Hospitality Industry Serves up Opportunity for Wide-Format Providers
Using wide-format digital inkjet to create interior décor for the hospitality and travel & tourism industries is the right technology hitting the right place at the right time.
Digital wide-format inkjet, including latex ink systems, UV-cure, UV-LED and direct-print dye-sublimation, allow for unique designs to be economically and efficiently printed in low volumes or as one-offs. Within the interior décor vertical, the possibilities are expansive, beginning with soft signage and vinyl wallcoverings, but going far beyond. Large-format digital inkjets are able to print on a widening array of non-traditional substrates, from ceramic tile to tabletops to architectural elements.
“Tremendous opportunities exist, for items such as wallcovering, canvas, curtains, cushions and window blinds,” notes Tom Wittenberg, large-format strategy, planning and content marketing manager, sign & decor, Americas, HP. “Growth rates, depending on the application, run anywhere from a CAGR of 8% to 21% a year for the next three to five years.”
An April 2015 study from HP and Interior Design magazine revealed that 61% of interior decorator respondents have specified more digital wallcovering products compared to two years ago, and 45% of the interior decorators say they use framed canvases of creative images in their projects.
From ceilings to floors to window treatments, bed coverings, upholstery, as well as wall coverings and art, the hospitality and travel & tourism sector is primed for unique graphics, as hotels and restaurants look to satisfy the modern consumers’ cravings for one-of-a-kind, memorable experiences.
Wide-format customers can print directly onto wood, acrylics, leathers and other unique and dimensional materials to create personalized furniture or art pieces, says Jay Roberts, Roland DGA product manager — UV printers. “The trend is now to use different mediums; customers are printing on tables; raw wood, metal, even vegan leather — anything and everything so that the texture of the material enhances the overall design of the interior,” he observes.
Hotel and travel trends offer great opportunity for wide-format print providers looking to make an impact in these industries. In its 2018 travel and hospitality industry outlook, business management consultancy Deloitte notes that the total U.S. travel market, comprised of six segments including airlines, lodging, car rental, cruise, rail and travel packaging, hit a record $353 billion in 2017. This year 5% growth is forecasted, “setting the industry on course to hit a record-breaking $370 billion by year’s end.”
Trends favor the need for more distinct graphics to attract the traveler or foodie. While the consumer’s ability to compare hotels and restaurants with a few swipes in an app may be disconcerting for business owners, for the print provider it screams opportunity. To attract customers, hoteliers and restaurateurs require positive reviews, and décor plays an important role in defining the overall experience and helping to offer something memorable.
Digital inkjet allows for hospitality, travel & tourism to create unique, one-of-a-kind environments at a reasonable cost. Wallcoverings or murals can be used to create themed rooms at hotels or restaurants, and can be customized to meet the demographics of a specific locale, helping brands and chains stand out among their competitors. Décor elements, including floor tiles, tabletops, drapes and furniture, can feature a property’s signature design across their locations, ensuring a consistent look. Soft signage welcoming visitors attending an event can be affordably and quickly produced.
According to the Deloitte report, “Forward-thinking hotel brands are already taking advantage of the opportunity to deliver travelers some of the look, feel and experience of a pricey lifestyle hotel in an affordable package.”
Fast-food chains are tying soft signage to print and supporting media, using signage to deliver targeted, high-quality messaging that can be tracked to measure effectiveness, explains Ken Hanulec, EFI’s vice-president of marketing – inkjet solutions. When a particular bit of messaging works, the soft signage can be quickly duplicated across the brand’s restaurants.
Airports, too, provide ample opportunity for wide-format output.
According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, in 2015, JFK Airport hosted a total of 56.9 million passengers. And advertisers such as GMC, Universal Pictures, MailChimp, Dell, Oracle and CA Technologies, among others, took note.
These leading companies have advertised their products, services and brands using high-impact overhead fabric or vinyl banner overhead displays, backlit signs or wall and window vinyl wraps and clings — all designed to deliver big impact to travelers — and depending on location, their family and friends. Cities and event planners use oversized wide-format signage to announce upcoming events.
“Go into any airport today and you’ll see high-quality soft signage everywhere,” Hanulec notes. “Soft signage delivers a super value and a high quality look and feel; dye-sublimation water-based ink technology delivers deep color saturation, including black, and is better for the environment. Airports are replacing backlits with fabrics because they’re easier to change out and have sound-dampening properties in high-trafficked areas.” Additionally, because soft signage is lightweight, it is less expensive to ship than rigid material. It can also be folded or rolled without damage to the sign and re-used.
Soft signage is one of the best opportunities for print providers, especially those looking to work in interior décor for hospitality, he adds.
In Cleveland, Ohio, 4walls, a designer and manufacturer of wallcoverings for commercial and residential markets, takes full advantage of the EFI VUTEk GS2000LX Pro with UltraDrop. The company, which counts restaurants and hotels among its commercial clients, sells its wallpapers through distributors via its Level 1 program.
“Combined with our design content, there is high demand for our product,” says Brian English, 4walls owner. “We started producing wallcoverings for a couple of hotels a month, and then grew from there.”
The Level 1 product line started out with 20 designs, and every year 20 more are added. Plus, 4walls will customize any of its wallcoverings, changing colors, doing overprints or even creating a new design to specifications.
Last year 4walls added digital embossing, raised ink and spot gloss in-line with design to its cadre of services. “We are giving our designers more tools; our design department is going crazy,” English says.
The company primarily uses Type II vinyl for wallcoverings. “We stay away from wall graphics and focus on décor,” English says.
In Fullerton, Calif., Gamut Media specializes in branding and graphic design services, as well as high-quality printing for wide-format graphics, including canvas prints, banners, signs, wall murals, window graphics and vehicle wraps. Gamut’s clients include restaurants, individuals, corporations and small businesses located primarily in Southern California.
The company works with both quick service/fast casual and premium restaurants, not only helping to set the scene with dramatic wallcoverings, but also creating logos, menus and window graphics. For its branding campaign for Saladish, a Los Angeles restaurant owned in part by former LA Laker Metta World Peace, Gamut Media earned a Golden Image award at SGIA. Gamut Media designed and printed logos, menus, window graphics and signage, as well as a massive, floor-to-ceiling mural featuring a bold, illustrated garden scene, printed on
its Roland VersaCAMM VS-640i wide-format printer/cutter with CMYK, white and light black ink.
“Everyone has equipment; what separates us is our design,” says Phillip Yu, creative director for Gamut Media. “The good thing about restaurants, is that that as the brand grows, we grow with them. We do offset printing too; so once we get that work of branding that company, we have all the files. As they grow, we grow with them. So we not only do their wall coverings, but their menus, shirts for their employees, windows. We will start at one location, then do the rest.”
Working with existing accounts will provide the print solutions provider the lowest cost of acquisition, Wittenberg advises. “It’s always best to work with existing relationships to build the business, even if not doing work for some of them at the time. In existing accounts, it’s just a matter of finding out who in the end-user influences or buys the décor and meeting with them to show the possibilities.”
To this point, if printing menus, brochures or foldouts for existing accounts, it may be as easy as bringing the end-user in and showing what else can be done with digital printing to keep colors and themes consistent. Demo the ease and quickness of prototyping — it’s a real game changer when it does not involve analog equipment. It also allows them to see the bigger picture of what can really be created on a larger scale.