“We are seeing this “wellness” trend integrated into the guest experience not only in food offerings, fitness and amenities, but also in the room itself” with Andrew Simmons and Candice Georgiadis

These trends in F&B have also adapted to a broader theme of “wellness.” This can be seen in the healthier food options and in how the local farm/fresh has become the new focus for a lot of brands. We are seeing this “wellness” trend integrated into the guest experience not only in food offerings, fitness and amenities, but also in the room itself. Rooms are trending towards a cleaner and smarter design, often including everything from water and air purification systems to therapy-designed lighting systems to aid in relaxation and stress reduction — all parameters and specifications are set by the guest via an app.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Simmons, the Director of Hospitality Studio for Nadel Architects. Andrew has experience in both domestic and international markets with projects ranging from “new build” hospitality and mixed-use projects to “renovation/re-purpose” in multiple markets in a variety of scale. He has over 24 years of experience and eight years in the Las Vegas market specifically. Some of the hospitality clients Andrew has worked with include: Hyatt, Starwood, Hilton, Marriott and Wyndham Grand. Over the course of his career, many of the projects Andrew has worked on have received international design awards and recognition. His experience shows him to be a proven leader and dedicated to solving complex problems by using creative thinking while effectively balancing client needs.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have been interested in architecture since childhood, from playing with Legos to becoming fascinated with castles in my early teens. Initially I had plans of going to the Air Force Academy as a sort of competition between one of my buddies who wanted to attend West Point; our family moved and the appointment process stalled, so I decided architecture is as cool as flying planes.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I was lucky to start my career working for John Portman in the early 90’s to around 2005. It was a great time to be a young designer working for an International firm traveling to Asia, the Pacific Rim and Eastern Europe doing big iconic projects. I have been lucky to visit and explore a lot of cities and cultures in the early days of transition to global trends. There are lots of stories about being a young architect seeing the world, meeting new and interesting people, and having some good times — but that’s probably a whole new series of interviews.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was working on a Hotel project (Westin) in Warsaw, Poland that was right next to the old WWII Ghetto District. We were pushing to get a signature building element into the project and the contractor was getting a little irritated with my efforts. At the end of the meeting he said (in a Swedish accent) “we don’t have time for your damn glass tube Andrew, we are trying to remove all the unexploded bombs we are finding without killing anyone.” That’s when I realized, it’s just architecture and we’re not in the losing lives business, but I did get my “glass tube.”

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Nadel is a very diverse design firm covering many markets and project typology. We often work on multi-family, retail and hospitality components individually or together as a mixed-use development. We have multiple experts in the field with vast experiences. This enables us to have a holistic involvement in planning as well as expression. The project not only gains efficient planning and programmatic adjacencies but also establishes a unified vision in terms of design and the quality of details. A good example would be our San Leandro waterfront development consisting of a 200 key Duel Branded Hotel, 300-Unit multi-family apartment building and multiple destination restaurants and event/amenities area.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

Architecture is fairly unique in terms of an occupation because it’s a bit disjointed. It is controlled by the laws of physics, while also being completely subjective and unfortunately sometimes controlled by “trends.” I think the process of “cut and paste” design can be a big disservice to the industry and to a creative soul. I’ve always been a fan with the creativity of thought and exploration process; it’s really the most efficient use of time — an extra 20% of effort in the early design phase can often resolve 80% of the issues and achieve a more successful vision. In some of the overseas work, we would develop three schemes per project for the owners to review. This really forces exploration and more thought. The process can be applied internally to the firm in the early stages of the design phase as well as supplemented with collaboration efforts between design leaders.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I will also always be grateful to John Portman for giving me great opportunities and inspiring me in architecture, art and furniture. I’ve been lucky to be involved with many projects that have changed the skyline of cities across the world. When I was working at Portman, my architectural mentor was Richards Mixon who was one of I. M. Pei’s original associates when he was first staring out in the United States. Richards taught me the integrity of design, the purity of architectural massing, and detailing. We visited a Pei project and he challenged me to put a finger in a stone joint and walk around the entire building — it will always come back to the same place.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

Although Nadel is based in California, we work in national and international markets; I currently live in Las Vegas and split time between the Santa Monica office. Las Vegas is unique in the hospitality market due to a variety of economic and tourist focused attributes. Nowhere in the world can you find the density of properties and variety of offerings than in Vegas where a 3,000 key hotel is a standard property for the city — there are more hotel rooms along Las Vegas Blvd between Tropicana Ave. and Flamingo Rd. (one city block) than there are in downtown Chicago.

I often refer to Las Vegas as an “experimental laboratory” for the hospitality industry in response to the ever changing need to rethink and redefine the large resort properties as well as the guest experience. This not only encompasses guestroom configurations and room-to-suite mix ratios, but also expands to amenities and public spaces. Day club Pool/DJ based amenities are beefing up while expansive check-in front desks are slimming down in favor of a more personal kiosk or personal device experience. Food and Beverage outlets are incorporating quick Grab-n-Go service options. For the typical room layouts, Vegas was one of the first markets to explore the open bathroom concepts and living space configurations.

Beyond the playful nature of room configurations, Las Vegas was one of the first markets to expand on the programmatic mix of typical guestroom versus suites to the point of embracing the “All Suite” concept. This can first been seen in the early 90’s with the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino further expanded on with THEHotel at Mandalay Bay (now the Delano) and most recently with Vdara at City Center. As branded standalone towers these properties capture not only the international markets but also the staple Vegas business and convention travelers. Further expanding on creative programming of property mixes and also catering to a specific market group, Vegas lead early with the “Hotel within a Hotel” concept. These properties usually exist in either the upper floors of a Hotel Tower or dedicated building and are known for their luxury of amenities and level of service. These branded hotels usually have a smaller room count and are served by dedicated private elevators enhancing the prestigious experience. This started with the Four Seasons at Mandalay bay and continues today with MGM/NoMAd Hotel (the renovated Monte Carlo), SkyLofts (MGM Grand) and Sky Suites (Aria) along with the branded Nobu Hotel as part of Caesars Palace.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

I wouldn’t consider the issue as a “pain point” but rather an effort to redefine how the guest interacts with a Hotel and their expectations. These trends that are currently being explored could be considered a reaction to the established typology: Services vs. Opulence and Wellness vs. Indulgence. For service, we are seeing personal experiences catered to the guests needs; this can be in the form of technology advances with personal devices to in-room automation which can both add to the ease of the guests experience as well as helping the efficiency of the property. Rooms filled with opulent materials, surfaces and décor are trending towards a cleaner and “smarter” room. Wellness is now being integrated into the guest experience not only in food offerings, fitness and spa amenities, but also in the guestroom. This ranges from water and air purification systems to therapy designed lighting systems which aid in relaxation and stress reduction. There is also an added benefit with the incorporation of room technology and wellness amenities. These new room types create a low-carbon/energy conservation experience that can be marketed to travelers’ demands as well as reinforce a company’s commitment to sustainability.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

I’m not sure if these new design trends are a disruption or rather an evolution of the guest’s demands and new desires. This really is a byproduct of changing trends and the need to adapt to the new Millennial group of travelers.

Can you share five examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to travel?

I think this new group of travelers and the shift in trends within the hotel market is developing to try to capture these guests. This group is no longer making hotel destination decisions based on just a hotel stay or room night booked; this “new guest” has become a lot more sophisticated in selecting hotels by the location based on an attribute rather than a price point or brand. These new influences can be directly associated with a robust economy, largely fueled by the growing Millennial population, as well as a cultural behavioral shift that now desires an experience above all.

I think a key word for this new influence in the hotel experience would be “immersion,” immersion into the city, destination and local characteristic distinct to the property location.

We are seeing the F&B outlets at a hotel respond directly to this influence and are adapting local character in a variety of ways ranging from pop-up restaurants, and food truck service, to integrating different local restaurants and bars to run specialty events. These experiences are looking to create more of a social gathering atmosphere and give a direct link for the guest to interact with local food and residences of the city or town. The Lobby bar has been replaced with a “living room” or “gathering place” for these interactions to take place. Often times these spaces are adaptable and transform from breakfast service/quick grab-n-go meals to evening cocktails with a smaller sampling of cuisine in a more tapas type of offering.

These trends in F&B have also adapted to a broader theme of “wellness.” This can be seen in the healthier food options and in how the local farm/fresh has become the new focus for a lot of brands. We are seeing this “wellness” trend integrated into the guest experience not only in food offerings, fitness and amenities, but also in the room itself. Rooms are trending towards a cleaner and smarter design, often including everything from water and air purification systems to therapy-designed lighting systems to aid in relaxation and stress reduction — all parameters and specifications are set by the guest via an app.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

As a family we have been going to Punta Mita, Mexico for over a decade now. At first from Chicago, it was a break from the cold; but now that we’re living out west and in a warmer climate, it’s a nice break filled with natural beauty and family activities which allow us all to “re-set”. An ocean front suite at the St. Regis watching my oldest daughter surf, my youngest search for green turtles, and my wife and I having margaritas just doesn’t get any better.

Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am lucky to have a great family that has supported me throughout my career, from starting in Atlanta, to relocating to Las Vegas. I personally feel that even with all the wonderful projects I have worked on, my greatest accomplishment are my two daughters. I think the “goodness” I have brought to the world will be two beautiful, smart, driven, talented, independent thinking women (with great taste in music) who outshine their daddy’s accomplishments and make the world and even more beautiful place.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Creativity of thought. In a world of instant gratification, robust technology, and growing artificial intelligence, I think taking a little time to think about an issue or problem and develop a creative solution will help elevate us all.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m a pretty active member in the LinkedIn community and Nadel has a robust social media program to include all the major media outlets. Please follow Nadel and learn of all the great projects our firm is currently involved in.

Thank you for all of these great insights!


“We are seeing this “wellness” trend integrated into the guest experience not only in food… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.