INTERNATIONAL REPORT—It’s that time of year. There’s a chill in the air, snow underfoot—if you’re lucky—and the warm feeling of holidays with loved ones that attracts travelers from near and far. Whether it’s boughs of holly, a menorah all aglow or vibrant displays of Mexican folk art, hotels have a prime opportunity to celebrate the season through enchanting decor.
Hotel Business spoke with Todd Outhouse, director of catering at Hilton Portland, (who created holiday decor spaces for The Duniway and Hilton Portland); Paul Stokey, owner of Tesoro Flowers, (who added festive flair to Vintage House at The Estate Yountville); Gabriela Van der Lee, director of sales and marketing, Hilton Los Cabos Beach and Golf Resort; and Lisa Coccoli, director of sales and operations, Boca by Design (the in-house design team that dreamed up a winter wonderland for Boca Raton Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort), to gain insight into how to make the season bright for hotel guests.
What is the process for creating a holiday theme for hotel spaces?
Outhouse: We work in tandem with our design partners to craft an understated look that complements our newly renovated properties. This year, we wanted to play off the new color palette of the hotel and opted for contemporary ornaments in white, silver and pewter with accents of gold geometric shapes playing on the new lobby chandelier. The main lobby display also integrated architecture to avoid impeding the high traffic areas with 26 large holiday trees throughout the hotel and 25 smaller accent trees on tabletops and pedestals.
Stokey: I was inspired by the decor in the newly renovated space. We wanted to complement the rich hues of lavender, purple, gray, silver and gold, but also add a touch of warmth. The tree is the showcase this year. It’s a 15-in. flocked noble fir from Washington. It was the first tree (and our favorite) that we did this year. Shades of purple snowflakes, glass and a touch of glitter bring it to life. There are over 1,000 lights as well.
Van der Lee: The holiday market at Hilton Los Cabos follows the resort’s dedication to providing cultural experiences for its guests, representative of its Baja California location between colonial San Jose del Cabo and picturesque Cabo San Lucas. The holiday design theme was inspired by Mexican artisan work. We maintain much of the authenticity of the local culture by including all local vendors.
Coccoli: At Boca Raton Resort & Club, we incorporate the style of the building and its traditional architecture as well as the color of the light pink walls, decor in the area, what is trending and the specific colors of the holiday season.
What are some standout elements in this year’s holiday decor at your property?
Outhouse: At The Duniway, gold and green mercury glass ornaments adorn the main lobby display to incorporate the colors of the space. Specialty ornaments included stylized birds, orbs and Northwest-inspired colors and textures that matched the unique design theme of the hotel and Jackrabbit, our on-site restaurant.
Stokey: We incorporated beautiful wrapping paper that is handmade by Nepalese women. Not only are they beautiful, but also they benefit a great cause.
Van der Lee: Spa Director Adriana Tello contributed to the holiday design by installing a Christmas tree display at our Azul Lobby Bar created from Piki-T Mexican dolls made by local artisans from corn leaves. This traditional doll represents the aboriginal culture from the region of Cabo San Lucas. Guests enjoy walking around this unique Mexican Christmas tree. The dolls, which are crocheted and handcrafted by local women, are also for sale. One hundred percent of the money received from selling these dolls goes toward the materials and artists who create these dolls. In addition, the vendors this holiday season are what make the decor unique. This includes traditional Huichol artwork, colorful blown glass, hand-painted ceramics and custom-made Alebrijes, which are brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures.
Coccoli: This year, we have noticed the trend for the season is a combination of white, gold and silver. At the resort, we have incorporated a wintery design this year to display luxury and elegance to align with the Waldorf Astoria brand.
How do you create a festive feeling without alienating hotel guests of other cultures? Or, do you incorporate multicultural themes to make it inclusive?
Outhouse: This year, we chose the single theme of “contemporary holiday.” This theme allowed us to create a festive feeling between the two hotels.
Stokey: We are always conscious of different cultures and strive to make everyone feel warm and welcome.
Van der Lee: The decor and design of Hilton Los Cabos is unique because the community of Cabo San Lucas inspires it. We celebrate Mexican heritage in every element of the design. Our guests really enjoy this because they feel like they are getting a truly authentic experience.
Coccoli: We always strive to create designs where all cultures are identified in the decor. You will notice most of the Christmas trees throughout the property are accompanied by a menorah. We choose not to feature red and green traditional colors on our property each season in order to avoid excluding any tradition of our members and guests.
What is your number one tip for creating a festive look in a hotel setting?
Outhouse: Less is more!
Stokey: Make sure there is a wow factor!
Van der Lee: We like to keep everything bright and colorful to promote festive feelings and holiday happiness!
Coccoli: We like to incorporate fresh florals from our design agency’s in-house floral shop to enhance and complement the Christmas trees. In order to create an over-the-top and magical effect, we like to use unique ornaments and decor not typically found in a holiday setting.