The globalization phenomenon is seen as a world-wide movement to bring different countries and societies together, allowing for greater integration and contact. Products, ideas, transactions and information are now able to circulate more freely. Consequently, this results in a global society of similar standards, where faster communication between societies would mean rapid improvements in the global economy and living standards as a whole.
The notion of luxury has also evolved, from the simplistic mindset of material possession and wealth, to the psychological and spiritual aspect of life. Time and experience are now seen as prized commodities.
The question to ask is ‘does globalization really improve our quality of life?'
1.1 The Advantages of Globalization
Clear advantages resulting from globalization are the more efficient exchange of ideas and information between people and societies. Key knowledge and information in areas of science and technology can be shared more quickly, allowing for the development of new products and solutions to help us improve our daily lives. Much improvement can also be seen in the global economy due to the greater ease in financial transactions and free trade agreements between countries. In addition, more jobs are created due to the greater ease for countries to invest in the developing nations.
1.2 The Disadvantages of Globalization
However, there are the downsides of globalization as well. Homogeneity and standardization are often seen, leaving little difference in the individual societies. Unique cultures of the individual societies are starting to erode as nations strive for progress and advancement to fit in with the rest of the world. One example is the traditions of the Masai tribe in Africa, which have been scrutinized and abolished by outsiders, is now lost due to globalized intruders of the land.
Developing countries are also at the risk of losing their cultural identity as they tend to embrace the influx of ideas and information with open arms, and in turn, neglecting culture heritage and traditions. An increase in consumerism and number of activities has also taken a toll on the environment shown by the dramatic increase in pollution levels and climate change. Stress levels are also on the rise with the greater competition among people and societies as noted by urban Sociologist Georg Simmel (1972). With the increase in stress levels, people are turning to quiet and tranquil retreats, in order to get away from urbanization and calm themselves down.
2. Globalized Tourism
The tourism industry, being an important sector in the global economy is also affected by the increasingly intense waves of globalization. It has brought about both positive and negative outcomes and effects.
2.1 The more we get together
One obvious advantage of globalization on the tourism sector is the increase in the number of travelers. As people become more aware of their surrounding countries and the different societies out there, curiosity for the places would be sparked. Fueled by financial and social improvements, people's disposable income would increase, allowing them to travel more than before. The increase in the number of tourists brings with them a demand for hotels, and at the same time opening up more job vacancies and boosting the country's economy.
3. Cities + Globalization = Homogeneous
Hansruedi Müller (2001) states that “tourist products and even whole destinations are becoming interchangeable” this suggests that homogeneity is found in places around the world, where similarity reigns.
With the inevitable force of globalization, city streets of countries world-wide start to look similar and non-distinctive as information is now freely exchanged. Soaring skyscrapers, endless shopping malls and congested roadways are the common features found in modernized cities. Singapore is no exception. Depending on foreign investors for a smooth running economy, it is unavoidable that when a marketing technique is successful overseas, local businesses would adopt the same treatment as well. This unfortunately, results in the similar looking buildings and city areas. (See Fig 1 - 3)
3.1 Globalized Design
Globalization has affected design in many different ways; from skyscrapers, shopping malls, franchised restaurants and banks are coming to a standardized structure and design. FAIA Professor Roger K. Lewis (2002) posed a question of “When abroad, how often have you felt especially comfortable in a hotel room similar to others you have stayed in, felt relieved perusing a menu with foods you recognize, or enjoyed shopping in a store whose merchandise and interior design are like the store at home?” This is evident in flagship and franchised stores around the world, which is designed to reflect a globally known brand.
Design in the hotel industry is inevitably affected by globalization and can be seen in the homogeneous design among large chain hotels. Hoteliers are constantly in a race against time to build a hotel, so as to be able to maximize full capacity of the demand from tourists. Big chain hotels start to look alike as they aim to meet the demands on certain functions and services from tourists. However, there is a new breed of hotels that is on the rise in the hotel industry which aims to set themselves apart from the more established hotels; boutique hotels.
3.2 Escaping Homogeneity - Uniqueness amidst Standardization
Boutique hotels in general, aim to be unique and different setting themselves apart from the bigger chain of main stream hotels. Being in a much smaller scale of 3 to 50 guest rooms, boutique hotels are known for their personalized treatment of individual guests. Ultimately, boutique hotels aim to design for distinctiveness and diversity.
With the rapid reduction in space and land available, another kind of hotel is also gaining popularity among tourists; micro-hotels. One kind of micro hotel that is on the rise is the capsule hotel, originating from Japan. Though capsule hotels are small in size, they serve the main purpose and function of temporary accommodation space: a space for sleeping. The limited available space is not only efficiently used; functional comfort is also taken into consideration. Convenience in location is also an important part of the capsule hotel, where it is located mainly in busy city area. Such hotels are popular among businessmen and tourists, who are looking for a cheap place to rest for the night.
Another growing trend is the eco-friendly hotels and resorts. In mind of the rising environmental issues and concerns, these hotels aim for earth-friendly solutions to the different problems faced, without sacrificing luxury and comfort. One common approach that is adopted by hotels is the use of non-toxic cleaning agents, recycling of waste from both staff and guests and the use of renewable energy.
3.2.1 The need to escape
Dan Greaves (2008) states that “leisure time has become a key opportunity to enhance wellbeing and find sense and escape in increasingly complex and hectic lives”. Therefore, it is important that hotels are located away from the hectic urban jungle, as it is a place for leisure and enjoyment, where tourist can truly enhance their wellbeing and escape from the taxing daily lives. Indeed, globalization has forced people to look for more quiet and serene retreats, in order to enjoy a truly relaxing holiday.
Due to the increasing demand in travel accommodations, hotels are springing up all around the world, especially in the heart of the city where tourists would frequent. Such places are usually busy and noisy, with a similar surrounding environment as they have back home, which is not ideal as people go on holiday to get away from their hectic lifestyle and schedule. The busy setting decreases the quality of relaxation as tourists would not be truly able to let loose and relax. Therefore, there is a need for guests to be in a different environmental setting for them to truly relax.
The increased traffic in the cluttered and noisy modern city has also led to the revival of spaces for retreat from the chaotic city setting. As global competition among people and industries increases, people are spending more time working. This result in higher stress levels and lesser leisure time for relaxation and entertainment. High levels of pollution in terms of noise and environment are also the reason why the demands of such ‘escape' are increasing. Retreats are situated away from urbanization, where relaxation and serenity are prized characteristics. One example is Villa 32, a hot springs resort in Taipei, Taiwan. With only 5 rooms available, the resort caters offers highly personalized service to the lucky few are able to soak in the hot springs tub, while soaking in the natural beauty of the mountainous view of the Beitou District. What makes the hotel more ideal is that it is only a half hours drive from the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, but yet far away from the metropolitan cityscape.
3.3 The Escape Route
My concept for the boutique hotel is to provide an escape for people from the busy metropolitan city of everyday life, with the main clientele being visiting tourists. What makes the boutique hotel more ideal is that it is the location which is situated in the Minden Cluster of Tanglin Village. The surrounding environment is tranquil and peaceful, different from the cluttered modernized setting where most hotels are located in.
Michael Willmott and Sarah Graham (2001) noted that “growing number of adults say their lives are too stressful, so convenience and a relaxing atmosphere will be the order of the day”. This is fulfilled in both aspects as Tanglin Village is an area close to Orchard Road, the heart of the Singapore City, yet provides a refreshing and different environment from the urban jungle.
3.4 Cleansing of the mind and soul
The process of cleansing one's mind and soul is used in the design approach of my boutique hotel. From the noisy, busy city, one goes through a cleansing process of walking through the space to reach the ultimate destination of a quiet haven.
It starts off in the lobby area whereby public areas such as the reception and dining areas are located close to the road where the traffic is, and private areas such as the room are placed furthest away from the road, where it is quieter. At the pool area from the lobby, one goes through a transition area to calm their minds and filter out distractions and stress resulting from the cluttered modern city. Ultimately, one reaches an area of peace and serenity; the rooms. It is a private haven for the individual guests, an area which is quiet and relaxed, free from distractions and the prying eyes of the public sector.
Water is used as the main element in my design as it brings about a calming effect and rejuvenation of the spirit. Water features are also used as partitions to enhance the feeling of being surrounded in an oasis. This will provide tourists with a place where they can truly relax and unwind from their daily activities.
3.5 Luxurious comfort
The layout of spaces is not aimed at solely to maximize profits, but more towards the wellbeing of the guests. Wide pathways and minimal furniture are purposefully allocated to maximize the comfort levels of the visitors. Keeping in mind the journey visitors are to take when heading towards their rooms, features are designed as focal areas in strategic locations to aid the cleansing process of the guests.
The term relaxing space comes in many different forms and differs with each person. They can be in the form of an enclosed space with high ceiling, like those found in churches, or simply being outdoors, close to nature. These are the different kinds of relaxing spaces that are integrated in the boutique hotel design.
In the public spaces such as the lobby and dining areas, spiritual calmness of the guests is translated in terms of enclosed areas with high ceiling, and the play of light and water elements. With the use of water to calm the minds and body of the guests, they are able to relax and leave behind the stress of the daily life as they immerse themselves in the sheer volume of the building.
Being located at the back of the site, away from prying eyes of the public, the use of nature and outdoors is implemented in the private area where the rooms are. The rooms are designed in blocks, differing from the original architecture of the lobby block, so as to allow for more efficient cross ventilation of spaces. With the use of plants as soft boundaries, constant fresh air can be expected when staying the rooms, ensuring comfort for the staying guests.
Advancing technology may have provided us with products and services to ease our problems in life, but globalization have also brought about different kinds of problems, such as the increase in stress level with the ever increasing fast-paced lifestyles of people and a loss in unique cultural identities as a homogenized global culture is taking over in the different areas of the world. Increase in human activities and demands have also cause a strain on the environment with the worsening pollution and a change in the ecological system, along with a greater increase in stress level in people. Fast-paced lifestyles are now known as a common feature all around the world, even when people are on holidays, they are surrounded by similar hectic environments as they have back home. Such chaotic city settings are essentially the kind of surroundings people are trying to escape from when they go on holiday. However, escape from such urban dwelling is essential in improving the wellbeing and interest of our daily lives. Yet, globalization has resulted in the homogeneity and standardization of cities around the world. So has globalization then improve our quality of life?
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