Purchasing and design executives expressed a sense of optimism that there will be an uptick in project activity for the remainder of 2021, while at the same time acknowledging that hotel owners have been more measured in their investments in the wake of the pandemic.
During last week’s BITAC Purchasing & Design Virtual Connect 2021 a trio of executives provided an update on current conditions during a panel discussion “Leveraging The Power Of Design & Procurement Post COVID-19.”
Jennifer Chesek, vp, hospitality and senior living, Beyer Brown & Associates, acknowledged that the first quarter “is going to be the hardest for our industry” as she detailed her expectations for the Orlando-based procurement firm in the year ahead.
“I think after moving into the second quarter things will start to open up a little bit more. Then we really are anticipating and having hopes for a good third and fourth quarter this year both from projects coming on board and projects coming back off hold. Our anticipation is that third and fourth quarter are going to be really good in comparison to 2020,” she noted.
Sandy Walter, design director, SW1 Interior Design Studio, expressed a similar sentiment.
“I’m feeling optimistic, especially after talking with people [during BITAC]. I feel really hopeful that things are on the upswing and that there’s light at the end of our tunnel. I think the vaccine is making a big difference in people’s attitudes and thought processes. I’m resting up for that moment when it all hits,” she commented.
Svetlana Muzaleva, principal/owner, Next Design Studio, asserted that she too is “hopeful about the vaccine” and referenced some of the positives that could emerge from the pandemic.
“From the biggest adversities come the best opportunities. I feel like we’re going to come out of this with better technology, hopefully better product, and more reliable companies. We’ll all learn our lessons and have better designs and better relationships,” she stated.
However, the executives did also acknowledge that owners have been more conservative in general with their approach to budgets.
“I’ve seen a diminishing in the budgets, where they are just more cautious, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe they’re starting to think more about what they’re doing. I have seen that tendency rather than saying ‘how much more can we spend?’” said Walter.
Muzaleva reinforced the point while detailing some additional project challenges.
“I feel like most of our projects we’ve been trying to design quite frugally and encouraging most of our clients to be careful with their money. Lately during COVID what I’ve had to do a lot is explain to clients that it’s not business as usual. If something is delayed or is more money, it’s a sign of the times,” she said.
Muzaleva further added, “I’m told by all the vendors to estimate higher with longer lead times.”
Chesek agreed and provided the purchasing perspective.
“Where we’ve seen some increases to the budget have been on the freight side,” she said, adding that longer lead times are encompassed in that as well.
Muzaleva further noted part of the reason for extended lead times is that customers are “growing wary” about ordering product from Asia. “I’m trying to do lots of sourcing closer to home,” she added, specifically citing the U.S., Canada and Mexico as the top locations.
Chesek, for her part, noted that sourcing from North American locations is not necessarily a new trend. “We were certainly ahead of that game with all of the tariffs that were going on before the pandemic hit. So this sort of culture or environment of steering away from China was happening before last March,” he said.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has produced a number of recent design trends that have had an impact, according to designers, who discussed what was top of mind for them.
Walter, for her part, particularly likes the outdoor domes for restaurants and pointed out that she is “working towards” designing them into some of her projects.
“They have a separate music system and a separate heating system. You rent the dome and they clean it each time it’s used. They also have special lighting; I think they’re quite romantic,” she noted.
Muzaleva, meanwhile, took issue specifically with what she terms “shoe box” guestrooms that have emerged in recent years.
“I understand sometimes the shoebox is necessary, but I like that [guestroom] experience to be as good as the public areas,” she said, further added that public spaces now have to be “super flexible” to accommodate many different needs as a result of the pandemic.
She further added, “Generally I see more and more hotels and multi-family [units] going back to having balconies and those outdoor personal spaces, as well as more flexible spaces to work and workout within their own private units.”