COVID has completely changed the hotel experience with new safety and sanitation protocols, but it has also altered the way guests access amenities and has even dictated which amenities are available during a hotel stay.
Social distancing, capacity restrictions and vaccination requirements all come into play, noted Shay Lam, managing executive, studio creative director, TPG Architecture, adding that health concerns are a priority and any amenity that focuses on health is paramount.
“We are seeing concierge service becoming more elevated, especially in the concierge medical field, for example, we’re noticing on-demand services such as in-room COVID testing,” Lam said. “Also, with concerns about sharing equipment, some amenities are being directly delivered to the guestroom, such as gym packages for in-room setups.”
While many things have changed, this also presents an opportunity for hoteliers to refocus their brand, Lam said. “They need to hone in on what really matters to their brand, guest and overall experience while removing any excess that doesn’t support this direction.”
According to Rachael Lewis, regional design leader, NELSON Worldwide, small amenity spaces within larger spaces are on the rise as opposed to traditional lounges (e.g. small conversation nooks and library spaces for small meetings and workspaces).
“We’ve seen a shift away from grand, empty lobbies to busy, active communal spaces where people can work, meet and socialize,” Lewis said. “But today, we are now faced with a new challenge which is to keep flexible spaces that work for the guests while maintaining a social distance at the same time.”
Additionally, Lewis advises hoteliers to invest in landscaping to create comfortable outdoor spaces that are extensions of the rest of the hotel.
“Guests don’t want to sacrifice experience even though operational trends may need to change,” Lewis said. “Hotels should be mindful that everything they do will either positively or negatively impact a guest’s overall experience.”
COVID has also affected F&B amenities, particularly from an operations perspective as interactions are now limited.
“The hotel buffet has surely taken a hit from the pandemic, and so have self-service beverage counters and salad bars,” said Prasoon Shrivastava, founder/CEO, Prasoon Design Studio. “Crowded food lines and social distancing don’t necessarily go hand in hand, and even when the situation becomes a little better, some of these changes might be here to stay. We are already witnessing hotel employees serving buffets rather than guests helping themselves while some others have switched to individually portioned servings. The buffet system is also being replaced by appropriately spaced restaurant tables, grab-and-go food stations, QR code-based menus, outdoor and semi-outdoor seating spaces.”
Grab-and-go options have certainly seen an uptick, as guests can take fresh foods and drinks back to their rooms or enjoy outdoors, noted Carla Niemann, SVP, design, Premier.
“When these outlets are located in close proximity to the front desk, they can remain unstaffed which helps reduce costs,” Niemann said. “Those who embraced this model and provided a variety of nicely displayed products prospered.”
While hotel amenities have changed and will continue to evolve going forward, how guests experience these amenities will forever remain at the forefront. These design leaders are surely finding ways to make the most of restrictions and protocols and pivot when necessary.
“While there have been a lot of interesting, new developments globally, it will take some time for these changes to reflect across most properties,” Shrivastava said. “As long as proper measures, even temporary measures, are being taken in accordance with the guidelines, it should positively impact the hotel industry. Slowly, everyone will have to adapt and embrace the new normal.”