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After the lighting refresh, the lobby of the Westin Puntacana Resort & Club. Source: Marriott International.

Hotel Lobbies Get Glow Ups as Lighting Becomes Central to Design Innovation

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Funky furniture and art grab all the glory in hotel design talk on Instagram and TikTok. But lighting has under-appreciated importance. This example of a lighting refresh at this Dominican Republic resort could offer broader lessons to the sector.

Series: Future of Hotel Design

Future of Hotel Design

What you need to know about the look, feel, and functionality of experiential innovation at cutting-edge properties. (See our past stories.)

More and more designers believe lighting is critical in making hotel lobbies more inviting because of a next-gen traveler demand for more social interaction and blended travel. The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club renovation is an example worth spotlighting.

An ongoing property-wide renovation recently began in what general manager Martin Rodriguez refers to as “the living room” of the hotel, better known as the lobby. At his property, the lobby serves as the check-in desk, lounge, elevator bank, gift shop entrance, and cocktail bar. 

To understand why a lighting refresh was critical here, you have to know that there are no towers at this Westin. The property’s horseshoe design gives each of the resort’s 200 rooms a view of the ocean and the central pool. This open architecture affords the centrally located lobby a breathtaking view — straight through to sand and sea. Supporting that panorama is a lighting schema that, like a chameleon, must fluctuate day or night, rain or shine. 

“It was important for us to make the guest feel instantly attracted and captivated by the extraordinary natural environment that this beautiful property has to offer,” said Spectro Lighting founder and president Luis José Jacobo of the renovation. “Natural light in the Caribbean is abundant and highlights its landscape. But we also wanted to ensure that the same areas could be enjoyed just as much at nightfall.”

When it came to strategizing what areas to enhance first, it was no question that the open-air lobby was tops on the list, said Emilio Perez, Marriott senior continent leader for global design.

About 50% of ongoing Marriott renovations today are initiated by the need to enhance the main arrival experience, which in turn elevates guest satisfaction,” Perez said.

It’s an investment that’s worked, he claimed.

Replacing a dark iron fixture with a brighter brass one spotlights the addition of pops of color and textures in the lobby bar while reducing glare. The addition of a back-lit cocktail bar has drawn in guests and others from neighboring hotels, who often spend hours chatting or watching sports on TV. (The Westin hosts the PGA and many golfers.)

The Westin Lobby Bar After lighting changes
After the lighting makeover, here’s the bar at the Westin Puntacana Resort & Club. Source: Marriott.
westin puntacana lobby before lighting renovation
BEFORE the lighting renovation, the lobby was dimmer and less inviting. Source: Marriott.

Others grab a drink and cozy up on cushy new weather-resilient furniture to watch the sun fade. They’re all protected by floor-to-ceiling retractable shades that keep out blazing rays or showers — complemented by dimmable, well-placed lighting that creates minimal glare on the tile floor.

“It’s all a game of light and shadows,” said Jacobo, who is familiar with the Westin’s setting for multiple reasons. As a native of the Dominican Republic, he’s part of Marriott’s mission to hire diverse, local vendors, said Perez. Jacobo was also part of the original construction team for the hotel’s 2013 opening. 

Ten years later, Jacobo was so impressed with the durability of the fixtures — “challenging for seaside conditions,” he noted — that Spectro is again using LED products from Spanish supplier LEDS-C4. Sustainability technology has come a long way, creating a higher return on investment for new lighting, Jacobo said.

“The new luminaires allow excellent color rendering and better integration to lighting controls,” Jacobo said. “These factors help to increase the lifespan of fixtures while reducing energy consumption and maintenance for Marriott.” 

lighting in the lobby of The Westin Punta Cana lobby seating area marriott
Lighting in the lobby of The Westin Puntacana. An investment in new LED lighting is just as earth-friendly as it is user-friendly, taking a multipurpose open lobby from day to night in extreme weather conditions. Source: Marriott.

The rectangular lumiere can be tilted and turned depending on the Westin’s needs,” Jacobo said. “Should there be an installation of seasonal decorations, for instance, rotation capabilities are more precise post-renovation, the lumiere can be adjusted to focus on furniture and decorative objects more [flexibly].” 

Smart Lighting, a journal on illumination technology, gives Westin Puntacana’s choice two thumbs up for form and function — especially business function. 

“Light is now being used more and more to stimulate emotions and create brand identities,” wrote Mario Prieto of the models Spectro chose. “Intelligently planned light has the potential to set a focus and therefore influence purchasing behavior.”

Tags: design, future of hotel design, future of lodging, hotel design, Marriott International, westin

Photo credit: After the lighting refresh, the lobby of the Westin Puntacana Resort & Club. Source: Marriott International. Marriott International

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