the hotel market faces added pressure from the popularity of Airbnb.

Sydney’s Ovolo Woolloomooloo boutique hotel, designed by HASSELL takes inspiration from Scandanavian design to produce a bright, open and highly photographable space. Credit: Nicole England

The rise in Instagrammable hotels

The Up Hotel Agency works with a number of hotels, such as Firmdale Hotels in London with their unique Kit Kemp interiors. The company says it has noticed a trend of travellers opting to stay in the more ‘instagramable’ hotels over budget hotels with basic interiors.

“Instagram is influencing conversions for many of our hotels, appearing in the conversion path at some stage - mostly within the early stages of the flow, where potential guests familiarise themselves with the hotel brand, and other guest experiences from checking in at that location,” says Up Hotel Agency head of digital Richard Plant.

“In essence, I think there is a new breed of traveller looking for something different. Experience is everything nowadays, so we are seeing a rise in bookings for unique/quirky hotels not just for leisure, but also business stays.

“Business travel has changed and many industries realise that the big chain hotels, i.e. Travelodge, Holiday Inn, are an antithesis to the creativity and productivity that they require, so are looking for creative places for their staff to stay at - and to snap on Instagram!”

Architect’s Steven Wu and Wang Pe-Jen’s playful refurbishment of the Red Dot Hotel in Taichung City, Taiwan, contrast raw materials with bold design features. Credit: Andrew Chang / Double Hong

A new breed of traveller

Owain Powell, also of UP Hotel Agency, noted that hotels need to embrace the Instagram trend if they want to appeal to today’s generation.

“Today's generation are prepared to pay a little more for a unique experience and take a risk in the search of something unique, rather than booking in at hotels with rooms that tend to all look the same,” he argues.

“These places were a niche in the industry but for many travellers and business bookers they are becoming a staple in reinvigorating the pleasure and creativity of travel.”

Charlie Worrall, a digital marketing executive for contemporary interior company NGI Designs, agrees that appeasing Instagram users is the unavoidable future for the hotel industry.

“You either love it or you hate it... when people are on holiday and all they're doing is sharing the photos they've just taken in the lobby, the room, the bathroom, balcony and much more,” says Worrall.

“While they can be a bit excessive it presents a great marketing opportunity so you're going to have to step it up a little, make sure your decor isn't out of date and that the style or theme you've gone for works well.

“What's more, a timeless design is key; most will want to stay in a hotel that evokes style and luxury while being affordable. But if they go on Instagram and see that you haven't got this, they won't stay with you.”

SALA Samui Chaweng Beach Resort, designed by onion,  offers panoramic views of Thailand’s Chaweng Beach framed by strong geometry for striking, highly Instagrammable photos. Credit: Wworkspace  /  Wison Tungthunya

Technology driving the next stage in hotel design

Worrall thinks the next hotel interior trend will be an emphasis on technology.

“One of the next big trends, in my opinion, will be the digital walls. We've seen products like the wallpaper TVs. This is essentially a TV that can be stuck to your wall with tape – although it isn't advised!” he says.

“LG's version is only 6mm thick and has a slight bend tolerance too. This means that it can be attached to the wall without it having a big effect on the surrounding areas.”

Unfortunately for the hotels currently trying to enter the Instagram obsessed market, they face stiff competition. Quite a lot of the most popular hotels to Instagram already had elaborate and picturesque interiors even before the rise of the social media website.

For architects and interior designers, then, there is significant pressure to produce stand-out designs.