Hotel guests aren’t simply looking for four walls, a comfortable bed and maybe a waterslide anymore. Many are looking for an office away from home, a unique local experience, and perhaps an Instagrammable spot or two. Sustainability is also top of mind for many travelers booking their next trip.

As a result, hotel owners are renovating their properties every five to seven years to keep up with consumer demands – and contractors also have to stay ahead of the curve in trends in the hospitality industry.

Here’s a look at current tourism trends and how the right construction partner can create an excellent guest experience both during and after renovations. 

One of the biggest drivers of hotel renovations in recent years is sustainability. Hotel owners are increasingly looking to incorporate environmentally friendly features into their properties, such as solar panels and wastewater recycling systems.

“Property owners are starting to look closely at their designs and the types of products they’re using, with many seeking LEED Gold certification,” says Drew Gourley, construction manager with Nordic PCL in Hawaii. “They want to be able to say they’re a net-zero type of resort, because that’s what today’s consumers are demanding.”

It can be tricky to strike a balance between luxury and sustainability, but with more products made with recycled material or through sustainable manufacturing practices coming onto the market, it’s getting easier for contractors to deliver on their client’s vision.

“We’ve seen pretty big growth in terms of products that can provide the level of luxury guests are looking for while still being environmentally friendly,” says Brett Cummings, project manager with PCL’s Minneapolis office, who is putting the finishing touches on a renovation of the Grand Casino and Resort in Hinckley, Minnesota. “They may still carry the premium cost, but the availability and diversity of those products has grown to accommodate what hospitality owners are looking for.”

Increased regulation is also a motivator for the shift to sustainability. Cummings says that sustainable building practices have almost become the default in recent years because of changes to building codes. There are also many tax incentives and rebates available to encourage hotel owners to invest in sustainable building upgrades.

Cummings points out a hotel project he worked on recently where a steam generator was installed to convert steam captured from their boilers into electricity. In Hawaii, Gourley worked on a recent hotel renovation that included the installation of its own wastewater treatment plant. The plant takes water from on-site wells and treats it for use in irrigation around the property, decreasing the hotel’s reliance on the local water system.

Meanwhile in Florida, PCL Orlando project manager Matthew Dodge says many large hotel properties are required to build retention ponds due to jurisdictional requirements when building additions, which provide additional water storage capacity during rainfall events. Some property owners have turned these ponds into water features with paths, sitting areas and even golf amenities around them.

It can be trickier for smaller properties. “If they don’t have a water feature already, most properties weren’t built to accommodate one,” Dodge says. “Considerations have to be taken to bring in the required infrastructure, including potentially updating access and egress pathways to meet code requirements.”

Hotels are also moving toward energy efficient LED lighting, as well as automatic heating and air conditioning systems that conserve energy when rooms are unoccupied and can even be controlled from mobile devices. 

“There are many new heating systems on the market that offer more efficient temperature control with lower energy consumption. Often, we’re finding the cost to install innovative systems is similar to the traditional HVAC systems,” Dodge says.

HVAC and lighting systems aren’t the only places where technology is coming into play in hotel renovations. More hotels are moving toward keyless room entry systems and many are overhauling their wireless internet networks.

“A lot of older hotels have an old coaxial cable system, and those just don't have the capacity for all the devices that we're now seeing in hotels,” Cummings says. “It's really driving a push toward fiber optic systems because their capacity and bandwidth can provide the Wi-Fi experience guests are looking for.”

Before the finishes are installed on a hospitality project, PCL Construction teams take 360-degree photos of the hotel rooms to document the placement of electrical wiring and other systems. This makes it easier the next time the rooms are renovated, no matter who’s doing the renovations.

“If the owner has that documentation in their files, when they come back to renovate that hotel, they'll have very reliable and accurate information,” Cummings says.

Cummings has also seen hotels adopt sensor technology that monitors water in the building. These sensors can perform a wide range of tasks, from sending a notification if a leak is detected to completely shutting off valves if there’s unexpected water flow.

Hotels rarely shut their doors completely during hotel renovations, a more common scenario is the hotel remaining open but rotating the portion of their rooms and facilities that are closed for construction.

PCL’s extensive experience with hospitality construction projects ensures this process runs as smoothly as possible. “The biggest thing is working with each hotel and coming up with a schedule specific to that resort that works best to accommodate their guests’ experiences,” Gourley says.

The schedule needs to be flexible and adaptable to deal with changing needs and limited access to elevators and loading dock space. The key is open and honest communication between the construction team and hotel management.

“When you're in an occupied facility, it just makes communicating with hotel operations exponentially more important,” Cummings says. “What rooms are in and out of service? What type of noise can guests expect? Do we need to shut down water or power? How does that affect the guest experience?” he says. “We need to able to get out in front of that to understand so the client knows what we're doing and what to expect, and so we know what their guest needs are and can do the best we can to make sure that those are in sync.”

When it comes to renovations, hotel owners aren’t going with the lowest bidder, but with the contractor they feel offers the best value and strikes the right balance between speed and quality.

This is where PCL, with a stellar reputation in hospitality construction, comes into play.

PCL is a trusted partner for hospitality clients across the United States. In Building Design + Construction’s 2023 Giants 400 report, PCL ranked third on the list of the Top 80 Hotel Construction Firms. Repeat business — whether at the same property or different properties within a hotel chain — accounts for much of that ranking.

“Our teams understand how to execute projects properly and what’s truly at stake, what the impact could be if it’s not handled properly,” Cummings says. “Owners put a lot of value on the confidence and trust they have in a contractor to not only deliver the work but also execute the process in a way that keeps their operations going.”