How do you foresee COVID-19 affecting hotel design?
From a hotel design perspective, we need to look at the COVID-19 crisis in terms of the immediate design response to reassure customers and then in the longer term, to maintain viability in a continually evolving landscape.
In the short term, there will be inevitably a significant focus on the more technical and operational aspects of hotel design – improving air quality and re-evaluating and embracing technology for non-contact guest service where guests can access rooms and services through smart apps. This is likely to extend to smaller details such as disposable (eco-friendly) covers for door handles and hand sanitisers in guest rooms and public areas. Much of this can be done retrospectively in existing hotels and will also be part of the design process for new operations. However, these are very much details rather than a fundamental shift in hotel design.
Looking beyond the immediate, we will inevitably see a re-evaluation of existing real estate to provide spaces that are adapting to post-COVID-19 trends. In recent years we have seen hotel rooms become smaller with much shared spaces that encourage interaction between guests and I think that this is a trend that will continue – we are living through an unprecedented moment in time but the need for physical contact is so embedded in the human psyche that I cannot imagine that we will be designing a world of permanent social distancing.
The greatest potential impact of the COVID-19 crisis will be business travel now that we are seeing how businesses can successfully operate in the virtual world (Zoom now has a larger market capitalisation than the world’s seven largest airlines!) but again we have already seen hotel design capture this blurring of business and leisure and that will be a trend that potentially accelerates in the future.
Ultimately, at the heart of hotel design in a post-COVID-19 world will be wellbeing with a major focus on the health of guests, reduced density, biophilia and mindfulness, creating that personalised ‘stay’ experience for guests.
How will hotels maintain their unique identity and spirit through architecture and interior design if they have to install generic and/or sterile sanitisation equipment and practices?
Design and creativity will always prevail. Great design understands context and throughout history designers and architects have responded to events and practical necessity with innovation, from the threat of natural disasters to climate change, and we will see a similar explosion of creativity in the wake of this most recent crisis. A combination of great branding and packaging combined with interior design solutions will integrate the necessary changes that will have to be implemented in the industry. In many ways, we are moving into an incredibly exciting period for hospitality design where beauty and social responsibility must align to create a fantastic guest experience.
Has sustainability taken a back seat in place of hygiene and cleanliness?
In many ways sustainability and the sustainability agenda is now more important than ever. Hygiene and cleanliness are already well established in the hospitality industry and now heightened by the COVID-19 crisis, the measures being take are likely to be short term and reactive. The hospitality industry cannot exist in isolation to wider global trends and sustainability issues and our custodianship of this planet have never been in sharper focus. Living responsibly and therefore sustainability will be an important measure by which the hospitality sector defines their guest experience but more importantly, it will also be a key measure on how a guest judges their own experience. Sustainable practices where there is a focus on local, organic, wellness and unique eco-friendly experiences will be key long term drivers for the industry and must not be undermined in the name of pragmatism as the industry responds to COVID-19.
What is your hope for the hospitality industry in a post COVID-19 world?
There is no doubt that 2020 will be a very difficult moment for the global hospitality industry - international arrivals may be down by as much as 75% year on year by the end of 2020 and tourism receipts could be down by as much as $1 trillion or two thirds.
The pandemic has taken the industry back 25 years to levels last seen during the SARS crisis in the early 1990s but what we have also seen since then is more than two decades of exponential growth and innovation and I expect we will see a rapid recovery once the circumstances allow.
We must all hope that the pandemic is a momentary blip in the world’s history and that the human lust for travel and new experiences typified by the Millennial generation and the growth of the digital nomad will remain. Exploring the world and seeking an authentic local experience will remain a driving force behind the hospitality industry for years to come.
It will be a hospitality that has continued to evolve, like it has in the past and will do so in the future. It must adapt to a rise in the stay-cation market and the challenge of the online home sharing sector although that sector must also recover from a ruinous 2020.
There will be new models, spaces that adapt to trends and ideas and innovations that embrace the needs of different tribes and demographics but what will never change is that fundamental offer of escapism that the hospitality industry provides and one can imagine that we may be entering a period where this is more important than ever.
Margarida will be speaking on the panel discussion Developing R&R Experiences: Mixed-Use Developments which will take place during R&R on Wednesday 21 Oct at 11:45.
The Resort & Residential Hospitality Forum (R&R) offers a meeting place for the industry to network, to share ideas and to build partnerships for tourism projects, mixed-use developments and hotel transactions. R&R takes place from the 19-21 Oct at the Tivoli Marina Vilamoura Hotel. For more programme information and to register, visit www.hospitalityinsights.com/randr