To appeal to consumers concerned about safety after COVID-19, hotels are approaching space and design in creative new ways.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring brought travel to a near standstill as business trips, family visits, and vacations were put on hold. According to a report prepared for the U.S. Travel Association by Tourism Economics, nearly half of the 16.9 million jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry were lost in March and April. At present, more than one-quarter of leisure and hospitality workers remain unemployed — double the amount of the next most hardest-hit industry.
While the industry continues to face unprecedented disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers are seeking to resume travel as safely and as quickly as possible. In an interview about rapid response COVID tests, Eric Fogg, director of walk-in care services at York Hospital in Maine, said, “of folks using the rapid program, I would say 70 percent are from out of state.”
A survey produced by Flywire also shows promising signs of recovery for the tourism industry. Of those surveyed, more than half said they will spend the same on travel for the remainder of this year and next year as they did last year. 93 percent said they are confident the industry will still be here after the pandemic is over — and 69 percent plan to travel again when it does.
But as house-bound consumers venture back into the world of leisure and business travel, how are hotels adjusting to meet their needs? We spoke to Paul Adamson, hospitality studio director at TCA Architects, to find out.
Meeting Guest Expectations
“When it comes to hospitality spaces, three things have always mattered to guests: comfort, convenience, and cleanliness,” Adamson explains. He breaks down each of the “Three Cs” as follows:
- Comfort: According to Adamson, comfort in the public space has to do with a room’s gracious scale. When designing or redesigning a hotel, rooms built for small groups as well as those for large gatherings must provide adequate space for guests while still remaining economically viable. The more rooms a hotel has, the greater its revenue will be.
- Convenience: In most cases, convenience depends on service. Wherever they are within a hotel, guests expect access to great service at a moment’s notice. This means most hotels have extensive “back-of- house” spaces and corridors that allow staff to quickly and discreetly enter and exit different areas within the building.
- Cleanliness: For many guests, a positive hotel rating hinges on the level of cleanliness they experienced during their stay. Sanitation in personal spaces like bathrooms and bedrooms is especially important for guests. After all, they’re usually looking for a safe space to relax at the end of a long day.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, these three factors will continue to define guest experience, with cleanliness leading the pack. To better meet the needs of today’s COVID-conscious consumer base, hotels must adjust their practices and redesign where necessary to assure their guests that their stay will be safe and comfortable.
How Hotels are Adapting to Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic
In recent months, the hospitality industry has had to pivot to remain viable. For many hotels, this means redesigning their guest accommodations to create spaces that can be easily cleaned and maintained. Carpets are being replaced with hard surfaces, like wood and laminate. Beds and chairs are being lined with antimicrobial fabrics, and plexiglass partitions are popping up around every corner.
“In the past, guests generally trusted that their room was thoroughly cleaned before their arrival,” says Adamson. “But today’s guests demand more. They want to walk into a room and be able to tell, without any hesitation, that it is clean and safe. They want to see sanitizable surfaces that signify a new level of comfort.”
Communal spaces are also shifting amidst this new landscape. Buffet-style dining rooms have disappeared, tables are now dispersed six feet apart, and, in warmer climates, outdoor areas are being converted into meeting rooms for formal gatherings.
“COVID-19 has accelerated the trend within the hospitality industry toward the multi-functionality of spaces,” explains Adamson. “For example, lobbies are no longer just for sitting and waiting. They are now also used as venues for networking events and, amid the pandemic, socially-distant happy hours. This functional overlap allows for spaces to expand and contract as needed, offering a sense of interconnectedness free from the confines of traditional boardrooms.”
Preparing for the Road Ahead
Adamson remains optimistic about the future of the industry, and he continues to immerse himself in new projects. He is currently hard at work on the new Hotel Montgomery Tower in San Jose. The tower was designed as an addition to their Sheraton Four Points San Jose Downtown — which occupies the former Hotel Montgomery built in 1911 to the designs of Architect William Bender. “Interestingly, the hotel has suspended daily housekeeping to limit contact during a stay,” Adamson observes. “Before, this would have been made as a green choice.”
On his new project, Adamson and his team face the challenge of making a large space safe, functional and appealing. “We’re currently working on a room that can be easily ventilated and that can function both as an indoor and as an outdoor space,” says Adamson. “This is just one of the many ways we are thinking outside the box to meet the needs of our clients. Architecture is an expressive medium, and I think that quality enables us to overcome any challenges we face.”