The increasing importance of flexibility and versatility in hotel design going forward was one of the key trends identified by a handful of design and purchasing executives in a recent discussion at BITAC Purchasing & Design Virtual Connect.
An emphasis on wellness was also cited as being critical during the panel discussion entitled “A Look Ahead: What Will Be Driving Hospitality Design In 2021 & Beyond.”
Stacey Hollender, president, Berman Purchasing, Inc., emphasized the importance of “versatility and being able to move things around” as she weighed in on the top design trends in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“You may be traveling with four people in your family and you may want to sit together or you may be a single traveler that does not want to be near anybody else. I think some of that may continue into the future. There was such a push for communal areas, it’ll be interesting to see if after the vaccine that gets pulled back a little bit,” she said.
Robert Laschever, principal, Cauhaus Design, reinforced the point. “Flexibility is a huge concept that we’re all thinking about now. Part of the challenge is that nobody even really knows what the other side of this looks like and who the business traveler is going to be so it’s sort of hard to design,” he said.
Laschever continued, “One of the things that’s always interesting about times like this with any recession or any tough period in the economy and the country there’s a little bit of musical chairs. Certain people are going to bail, certain people are going to buy up properties at a discount and then reinvent them. So there’s lot of moving parts right now and flexibility is a huge key and technology is the other obvious key.”
Kimberly Kolcz, owner/interior designer, Offay Design Studio, LLC, meanwhile, acknowledged the wellness movement.
“One thing that owners have been asking us to think about, and it’s not necessarily an area that’s totally been harnessed yet in our industry, is just the idea of wellness. Outside of any of the typical amenities you might already be getting, not really in the literal sense, but just the feeling of wellness. When you come to the establishment what can we think about that’s outside the box,” she said, specifically citing Hilton’s Five Feet to Fitness program of creating a personal gym within the guestroom as a prime example.
Buddy McDowell, president, Design Directions International, addressed some of the design changes with regards to social distancing in public spaces pointing out that food & beverage has seen the greatest impact.
“Spacing and social distancing is something I think we’ll see good bit of, at least for the immediate future,” he said, adding that “buffets are a thing of the past.”
McDowell also gave a nod to flexibility going forward when it comes to product. “What we are doing is we are space planning for social distancing requirements, as far as ordering FF&E. Our client will order additional FF&E so they can increase capacity nine months or a year down the road,” he added.
Laschever, however, expressed more concern about the guestroom going forward. “How to keep what is basically becoming someone’s remote home or remote bedroom comfortable I think is going to be a bigger challenge in some ways than the public areas,” he stated.
The pandemic has clearly increased the role of technology at the property level, but it has also changed how purchasing and design professionals have worked for the last several months. Fortunately, most of the executives are surprisingly satisfied with what seems to be the new normal.
“The suppliers are doing a great job of coming up with creative ways to show us new product. They’ve done trunk shows where you go outside and you’re going from area to area to look at it. We had another outdoor venue where suppliers brought product so you can see stuff, but you’re wearing your mask and keeping apart. They’ve done a good job with that and that’s really appreciated,” said Berman.
Kolcz noted both internally and externally it has worked out well. “A lot of times reps are actually doing a great thing by sending us the samples. We do a Zoom call and still have the interaction, but we can sit and talk and not be face-to-face. So we’re doing that on a company level.
“On a client level we are doing almost everything video except for some occasions where we have some site walks or model room walks. It’s almost virtually impossible to do one of those properly without being there in person, but we’ve kept those meetings even smaller than usual,” she noted.
“We’ve found that the Zoom calls, GoToMeetings and so forth have worked quite well. I think the brands have embraced that as well…We even had a real walk-through virtually, I was a little surprised but it worked fine. That type of technology I think is here to stay,” said McDowell.
The panelists were unanimous in expressing confidence in both the industry and that conditions will improve as we move into next year.
Laschever again emphasized flexibility. “We’ve got a wonderful young group of people now looking at this as an opportunity to find their way in the world. No doubt it will come back, we just need to keep ourselves flexible and open minded. There’s no point in trying to go back to what it was. We will reinvent ourselves in a fresh and fun way,” he noted.
Kolcz added, “It’s been an interesting year. Some of our projects and schedules have changed, but almost across the board all my clients are saying that they’re looking for that uptick in the second and third quarter of next year, which really is not that far away. We just need to hunker down, stay collaborative and stay a great community and it’ll be all fine.”
Berman also believes that better days are ahead. “I think that our industry has such a sense of community and such a sense of relationship that I think there’s a feeling we’re all in this together. We’re all close to getting to the other side. I feel like there’s a sense that we’re just on the edge of breaking through and I’m really excited to see what the next couple of months bring,” she asserted.
While McDowell noted that this is not quite a typical recession, he added it closely resembles one, but he remains optimistic about a potential turnaround in travel.
“I think it will come back and I think it might come back with a vengeance. It may take a year or so to get things rolling, but we’re a resilient industry. It’ll come back maybe a little bit different than it is now,” he noted.