The Covid-19 crisis has hit the hospitality industry hard. In fact, the short term impact looks set to affect the way we travel for the foreseeable future. Some analysts are even predicting a permanent change. Hotels, with their mix of public and private space, will need to evolve to embrace a flexible design that responds to the new normal and widespread changes in public health concerns.
For travellers, reception is the first point of human contact. Thankfully, as if the automation of everyday tasks had been preparing us for the pandemic, check-in has become increasingly virtual over recent years. Moving towards a fully contactless check-in experience via smartphone could simply normalise most travellers' experience, meaning the days of face to face contact with a receptionist will be over.
Taking cues from retailers who have already developed changes including floor markings, shields and direction of travel signage, the hotel lobby will be redesigned for flexibility and social distancing.
These measures are intended to minimise contact where bottlenecks occur, with the use of screening devices such as bookcases contributing to the look and feel of the decor. Smart designers are already creating flexible branded spaces that can be recombined and configured as the situation evolves.
Outdoor space is key when it comes to bringing people together post lockdown. If the thought of being a room with tens of other people seems less than appealing, hotels will respond with spaces that blur the lines between indoors and outdoors.
Large openings to outside space will allow guests to get involved with the outdoors and enjoy natural light at any time of year. The best designs will play into perceptions of health and wellbeing and recapture outdoor space by limiting car parking and instituting greener transport shuttles.
Perceptions of cleanliness
Coronavirus responsive design faces the biggest challenge in reimagining the guest room itself. The key to addressing anxiety may be the introduction of antimicrobial materials that are both aesthetically pleasing and safe. Hands-free design will be critical in delivering the perception of cleanliness that guests will expect post-pandemic.
Clean design that integrates hard surfaces and UV lights will foreground cleanliness in a way that's intelligent and non-clinical to deliver a safety first experience.
The peloton experience
There's no doubt that the digitisation of services has been a good training ground for life during lockdown. And this Pelotonisation of everything from exercise to dining experiences will key into the private/public experience. Out will go the buffet and the gym in favour of enhanced room service that brings more in-room options including that exercise bike, all set up and ready to race.
Refocus on social distancing
Post lockdown design will refocus heavily on social distancing. Practices such as increasing the outdoor space per guest room or creating areas of privacy using screens and landscaping will increase the sense of safety by reinforcing now accepted social distancing measures.
With travellers expected to be extra cautious when making their travel plans for the coming months and years, hotels that can demonstrate an extra level of guest protection will be in high demand. Designers are already reworking existing spaces to make fundamental changes to the way guests greet, eat and