As a designer, I’m accustomed to shifting with design trends. Usually, the JAI team can forecast and execute the next popular styles, colors, or concepts with ease. That’s a significant part of what we do.
But, in March 2020, the world changed in an instant. No one could have predicted the immediate (and traumatic) impact the COVID-19 crisis would have on the hospitality industry. Hoteliers and hospitality designers had to learn to adapt quickly, and without much warning, to a future we can hardly imagine.
Many influential design trends have come out of challenging circumstances or restrictions. JAI immediately got our design juices flowing and started thinking through how to use design to positively impact the challenges our clients are facing.
How can we modify an industry that is inherently social and puts people together in close proximity?
How can we adapt our designs to maintain a social distance that’s going to make everyone feel comfortable?
Will the CV-19 changes we are making to hotels be permanent or temporary?
While the answers to those questions will continue to evolve, I have identified three hospitality needs and design solutions to make guests feel more confident.
3 Current Hospitality Needs and Design Solutions
#1: Wellness Is Now a Top Priority
In recent years, the healthcare industry has turned to hospitality design for inspiration about how to make medical facilities feel more like hotels. Now the table is turned. It’s time for us to consult with the healthcare designers to lead us through this season.
While cleanliness and wellness has always been a factor for many hotel guests, it is now a top priority for everyone. Wellness design was already merging as a popular trend in both architecture and interiors, but now it’s a game changer.
Functionally, many hotels had already been working toward touchless trends. Mobile app development was already putting check-in/check-out in the palm of your hand. The challenge now is getting the guest to their room without touching anything but their phone. Soon, there will be no reason to touch front doors, elevator buttons, or even the guest room entry door.
Now, more than ever, designers can impact and improve the health and well-being of people through thoughtful, strategic design choices, including antimicrobial surfaces.
The good news is, there are many antimicrobial options in our industry. Antimicrobial fabrics offer protection against bacteria, mold, mildew, and other hazardous microbes. Using antimicrobial fabric for window treatments, upholstery, and other textile needs, helps promote a clean, sanitary environment.
Flooring also has antimicrobial options, including carpeting that infuses fibers with proactive technologies to create products that are still beautiful, but remain cleaner and prevent the growth of harmful pathogens. While the technology exists, carpeting may still make some guests feel a level of health concern.
Many hotel brands had already started replacing guest room carpeting with luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and in the last two months, a few clients have contacted us mid-renovation or mid-construction and asked us to respecify LVT in guestrooms.
Hotels can also provide a layer of protection to surfaces like nightstands, dressers, vanities, work spaces, and other cabinets. One of our favorite products is KRION® K-Life by Porcelanosa, which has similar properties to natural stone. It does not have any pores and is antibacterial without any type of additive. It is also hard-wearing, highly resistant, and easy to clean, but also capable of decontaminating the air.
#2: Unique Ways to Connect with People
ALONE BUT TOGETHER
We were already focused on an “alone but together” functionality for public spaces in hotels. Lobbies opened into other common areas like lounges and dining areas, allowing guests more options to do what they want, where they want and how they want.
This open concept is still important, but with a bit more separation through flexible seating and a greater circulation space. Seating groups can be comfortably arranged to fit 4-6 people with good space between each person. Dining tables can be spread further than our required 18”-36”. Breakfast buffets may turn to prepackaged meals to conveniently and safely grab-and-go.
We are working closely with hotel brands and operators to see how the guest needs change during these times.
Telling the human story has always been a valuable design component. While we may not be able to hug or shake hands, we can still feel a connection with people through virtual artwork and clever messaging throughout the hotel.
Technology has a bigger place than it ever has in the hospitality industry. Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are now beneficial to hotels in many aspects of a guests’ visit— from booking and entertainment to design and décor. A year ago, we were already predicting how AR & AI would change the experience of hospitality guests. Learn more by reading our article about how JAI can help incorporate these new and exciting technology features into your hotel design.
#3: Interaction with Nature
Back in December, we were already immersing ourselves in the rise of biophilic design. We were already incorporating more nature into spaces and understanding how biophilic design benefits a person’s health, mood, and overall experience.
People are craving design elements that connect people to nature. After isolation and staying indoors, they are energized by light and airy rooms that help them feel like they can breathe. Optimize views of the outdoors and bring more of the outside inside, and reinvent outdoor spaces to provide more options for recreation experiences.
Plants provide visual and acoustic privacy as well as craft a tranquil, soothing aesthetic. Green walls can act as a three-dimensional, living piece of artwork, providing an aesthetic component that also provides an added health element.
Natural lighting can make any room come alive. Not only does it highlight pops of color in fabrics and furnishing, but it also makes the human spirit feel healthy and inspired. Large windows and skylights create a sensory stimulation that has a positive effect on a guest’s mood and overall experience.
Sounds of softly trickling water have even replaced background music in some hotels because the sounds of water help guests release their stress the moment they walk through the doors. By offering Bluetooth speakers in the rooms, guests can connect any music or sounds from their phone that help sooth them as well.
For more ideas on connecting people with nature, read my article Biophilic Design Trend.
ADOPTING NEW STANDARDS
We stand with our hotel brands and operations as we all get creative.
We know each hotel brand is creating a new set of design and cleaning standards to assure guests that their space has been properly and safely prepared. Independent boutiques are also developing their own individual niche in showing a space or surface is clean.
We are in this together. JAI will work hard to assure that all the new cleaning solutions work with the finishes and materials we are specifying.
While nobody has all the answers, the JAI team is listening and learning as we navigate through this global pandemic. We will remain very flexible as business owners, as designers, as travelers, and as a human race. And, hopefully, we will also give ourselves and each other a bit of grace.