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As the world has come skidding into a period when just about every industry from travel to tartan-making is wondering what the future holds, and whether we’ll all be busking for loose change this time next year, Mr & Mrs Smith chose to conduct a good ol’ probe of the travel industry as it stands at the moment, in the hope of putting together a picture of what the terrain looks like for 2009.

Earlier this week, we teamed up with trend-spotting designer Ilse Crawford and the web-savvy travel-networkers at Dopplr, to host ‘Future Forum’ – an excuse to have a massive swanky breakfast at Kettner’s restaurant an in-depth discussions of trends in hotel design, travel online, and the economic impact on consumer travel.

Studioilse LogoIt was – and, yeah, we would say this – a fascinating event. Ilse, (who has not only done an amazing job designing Kettner’s but also some of Smith’s fave hotels: The Olde Bell and Soho House), offered up an inspiring explanation of her philosophy of design. The key to a successful interior, she says, is paring back design elements to embody the core values of the brand, the building’s environment and its history. Kettner’s is the perfect example of this philosophy in action – StudioIlse’s redesign shakes off the recent Pizza-Express past of the building and takes the décor right back to its roots among the wood-pannelled drawing rooms of Soho theatreland. (Ilse also let slip that she’s currently working on a boutique b&b in Stockholm, and may have something up her sleeve in Budapest.)

Dopplr Logo

Speaking from Dopplr, founding investor Marko Ahtisaari identified the developing interdependence of travel and technology, noting that people are more and more prepared to share their personal info, location, and activities online with their network of friends and colleagues. This trend, of course, ties in with the growth of tip-sharing travel sites such as Tripadvisor, and dovetails neatly with the fact that, when it comes to deciding where to go, stay or eat, people are most influenced by the recommendations of friends and fellow travellers. In a nutshell – as evidenced by the rise of the MyFace generation, the explosion in personal blogging, and the gazillions of user-review sites springing up around the web like nettles in a dungheap – the online travel industry will be steered by the consumer and the information they provide in the years ahead.

Smith LogoSmith’s own Tamara outlined the results of our recent travel trend survey (watch this space), and gave a run down of the style trends we’ve been observing in the hotel world.
Here’s what we expect to see more of in 2009:

•    Boutique inns and restaurants with rooms

As we’ve been twittering on about for the last six months, beer, bed and breakfasts are growing rapidly, and every month we seem to be adding another newly revamped coaching inn to the Smith collection.

•    Members’ clubs, bars, and event spaces with rooms

More entertainment outlets will broaden their appeal by adding bedrooms. Soho House in New York and High Road House in London, already have bedrooms, and Shoreditch House is in the process of adding some. Nightclubs such as Dex are doing the same. We even know of one event space in central London that is yoking on some stylish boudoirs. We expect a lot more hotels to look like Tigerlily in Edinburgh.

•    The new Shabby-chicBasico hotel bedroom, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Whiter-than-white minimalism is officially (and thankfully) dead – more hotels are going to follow the example of the new Rough Luxe in  King’s Cross or Básico in Mexico and strip their interiors back to their roots and history, with exposed walls, distressed paintwork and industrial touches.

•    Emphasis on quality

As at Robert de Niro’s new The Greenwich Hotel in New York, more and more hoteliers will be taking an interest in the finer details of their food, furnishings and furniture, so that each item has a narrative behind it. More and more artisanal creations will finding the way into hotel rooms.

•    Homeliness, clutter and colourThe Bowery Hotel lobby, New York

The Bowery Hotel leads the charge here. We’re seeing bolder colours, more cleverly designed interplay of textures and patterns and increasing juxtapositions of contemporary and vintage to give a hotel that characterful, lived-in feel of a quirky home.

That’s all for now, but we’ll be publishing our findings from the travel trends survey in the next few days…

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