HB Exclusive: The Crossover Between Healthcare and Hospitality

NEW YORK—During the second virtual panel from Grounded by Design, thought leaders discussed how hospitality design continues to emerge, and how now, more than ever, it’s taking cues from healthcare. Hosted by NEXT Events in partnership with Parallax Wellness + Hospitality, Hotel Business and InspireDesign—and sponsored by ActiveGuard, Minibar Systems and ecore—“The Clean Revolution: Finding the New Normal in Commercial Design” brought together panelists who covered building design practices, materials and products that lend themselves to wellness.

Adam Glickman, principal, Parallax Wellness + Hospitality, asked the panelists their thoughts on the crossover between healthcare and hospitality, especially when it comes to products like signage, but also as it relates to making guests feel safe.

“Healthcare designers are really well versed in designing interior environments that can protect our health by reducing pathogen transmission—and that relates to all markets,” said Suzie Hall, president, Cornerstone Design. “Signage throughout hospitals and the care that the healthcare environment takes in providing that wayfinding for visitors and staff is so critical; as we think about that going into hospitality spaces, I’m sure we’ve all seen the big, red decals on the floors and the walls—it almost makes you not want to enter.”

Although the situation and protocols can sometimes seem intimidating, there are ways to ease guests’ concerns and provide that signature hospitality welcome that was familiar just a few months ago.

“I really see an opportunity with signage for that to become a welcoming, motivating piece of the design package and have it be integrated with the aesthetics and decor,” Hall added. “I think that will be really key moving forward with signage—the importance of specifying the right materials, products and FF&E. Moving forward as designers, we have a big responsibility and great opportunity to respond in a thoughtful way. ”

Other solutions can be more obvious—for example, using materials readily available to designers: nature, landscape and pure air.

“With the horrors of COVID-19, it taught us that natural air and being outdoors helps us,” said Amy Sickeler, principal, Perkins & Will. “Hospitality has always had terraces, but it’s more than just a place to have a cocktail or dinner; it could also be a meeting area.”

Steve Upchurch, managing director, hospitality practice leader, Gensler, noted that it may be wise to look to these natural areas as possible moneymakers for clients as more people gravitate to these open spaces.

“Natural settings can actually be rentable amenity spaces. We’re looking to create something that’s actually rentable and an income generator for our clients,” Upchurch said.

Tech integration is also important here as guests and employees not only look for more wellness-inspired areas but to see that hotels are taking the necessary steps to ensure their safety.

“In talking to an engineer who’s been giving us some guidance, the biggest problem is in small spaces like elevators and how to recirculate air and add UV filters that clean air quickly,” said David Ashen, founder, dash design. “The issue isn’t just who’s in the elevator with you but who was in the elevator two minutes before you were there. Those are things you may not always think about but there are issues around that.”

As hospitality has always done, it will continue to innovate and meet guest expectations, which may resemble other industries.

“The majority of the cleaning products that we were using pre-COVID-19 were all hospital grade. We’ve already kind of been through this with SARS; it just wasn’t as large of an event,” said Justin Jabara, president, Meyer Jabara Hotels. “What’s interesting now is that every day our director of purchasing is coming in my office and there’s a new product out there. The reality is our whole business model has changed. The rooms were already being cleaned but now we’re taking it to the next level. The more efficient that we can build a room so that they can clean better and clean more quickly is integral.”