Transform outdated spaces into revenue

By Jessica Ritter

Diversifying and maximizing revenue streams was among the most important lessons that hotels and resorts learned from the pandemic. Historic properties, in particular, should conduct a thorough review of their facilities and get creative about how they can transform outdated and inefficient spaces into places that generate revenue.

How can they do this?
The Omni Bedford Springs Resort in Pennsylvania offers insights on how hotels and resorts can pivot existing spaces to maximize revenue.

Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, the Omni Bedford Springs Resort is a historic hotel and resort that continues to shine more than 200 years after it first opened. The resort’s historic structures have evolved many times in the past two centuries and the most recent renovation to the primary hotel building highlights the need for historic hotels and resorts to adapt. Notably, outdated common spaces have been reimagined to better serve guests and generate additional revenue for the resort.

Reimagine large spaces
For most hotels and resorts, especially historic buildings, the lobby area offers the best opportunity to reimagine and better activate space. Lobbies in many buildings, particularly historic structures, tend to be expansive and include open spaces. Identify areas that can be repurposed and leveraged to generate revenue. For example, do you have a large concierge area that can be converted to something else?

That transformation was one of the most impactful changes made in the Omni Bedford Springs Resort lobby. The historic lobby features a grand and iconic staircase that serves as a centerpiece. A large concierge desk was configured under the staircase’s significant landing, but the space wasn’t used often and felt dark. Given its central location in the lobby, the resort recognized the potential of the concierge desk and repurposed the space as a new lobby bar. The bar area reactivated the lobby and brought in fresh energy. The resort also turned a stagnant area of the lobby into a key revenue generator. The concierge was moved to another part of the lobby and now the bar is one of the more popular casual gathering spaces at the resort. Selling craft cocktails and more, the lobby bar generates at least $1,200 per day in additional revenue for the resort.

As with any project, there are always challenges to address. Transforming existing spaces often requires creative solutions. For example, the new lobby bar features added lighting to brighten the space under the landing. To avoid bartenders and guests feeling cramped, the bar was pushed out slightly from the original concierge desk footprint and a display was installed in the back of the bar. These little adjustments can make a big difference. Plumbing was added and the resort worked with a food and beverage consultant to ensure an efficient bar design. Although there isn’t room for an icemaker at the bar area, the resort implemented an operational workaround to bring ice in and create an overall functional, efficient and revenue-generating enhancement to the lobby.

Tying new spaces into the existing environment will make them feel more authentic. Reimaging spaces also provides opportunities for a light refresh. The lobby bar coincided with refreshed furniture throughout the lobby.

Serve guests’ needs
Understanding what guests want is a top priority for all resorts and hotels. It’s also a key component to successfully transforming outdated spaces. Guest preferences change over time and hotels need to evolve with their guests. The Omni Bedford Springs Resort faced this challenge in terms of lobby coffee service. The existing coffee service was too far removed from the lobby and only included a small walk-by station. The setup wasn’t serving guests well and represented missed opportunities for revenue.

The solution was to take an old, underutilized game room adjacent to the lobby and reimagine that space as a full-service café called Evitt House Coffee. The new coffee shop was open and bright and included small tables and booths. It served a full menu of coffee, sandwiches, and other beverages.

Similar to the lobby bar, this once-underutilized space is now a valuable revenue generator for the resort. It’s frequented by guests far more than the old game room and better aligns with the resort’s luxe environment. Average sales for the new coffee shop increased by 25% overall with food sales increasing by 5%.

The café has a more contemporary design than the hotel’s lobby, but still complements the historic environment and feel. Including slightly different designs can allow spaces to feel unique and provide needed variety.

A final lesson
Converting unused or underutilized space can help energize a resort or hotel. By activating spaces in new ways, the hotel can bring new energy and dynamism to the guest experience. Combine that elevated experience with new revenue streams and it’s hard to beat the value of transforming spaces. As resorts and hotels consider these changes, it’s crucial to be thoughtful about proportions. Don’t overwhelm a space, such as a lobby, with too many amenities or too much energy.

It’s important to strike a balance. A space can become off-putting if it’s overly commercialized. For example, when a guest enters a historic resort, they’re expecting to encounter a historic lobby space, not walk into a crowded bar. Find ways to ensure that new spaces complement the existing hotel or resort’s environment. It’s about adding something new without overwhelming what already exists.

That balance is crucial to creating new spaces that guests will want to use and that will ultimately drive more revenue for a resort or hotel.

Jessica Ritter is a principal/director of the Interior Design Studio at Glavé & Holmes Architecture in Richmond, VA. She has extensive experience in the hospitality sector and has worked with hotels and resorts across the country. 

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.