More than half a year into the pandemic and it looks like the novel coronavirus has decided to alter our lives for good, at least when it comes to the hospitality and tourism sector. As most of the planet finds itself in restricted mobility conditions and mourns the era of free and relatively affordable travel, industry players the world over are trying to find creative ways to spike up the demand despite the understandably dampening travel conditions. To do so, their creative juices better start flowing not only when it comes to the marketing and operations strategies, but also when dealing with the properties’ design and outfitting, as the age of traditional looks seems to have passed together with our collective love for minimal social distancing.
So how exactly has covid changed our perceptions of what a great hotel should look like? And is it really the covid’s impact or has it just amplified the already perceptible trends in the market? Let’s take a look at some of the most pronounced ideas currently in vogue and expected to establish themselves even further in the nearest future.
The trend on simplicity has long been all the craze not only in the hospitality industry, but also in fashion, interior and product design. From the North European airy interiors to Japanese love towards minimalistic outfits, it seems like humanity got tired of the kaleidoscope of colors and textures and has decided to opt for something a bit less agitating. Today we see a similar trend taking roots in the hospitality assets construction. Prefabrication of the whole modules in remote locations, whereby specific blocks of the future building are assembled elsewhere and only then transported on site, is becoming more popular not only because it provides a relatively simple, yet elegant final look, but also thanks to the increased productivity, smaller material wastage, and shortened project timeline, which in turn leads to decreased costs and circumvents skilled labour shortages.
Apart from a trend on simplicity, the construction stage also becomes more collaborative than ever before. Previously, the main contractor would jump on the project only after the architect and interior designer have done their share, whereas these days these experts tend to work altogether, thus ensuring more precise budgeting for cost certainty.
Finally, the artificial and virtual realities, as well as recent breakthroughs in robotics, will soon (if not already) allow the major stakeholders to experience the yet-to-be realized hotels in 3D, potentially even shopping for proper finishes and spatial layouts on the spot. With the coronavirus’s grip on any sort of communal physical presence still being strong, such a tool could be invaluable for the informed decision making, especially when supported by relevant data, of which there is plenty.
Favoring Green Things
Another detail more and more owners and developers start paying attention to is the property’s ecological and societal sustainability level. With clients around the world becoming more conscious of their impact while traveling, numerous guests, especially the younger generations, are slowly but steadily coming to terms with the idea of paying a premium for a stay at the property that respects local environmental laws, and perhaps even has a full-blown corporate sustainability strategy. As such, the supply side of the market starts thinking of these issues even before the construction begins in order to successfully incorporate “green” elements into the very fabric of the future hotel.
Closely linked to the sustainable investment is the focus on making the assets appeal to those interested in a mindful lifestyle – a rethought type of living that might get yet another spin on during the pandemic era. Thought of together with the sustainability strategy, these two tools have a big potential in dealing with the customers’ initial hesitance when thinking of undertaking travel in the brave new world.
Mixing Things Up
Yet another perceptible trend, made more salient thanks to the novel coronavirus, is a course on mixed-use multipurpose developments. Other than the accommodation component in either hotel, serviced residence, condotel, or co-living properties, co-working, social, retail, leisure or entertainment outlets are becoming more popular, as guests and residents are starting to search for ways to steer clear of the exposure to the unnecessary commute. Thanks to the economy of scale and smart usage of public space, such a trend might turn out to be profitable for the supply side of the market in the long term, whereby loyal property clients end up spending more at such “one-stop shops”.
Apart from mixing things up in a physical sense, intangible mashups – namely, collaboration with representatives of other, seemingly unrelated industries – is becoming highly appreciated by the hotels’ guests. Such collaborations also make sense financially: as the pandemic is taking on small businesses in the majority of markets, inter-industry consolidation could provide them with both the necessary market share and financial resources to withstand the possibly long winter laying ahead of us.
Last but not least, a changed world means changed behaviors and demands. As travel, unfortunately, becomes rarer, guests, especially those coming for leisure purposes, will likely become more sensitive to getting the best out of their experiences, consequently paying a bulk of attention to how authentic their accommodation of choice is. This, in turn, will influence both the hardware and the software of how a property is planned and designed.
Moreover, “shoebox” rooms with large public spaces meant for client interaction will probably be transformed into the assets with more area allocated back to the guest rooms, as the coronavirus pandemics takes a toll on our habit of getting together for socialization and networking. Finally, more multi-purpose spaces with modular outdoor sections could be on books, should the situation with covid not become significantly better in the nearest future.
In conclusion, it is unlikely that a brand-new world will be similar enough to what the majority of hotel owners and developers are used to, which means adaptation game is on its way. Some of the trends underpinning the future of hospitality assets design and construction have been establishing themselves over the past few years, while others may have come in vogue mostly thanks to the pandemic. However, regardless of how exactly these novelties came into being, one thing is clear – both the supply and demand sides of the market are interested in a remake of a traditional property, and thus, we are expecting to see some creative adjustments in the nearest future.
Authors: Victor Wong, Anna Vdovina