a black and white image of the bar in Khaluna in Minneapolis by Shea

Interior Design Unveils the 2022 Hospitality Giants

The results for the 2022 Interior Design Hospitality Giants, our survey of the top 75 firms working in the sector, are somewhat like taking a construction elevator in an unfinished hotel project: It may be uncomfortable, but it will still get you where you want to go. Predictions say we will, and results are better than expected, but there’s still post-pandemic corporate pain. Business has been down, but data points to a rebound. Let’s have a look.

Hospitality design bounces back

Hospitality Giants Rankings 2022

wdt_ID Rank 2022 Firm HQ Location Hospitality Fees (in millions) Value (in millions) Sq. Ft. (in millions) Design Staff Rank 2021
1 1 Cheng Chung Design Shenzhen, CN 109.60 new
2 2 HBA International Santa Monica, CA 103.50 6,210.70 1,355 1
3 3 Gold Mantis Construction Decoration Co. Suzhou, CN 56.90 2
4 4 Rockwell Group New York 22.90 11
5 5 ForrestPerkins/Perkins Eastman New York 20.30 295 5
6 6 Gensler San Francisco 19.90 3,073 4
7 7 Populous Kansas City, MO 19.80 20
8 8 AvroKO New York 13.70 0.60 1.2 81 13
9 9 Gettys Group Companies Chicago 13.30 200.00 55 9
10 10 DLR Group Minneapolis 12.10 49.50 110 8

Overall fees for the group fell from $576 million in 2020 to $423 million in 2021, a 27 percent drop. But the group forecasts a recovery in 2023 to $491 million. The latest Hot Market Growth Report from ThinkLab, the research division of Sandow Design Group, lists the usual pandemic suspects as reasons for the headwinds: lack of corporate travel, supply-chain issues, rising costs, employment challenges. The good news: Like the pandemic, these issues are predicted to gradually resolve soon.

Editor’s Note: Interior Design’s 2023 Top 100 Giants are in! See what experts are saying about the current state of the industry. Read more.

Most Admired Design Firms

Where did the hospitality firms take these hits? Right in the moneymaker: hotels. Always bringing in the lion’s share of fees, hotel work fell from 57 percent of fees to 47, coming in at $208 million. Furthermore, luxury hotel work, source of some of the biggest earnings, has been responsible for nearly a third of hotel fees the past two years; now it’s just 25 percent. But nearly every business segment was down in 2021. Hotels are just the most glaring and devastating to the overall bottom line. There are bright spots, however, such as resorts and restaurants now making up more than 22 percent of fees, from 17 percent. Growth is definitely happening.

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Hospitality Firms with Largest Increase in Fees

wdt_ID Firm 2020 Design Fees 2021 Design Fees
1 Gold Mantis Construction Decoration Co. 37,425,000 56,940,000
2 Populous 7,666,072 19,815,523
3 Rockwell Group 11,960,000 22,927,898
4 JCJ Architecture 7,350,000 11,600,000
5 Aria Group Architects 5,250,000 8,500,000
6 Icrave 7,100,000 10,118,000
7 CHIL Interior Design 2,407,672 5,271,340
8 AvroKO 11,007,278 13,728,837
9 Studio Dado 3,000,000 4,398,255
10 IndiDesign 2,090,000 3,200,000

International projects are down with only 17 percent of firms doing that work, from 24 percent last year (in 2015, it was about a third of firms). But the Caribbean is clocking in with 60 percent of international firms taking projects—that’s up from 52 percent in 2020. This dovetails with what we’re seeing up and down the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, as approximately 20 percent more Hospitality Giants see the Southeast as a growth hotbed, and nearly half are looking toward the Northeast. But biggest growth region is the Southwest, where 73 percent of respondents see an uptick. ThinkLab’s report breaks regions down even further, highlighting Texas, Arkansas, Florida, and New York as states ready to grow.

Projects in the Middle East are picking up as well as those projects that may have gone on hold over the pandemic. Leisure is hot in Latin America and Mexico. Renovation is still strong. Globally, hospitality is driving city building. A hotel tower is often the anchor experience in a new mixed-use development. This has been driven by the need for new cities to market themselves as open and desirable tourism.”

—Tom Ito, Gensler

Global Growth Potential for Next 2 Years


wdt_ID Region Percentage
1 Southwest 73
2 Southeast 71
3 Northeast 47
4 Midsouth 44
5 Mid-Atlantic 41
6 Midwest 30
7 Northwest 22


wdt_ID Region Percentage
1 Canada 10
2 Mexico 19
3 Central/South America 10
4 Caribbean 25
5 Europe 18
6 Middle East 26
7 Africa 3
8 China 16
9 India 7
10 Asia/Australia/New Zealand 11

And yes, let’s talk about optimism for a second. Because that’s the word here. Here’s some sunshine:

—When looking at the U.S regions primed for growth, the Hospitality Giants’s overall enthusiasm is much higher this year: Over a quarter are more bullish than a year ago.
—Firms are using their experience and skills to bring hospitality know-how to other segments. Example: “We’ve made a strong and concerted move into residential, parlaying our hospitality experience into shared spaces and amenities,” CHIL Interior Design senior principal Paul Morissette says.
—Hotel work, luxe and boutique in particular, is expected to rebound starting in 2023. Same for multiuse, as well as resorts, spas, and country clubs.
—Meanwhile, a report from Dodge Data & Analytics shows lodging construction to be one of the most robust growth areas not just next year, but through 2026.

In short: A solid business is still there, and it’s very possible the worst is over.

Fees by Project Segment

wdt_ID Segment 2020 2021
1 Hotels (Total) 47 48
2 Hotels (Luxury) 25 26
3 Hotels (Boutique) 13 13
4 Hotels (Mid/Economy) 9 9
5 Hotels (Micro) 0 1
6 Resorts 11 12
7 Spas 2 1
8 Country Clubs 4 4
9 Gaming 4 3
10 Restaurants 11 11

During the next 2 years, do firms expect to see more or fewer projects in these segments?

wdt_ID Segment More Projects No Change Fewer Projects
1 Hotels (Luxury) 56 28 2
2 Hotels (Boutique) 63 21 5
3 Hotels (Mid/Economy) 41 35 2
4 Micro Hotels 16 30 2
5 Condo-Hotels/Timeshare 22 35 2
6 Multiuse (Hospitality/Retail/Residential) 62 16 1
7 Restaurants/Bars/Lounges/Nightclubs 58 21 5
8 Resorts/Spas/Country Clubs 62 21 4
9 Gaming 26 26 2
10 Cruise Ships 5 31 4

“Our firm is growing exponentially—we just hired 14 new people. Year-over-year, we increased our revenue 30 percent and are looking to do four times the amount of business we engaged in pre-pandemic, which is a great sign for the hospitality and travel industry. As people rush back out into the world for personal and business travel, 2023 is projected to be a record-breaking year for us.”

—Kellie Sirna, Studio 11 Design

Hospitality Project Categories

wdt_ID Categories Percentage
1 New Construction 48
2 Refresh Previously Completed Projects 8
3 Renovation/Retrofit 44


The annual business survey of Interior Design Hospitality Giants ranks the largest design firms by hospitality design fees for the 12-month period from January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021. Hospitality design fees include those attributed to:

1. All hospitality interiors work.

2. All aspects of a firm’s hospitality design practice, from strategic planning and programming to design and project management.

3. Fees paid to a firm for work performed by employees and independent contractors who are full-time staff equivalent.

Hospitality design fees do not include revenues paid to a firm and remitted to subcontractors that are not considered full-time staff equivalent. For example, certain firms attract work that is subcontracted to a local firm. The originating firm may collect all the fees and retain a management or generation fee, paying the remainder to the performing firm. The amounts paid to the latter are not included in fees of the collecting firm when determining its ranking. Additionally, where applicable, all percentages are based on responding hospitality Giants, not their total number. The data was compiled and analyzed by Interior Design and ThinkLab, the research division of Sandow Design Group.

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