Now Hotel Interview Series: Amal Yusuf

Although over recent years it has not been a smooth journey for the hospitality sector there is much to celebrate!

There are new design and operational concepts being thoughtfully explored which deliver experiences requested by hotel guests and there are initiatives which progressively address sustainability, employee wellbeing and the integration of new technology.

This series of interviews aims to paint a clear picture of where the hotel sector is now and goes on to highlight which conversations are leading in this commercial sector, before looking at what the future may hold. We finish by learning a little more about what excites our interviewees when working in this often challenging sector.

We sat down with our Ambassador Amal Yusuf to gather a clear insight into the hospitality sector from the viewpoint of a leading commercial interior designer.

Enjoy the full Now Hotel Interview Series here

Please could you introduce yourself and your role?

Hello, I’m Amal Yusuf, Design Manager at David Collins Studio. Since joining The Studio in 2018, I’ve worked with Cunard on Queen Anne and it has been a real labour of love! Our first maritime project, we like to see it as a culmination of nearly 40 years of interior design experience, applied to marine hospitality.

Within the hospitality sector what is the key thing that we can celebrate right now?

The hospitality sector has undergone huge changes since Covid 19. The biggest shift I’ve seen is in the way we design. In the past it was often about creating those ‘Instagram moments’, creating something transient, designed to look good on a thumbnail. We now adopt a much more holistic approach to interior design, with wellness in mind, and this should be celebrated. Rather than just asking how it will look, we now also ask how it will feel – involving all our senses. The location is key, that is what drives people to visit aa hotel or restaurant after all. So, we need to consider how the light changes throughout the day, hearing the running water outside, celebrating, and framing views.

What are the hurdles which are currently stalling the hotel and/or hospitality sector’s growth?

In my experience, the hurdles are always the same – budgets and timelines. It often involves an element of educating the client on the feasibility of their aspirations in relation to project budgets. The biggest hurdle today is lead times and rising costs. Logistics of international shipments and manufacturing are increasingly difficult, with unpredictable costs of materials, transport and fuel. In the future, I hope the industry will adapt to bring manufacture closer to project site by default, reducing carbon footprint and costs. What seems like a hurdle now will become a positive!

Working within existing architecture can also be a hurdle (albeit a welcome one). Architect Carl Elefante said “the most sustainable building is the one that is already built”. As consumer expectations increase and tastes change, existing hotels must adapt. Retro fitting new schemes into fixed architecture (often listed) is certainly a challenge!  

What are the most important conversations being had in the sector?

The most important conversations are around sustainability. No longer a buzz word, it is central to how we design and chose materials. At David Collins Studio, we are working with Positive Luxury, sustainability experts specialising in the luxury sector. Using their Butterfly mark accreditation framework, we are on the path to analysing and changing our internal and external processes. When consumers request it, designers and developers have to make it happen.

Technology – until recently, we had a guest room and we applied technology to that. Two layers, fighting with each other. Now, technology is built in – seamless. Which also makes it more intuitive, and hidden. Much easier for guests – we always design with the end user in mind.

Who are the people currently making waves in this sector?

I feel very lucky to work for a studio that is always striving for innovation and works with forward thinking brands. Recently we have worked on several ‘refresh’ projects within hotels. This allows us to inject fresh ideas, whilst working with small budgets – and whilst hotels remain open.

Brands centred around wellness. Staycations in and around UK, reusing brands or converting, with pets.

What is on the horizon for the hospitality sector which makes your heart beat faster?

Hospitality beyond bricks and mortar is so exciting. There are so many more options now for luxury accommodation whilst you travel. I may be biased after 5 years on the project, but luxury cruise ships like Queen Anne are incredibly exciting to me. The journey really can be the destination.


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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