During the opening night of Skift Global Forum 2019, we announced on Tuesday the winners of the inaugural Skift Design Awards, the travel industry’s recognition of the spaces, services, and initiatives transforming the traveler experience.

After months of deliberation, our panel of world-renowned designers and creative business leaders poured through hundreds of entries to choose the best-in-class brands and designers defining the future of travel across 15 categories.

Please check out the video above announcing the winners, and for more information, read below.

Skift Design Awards Winners

Best AR/VR Experience: Melbourne Convention Bureau – Virtual Site Visit

MCB created the Melbourne Virtual Site Visit (MVSV) to help international associations and professional conference organizers (PCOs) to select Melbourne as their preferred meeting destination, strengthening the business case and destination appeal. The MVSV delivers an immersive 360-degree first-person experience to international decision makers that can be viewed anywhere at any time, increasing their understanding of Melbourne and imrpoving conversion without a physical site inspection. Clients can virtually meet prospective partners as they introduce venues, hotels, and attractions in Melbourne. Users direct their own immersive pathway through the virtual journey to learn the unique benefits of Melbourne as a destination.

Honorable Mentions:
Moxy Chelsea – A.S.M.R. Experience
Renacen – 3D SeatMapVR

Best Aviation Experience: Oman Air – First Class Passenger Experience

Oman Air invested in an all new first class passenger experience to elevate the prestige of its brand as a flag carrier. The design team scrutinized every aspect of long-haul flight, with specific focus on the details of a temporary life in the sky. The team enacted passengers’ patterns of movement, anticipated pain points, inevitable questions, and lived out every possible scenario with a careful eye on ergonomics and human factors. Bespoke monuments, lighting design, 24k gold leaf finishes, and subtle layering of patterns and luxe materials come together to create an impression that is entirely new and unmistakably Oman Air.

Honorable Mentions:
Delta Air Lines – Atlanta Terminal F
United – Entertainment for All

Best Business Traveler Experience: NH Hotel Group – Fastpass

Since 2018, NH’s Experience Department, in collaboration with the operations and IT teams, has developed a series of technological and innovative initiatives meant to give response to worldwide consumer expectations and arising needs. In this sense, the company has introduced services meant to differentiate the guest experience: WhatsApp messaging with front desk hotel staff, the lobbies alive project (meant to transform lobbies into a real living space), and most importantly Fastpass, a combination of three innovative services –– online check-in, Choose Your Room, and online check-out –– that place complete control over their stays in customers’ hands.

Honorable Mentions:
HotelsByDay – Flexible Travel
Lyric – Creative Suites

Best Cruise Experience: Carnival Corporation – OceanCompass

OceanCompass™ is the way-finding digital experience on board Medallion Class ships in Carnival Cruise Line’s fleet. OceanCompass provides seamless engagement with guests through the use of wireless sensing technologies to provide intelligent navigation assistance, similar to GPS but on a ship that’s constantly in motion. It also helps guests locate and chat with members of their travel party while on board using a “find-friends” feature called ShipMates, as well as enables point-to-point way-finding throughout the ship. The OceanCompass has made navigation a pleasure and greatly enhanced the customer experience for users.

Honorable Mentions:
Avalon Waterways – Your Dreams. In Full View.
Uniworld – Elevating the Standard of Luxury River Cruising

Best Design for Wellbeing: Design Group Italia and Basalt Architects – The Retreat at Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Built into an 800-year-old lava flow in the heart of the Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark, the Retreat at Blue Lagoon Iceland encompasses a subterranean spa, geothermal lagoon, a restaurant that reimagines Iceland’s culinary traditions, and a 62-suite luxury hotel encircled by the Blue Lagoon’s mineral-rich waters. The Retreat’s architecture and design harmonize with the otherworldly volcanic surroundings, erasing the boundary between man and nature. Quality, attention to detail, and governing design language reach every touchpoint, including digital technologies like electronic bracelets, lighting (custom luminaires in the suites that replicate circadian rhythms), and bespoke furniture made from lava stone quarried onsite.

Honorable Mentions:
Getaway – Minimalist Cabins
WESSCO – Casper and American Airlines Bedding Program

Best Eco-Friendly Design: Singita Sweni – Eco-Friendly Lodge

Singita’s Sweni Lodge is nestled between the trees on the banks of the Sweni River in the renowned Kruger National Park in South Africa. The lodge runs on solar energy and Tesla batteries and is positioned in a way that maximizes the use of trees and river breeze to cool the rooms. Built with just one concrete slab and held up by poles, the lodge could easily be removed to preserve the nature surrounding it. A celebration of nature, conservation and sustainability, Sweni Lodge shows what can be achieved in design when building sustainably and with conservation in mind.

Honorable Mentions:
1000 Island Hotels – Woods At Sasan
United Airlines – Flight for the Planet

Best Entertainment Space: Club Med – CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil

Club Med Creactive by Cirque du Soleil is a playscape designed for travelers of all backgrounds and ages who have ever dreamed of running away with the circus. An immersive experience inspired by the wondrous world of Cirque du Soleil, guests can discover more than 25 acrobatic and artistic activities ranging from high bungee, flying trapeze, aerial silk, and trampoline, to mask painting, juggling, percussion, dance, and more. The recreational space gives adults and children alike a unique opportunity to explore their physical and creative abilities through a wide range of activities while learning and having fun.

Honorable Mentions:
Accor – Jo&Joe Gentilly
Rockwell Group – Bar Feroce

Best Event Activation: Moxy Times Square – Fashion Fun House

To celebrate New York Fashion Week, The Moxy Times Square Fashion Fun House was created to be an immersive experience where studios in Bar Moxy were transformed into a fashion playground. The installation included funhouse mirrors, undulating side-by-side slides allowing friends to race in designer burlap sacks, and spinning mannequins (painted in full glitter) throughout. A Whack-A-Mole Fashion Icons edition featured top supermodels and fashion world notables, including Anna Wintour, Alexander Wang, and Kate Moss, while a Runway Ring Toss game featured stiletto heel pegs, encouraging guests to throw the ring on the stiletto to win prizes like room stays and drinks at Bar Moxy.

Honorable Mention:
Hong Kong Tourism Board – Old Town Central Interactive Art Projection

Best Event Networking Experience: e180 – Braindate

Braindate is a peer learning experience that helps members of a community — events, companies, schools, even cities — connect with and learn from one another. Braindates are topic-driven, knowledge-sharing conversations that participants book with each other at an event. Facilitated by a Braindate platform, users post topics related to anything that they’re hoping to share and discuss at a given event to a “topic market.” Participants with similar interests will book them to discuss their topics. Believing that communities’ desire for “networking” is rooted in a human need for connection and knowledge-exchange opportunities, Braindates aims to transform the way people meet.

Honorable Mention:
Accor – Mercure Monmarte Wojo

Best Event/Meeting Space: Jumeirah – Fort Island at Madinat Jumeirah

The development of Fort Island has transformed the Madinat Jumeirah Conference building into the leading event space within the luxury hotel. Accommodating events including festivals, weddings, exhibitions, product launches, and concerts, the new capacity holds up to 1,400 people – 975 more than before. Home to events like the World Economic Forum and sponsor of Art Dubai, Fort Island is surrounded by waterways with views of the iconic Burj Al Arab. Areas are accessible from the resort’s three hotels by buggy, by foot, or by traditional wooden boats (abras). It is the third-largest event space in the country and the largest hotel-based event space in the UAE.

Best F&B Experience: The Infatuation – EEEEEATSCON

After years in the music industry and curating food lineups at major music festivals, The Infatuation saw an opportunity to reimagine the traditional food festival model and create a large-scale experience in line with its audience’s interests. That opportunity was EEEEEATSCON, a food experience built like a music festival, but with restaurants as the headliners. EEEEEATSCON features a highly curated group of local restaurants, along with exciting imports from around the world, many serving food you can’t experience anywhere else. With live performances happening throughout the day and panels from A-list thought leaders and industry pioneers, EEEEEATSCON is as much about connecting with an engaged, inspired community as it is about eating and being entertained.

Honorable Mentions:
Black Tomato – Tasting Notes
Las Vegas Convention Visitors Authority – B-EAT by Las Vegas

Best Guest Experience: Atelier Ace – Maison de la Luz

Approaching the concept and creation of an intimate, private sanctuary through a new lens, Maison de la Luz defines luxury as moving through the world with grace, rarity in idiosyncratic details, and taking exceptional care of people. Inspired by Southern homes of singular vision, the new guest house brings a refreshing balance of romance, rebellion, and elegant ease as a lighthouse for all senses. Working with Studio Shamshiri — known for their nuanced style, clear design conviction, and willingness to take risks to ensure the inimitable quality of timelessness — Maison de la Luz was built with a classic foundation, layered with warmth, visual resplendence, and the sense that it has always existed.

Honorable Mentions:
Carnival Corporation – The MedallionClass Experience
Swire Hotels – The Middle House Shanghai

Best In-Destination Experience: Helsinki Marketing – MyHelsinki x WeChat

As a hub between Asia and Europe, Helsinki has become increasingly popular among Chinese tourists with overnight stays more than doubling in recent years. Aiming to create an intelligent tourism model for Chinese outbound tourism, the City of Helsinki, Tencent, and MaaS Global developed MyHelsinki as a one-stop mobile service for to cover visitors’ needs and desires across their journey. Accessible to over one billion daily WeChat users, the service combines personal recommendations, mobility planning, and purchase options for travelers. With the launch of WeChat Pay, Helsinki aims to be the first cashless destination for Chinese travelers.

Honorable Mentions:
Busabout – Create Your Own Adventure
Trafalgar – Colombia Rediscovered

Best Public Space: 25hours Hotel Langstrasse

25hours Hotel Langstrasse playfully integrates Zurich’s culture of creativity, art, commerce, and nightlife. A space for both locals and visitors, an open floor plan offers multiple experiences within connected spaces like Neni Restaurant, Cinchona Bar, Living Room, Artist Studio, 25hours Things concept store with a curated book section, and an analog Playroom with pinball machines. The hotel also lets guests pay for their stay with decorative and valuable things through a pawn shop which doubles as the reception area. Artists from an array of stylistic disciplines are invited to shift the epicenter of their creative output to the hotel’s own studio, turning the establishment into an artistic space through talks, performances, and showings.

Honorable Mentions:
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge – Lobby
Bankside – London’s Innovative Design-Forward Hotel

Best Retail Environment: Publicis Sapient – The New Pixels Gallery

For vacationers, photos are prime currency. The New Pixels Gallery takes the photo experience off the wall and transforms it into an interactive space that is a destination for guests aboard Carnival Cruises. The reimagined gallery has 30 seven-foot touchscreen photo towers and a media wall made up of 74 synced, interactive screens to encourage participation and allow for easy access to photos. Using a combination of facial recognition and cruiser ID numbers, photos are automatically grouped together. Guests simply enter their code on a device and can easily retrieve photos for purchase on the spot.

Honorable Mentions:
dialogue 38 – Junction House Sales Gallery
RIMOWA – RIMOWA Ginza Store

Congratulations to the 2019 winners and thank you to all entrants who submitted work for this year’s competition. Want to enter for 2020? Find more information here