10 Ways That COVID Could Impact Hotel Design in an Effort to Reassure Guests

By Hâfi Martinsdóttir

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes | 1717 words

1Hotel - Mayfair, London

Many hoteliers are taking this opportunity to pause and consider which direction would best suit their guests’ needs in our new post-COVID climate, especially given that the virus may never actually leave us.

Pandemics have long since dictated the changes within design, city planning and architecture. The 18th century yellow fever and 19th century cholera outbreaks initiated the widening of streets into broad boulevards and innovative indoor plumbing. Later, in the 20th century, Spanish flu breakouts pushed for better urban planning with a drive for more open, airy spaces and easier-to-clean surfaces. Adapting to various threats has always influenced design through necessity. In this article, we will examine the 10 ways that COVID is specifically expected to impact the design and layout of hotels.

01. Choice of materials

The first impact we are expecting COVID to have on design is within the materials utilised within hotel interiors with a shift towards less-porous surfaces that can easily be wiped down and are reassuringly disinfectable. We are anticipating a preference towards tiles and stone with the use of fewer carpets and rugs.

“Will there be a catalogue of materials that fall in the ‘less porous’ category, thus being easily cleanable surfaces that germs can’t live on for long periods of time?” – Jeremy Levitt, Parts and Labor Design

02. Expansion of in-room options

With the increased anxiety around interactions with strangers, we anticipate an expansion of in-room options for guests to be able to enjoy their meals or a massage from within their perceived safe space. This will most certainly impact room layouts and the size of the space provided ensuring that guests can isolate within their rooms without feeling claustrophobic.

“Clients might look into hotels that provide larger rooms with various options to work, live, eat in the refuge of their private space. It might be difficult in the future to convince clients to continue to go to hotel spa or fitness areas as they might want to experience these services in the security and privacy of their room.” – Monika Moser, Wilson Associates

Peter Maxwell, of Frameweb agrees, “Hotel operators will know that interaction-adverse guests are likely to look more closely at what they get in-room, rather than property-wide.” 

Designers will have the challenge of ensuring guest rooms are comfortable for long periods of isolation while also reassuring guests of their cleanliness.

03. Bring nature indoors

Being surrounded by nature is proven to be very beneficial for our health and well-being, as such, incorporating natural elements within the hotel design and architecture (biophilic design) will become essential in providing guests and staff with a connection to the natural world which, in turn, boosts their sense of wellness.

Less-polished finishes within hotel interiors are expected to become more widespread along with organic tactile surfaces, natural and crude materials along with furnishings displaying their local craftsmanship and unique qualities.

“Hotels will become a little more relaxed with the types of finishes so that materials have a more honest expression,” (…) “They’ll be committing to sturdier, more natural materials that feel heavy and solid under hand and foot. I think we’ll also see less forced uniformity, especially with the use of textiles.” – W. Brian Smith, Studio Tack

An added benefit of integrating biophilic design within hotel interiors is satiating the desire of Promadic Travellers for more sustainable design within hotels, the local sourcing of materials and supplies along with an appetite for local artistry.

You can read more about biophilic design in our recent article, How Hotels Are Integrating Biophilic Design to Soothe Guests Post-COVID

04. Creating space

“Hospitality spaces may need to pivot towards a more exterior rather than interior offering,” –  Danu Kennedy, Parts and Labor

Public spaces expanding to allow for natural social distancing will be a key component of the post-COVID design era. With agritourism and hotels located within nature set to benefit the most from this need of immersion within wide open spaces and a delight for the natural environment.

Designers will particularly feel this challenge within hotels that have significantly smaller footprints available to them.

“An ongoing challenge will be, how will you make an urban space feel comfortable for everyone.”Richard Centolella, EDSA

05. A move away from co-everything

The pre-COVID era saw a rise in co-working, co-dining and co-living spaces to encourage community, creativity and connection. This will likely be the most obvious shift that we see within hotel design and layout, in the early stages at least.

“There’s been an ongoing shift towards more communal amenity space being valued above the private space of one’s apartment or hotel room,” (…) “This could definitely be impacted, with the value system changing to prioritize the private space once again as people reduce their desire to socialize in person.” – Kennedy, Parts and Labor

Density is likely to be a key concern for anxious travellers, meaning that hotels will need to revisit their ideas for public spaces that were initially designed with mingling and interaction in mind.

06. Sophisticated air filtering

Architects will be required to incorporate sophisticated air filtering systems within their designs in order to provide a healthy environment for both the guests and the workforce. Air cleanliness will be paramount, especially within dense urban areas that already struggle to maintain a healthy air quality.

We may even be looking to integrate air filtration systems within the spaces and having that become part of the design itself.” – Lesley Hughes-Wyman, MatchLine Design

Tying in nicely with the increased desire for biophilic design within hotel interiors, we may see more algae gardens emerging as sustainable methods of purifying the air. ecoLogicStudio, based in London, have devised a photobioreactor that “absorbs the equivalent of two young trees in CO2 while producing the same amount of oxygen as seven indoor plants”, all while producing a calming bubbling sound to soothe as it emits fresh oxygen into the surrounding environment. You can learn more about their photobioreactor here.

07. Technology and remote room delivery

Contactless technology was steadily on the rise pre-COVID but is set to take the lead when it comes to ensuring the safety of guests within hotels and preventing contamination via communal surfaces. This includes the possibility of contact-less check-in procedures and thermal scanners upon entry. Along with utilising a specialised app to open room doors with smartphones and automated light controls to ensure a healthy environment.

Architecture and interior design studio, The Manser Practice are innovating ways in which a remote room delivery service could remove human interaction when it comes to delivering items to guests.

“We imagine a return to the old forms of room service. A remotely activated hatch in the corridor giving access to a space big enough for delivery meals, laundry and dry cleaning etc. Staff can place items in from the outside and the guests can retrieve them from inside via a similar hatch. Staff won’t need to enter the room, improving both privacy and social distancing,” – Jonathan Manser

08. Soothing colour schemes

Interior designers and stylists are expected to gravitate towards colours predominantly found within nature to ease their guests’ unease, particularly within urban environments.

“The pandemic has understandably spurred a feeling of unrest, grief, and anxiety among consumers, who are now craving colors that instil a sense of reassurance and comfort” (…) “These colors promote internal peace in an age where mental and physical well-being are critical,” – Dee Schlotter, PPG Paints

09. One-way systems + lift control

Converting all corridors and walkways to one-way systems might soon become a reality in an effort to stem the spread of germs between passers-by.

“As a whole, the internal spatial layout of hotel buildings might change to one-way systems to minimise the crossover points of guests in narrow corridors.” –  Manser, The Manser Practice

Manser envisions the return of the paternoster, “a type of lift from the first half of the 20th century, which consists of a continuous chain of open compartments for one or two people rather than a closed lift for numerous people.”Architectural Digest

This would enable safe social distancing requirements all while adding an element of the theatrical within hotel lobbies.

You can learn more about their ideas here.

10. Negative or positive pressure floors

Many hotels and architects are looking to the medical industry for guidance in providing safe and healthy environments for their guests. The Marco Polo Prince Hotel in Hong Kong is currently undergoing a renovation which is an opportune moment for its general manager, Dalip Singh to consider some last-minute changes in direction given the current climate, he shares “We need to adopt Covid-19 protocols as we anticipate this will be what guests expect in the future”.

Singh is currently considering investing in a negative pressure floor for the hotel thanks to COVID-19. This is an isolation technique utilised by hospitals to combat cross-contamination by preventing airborne diseases infecting others through, essentially, a big vacuum. You can learn more about how this works here.

Summary

There are several key components that most people within the hospitality industry agree will need to change to support a post-COVID mindset. However, according to Clint Nagata of Blink Design Group, the world of luxury hospitality won’t be impacted quite so much by a need for change. “Since luxury is traditionally defined by space and having more of it, the physical precautions associated with social distancing is already a part of the guest’s experience,” (…) “It’s sort of comparing business class seating to economy on airplanes.”

Embracing biophilic design appears to be a growing trend with more people opting for more mindful experiences while travelling. We will likely see an increased demand for hotels incorporating wellness spaces, such as meditation and yoga studios as well as kitchen gardens providing the chefs with fresh, local produce.

“More thoughtful consumption confirms that blingy flashiness is out and imaginative designs made from ordinary, eco-friendly materials using highly skilled techniques will become the status symbols that no one else can have. People-power wins versus the depletion of rare natural resources.” – Peter Joehnk, JOI-Design

We are increasingly valuing nature, simplistic design and grounding spaces. Most of us have been given the opportunity to rethink our values and circumstances and have come to the realisation that our intense workloads and demands pre-COVID weren’t healthy. This will likely cause more people to prioritise their own health, well-being and time and will choose brands that can support them on their new mindful journey.

 “We’re entering a period of greater reflection, increased mindfulness, more soul… and a less hectic pace.” – Peter Joehnk, JOI-Design

Unsure of your next step? Get clear on your hotel’s recovery strategy

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As COVID-19 is unlikely to disappear completely without an effective vaccine, it’s expected that we will have a W shaped recovery with lock downs repeatedly being enforced, relaxed and enforced again over time. Being prepared for this tumultuous recovery will stand you and your hotel in good stead to ride the waves to come.

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