Hoteling today is all about creating memorable guest experiences. In recent years, hotel operators have turned to designers to create awe-inspiring, welcoming and soothing interiors to help distinguish their properties from those of their competitors.

At the end of the day, though, hotels are businesses, and designers who can help cut or control costs and deliver an Instagrammable interior are likely to find favor with clients.

Knowing how clients will weigh their proposals can give designers a leg up when competing for projects. A team of researchers in the Department of Architecture at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology conducted a study to learn more about what criteria a certain class of hotel design operators look for when reviewing design proposals for their projects.

H.T. Huang and his colleagues, C.P. Chen and S.J. Tsaih, observed that there was a growing demand in China for economy hotels that cater to budget-conscious business travelers, tourists and students.

Increased competition among providers, including the incursion of some international chains, has caused operators to adopt more Western hospitality management practices, such as focusing more on the guest experience by investing more in brand management, hotel design and intelligent technology. Accordingly, competition for projects to upgrade existing properties has intensified.

Recognizing that this is a great opportunity for interior designers, the researchers sought to find out what elements made for a winning proposal. Employing a questionnaire rating 20 design criteria sent to 30 hotel CEOs and property managers, they used a Kano Model analysis methodology to determine which elements of a proposal clients considered “must-haves” and which were “nice to have” (referred to as “one-dimensional” in the paper) or “attractive” (likely to heighten guest experience and satisfaction).

What they discovered is that respondents ranked those elements of the proposal that related to project management and efficiency of operating the property highest. They gave the highest scores to construction phase scheduling and control (80%), design phase scheduling and control (70%), and construction cost control (63%).

The next highest scores went to easy to maintain and energy and water-saving design. In third place were criteria pertaining to branding, such as systemized corporate identification, customer segment identification, and storytelling.

Besides these criteria, the researchers noted two areas that were not considered “must-haves” by the respondents but were acknowledged to be attractive to guests and thus could be important for future business. These were incorporating modern intelligent technology and social media propagation (i.e., providing guests with “shareable” experiences and photo ops).

Overall, respondents gave relatively low scores to criteria that applied to aesthetics and the design firm’s reputation. However, it is worth noting that CEOs were more likely to rank criteria such as an award-winning designer, firm experience, firm size and international firm higher than did property managers, who focused on more operational criteria. CEOs also were more concerned about brand execution and presentation of visionary business models than were property managers.

The researchers note that it is to be expected that operators of economy hotels would focus heavily on bottom-line and scheduling criteria.

What the findings suggest is that proposals that address improvements in operation and guest experience while holding down costs are likely to receive greater consideration from prospective clients. In addition, where competing proposals may have similar virtues, other criteria such as designer or firm reputation can become a deciding factor.