The covid-19 pandemic has changed the face of many things, and for some of them – for good. The consequences for the hospitality industry, as we all know, are truly staggering. Take New York, for example. More than 67 million visitors were expected in the city in 2020 - only 23 million came, a staggering drop of 66%. Iconic properties have closed their doors, thousands of people lost their jobs, and experts from the tourism agency NYC & Company expect the numbers to recover to 2019 levels only by 2024.
However, the changes are not only quantitative – the structural approach to travel is likely to go through a complete transformation. Businesses have realized they could prosper without costly and time-consuming business trips, with some of them letting their employees continue working remotely indefinitely. Tourists are also growing more conscious of their environmental impact. While this does not necessarily mean that the demand for leisure travel is set to decline, it could lead to people swapping long-distance trips for something more local and sustainable.
Taking these factors into consideration, Jean-Philippe Nuel, director and founder of Studio Jean-Philippe Nuel, has shared his vision of how the hotel’s design should respond to these deep changes in consumer behavior. He believes in the repositioning of the entire hotel industry through offering fewer rooms with more space dedicated to activities other than lodging: relaxation (sports/spa), catering (restaurants and boutiques), work (meetings/co-working), and welcoming families (services appropriate to a family stay).
Firstly, he suggests creating workspaces distinctively different compared to those at home or a company headquarters. The objective would be to design environments that are conducive to creativity, isolation, and/or presentation. These workrooms could be rented on a one-time basis. Some of them could even be made available free of charge to guests or as a subscription for people living in the hotel’s neighborhood. Keeping in mind the ROI of such a venture, the meeting rooms could also become a children’s club on weekends, led by professionals, as a part of a staycation offer.
Secondly, the hotels should focus on more diversified entertainment services to welcome daytime, weekend, and local vacationers. The properties should strive to offer an almost infinite list of possibilities to get together with friends or to get some fresh air: a private screening room, a cooking class, a bike ride to discover the city in a different way, an art exhibition, or a conference with a local author.
When it comes to the room design, Mr. Nuel puts his faith into larger, more personalized spaces better equipped for heating and preparing a meal, a more discreet desk, homier and more flexible than ever furniture and decor. The objective here is to cater more to families and win back customers seduced by the community rental platforms such as Airbnb.
Overall, even though such changes may look drastic at first, they have long been underway even before the pandemic stroke. Society is constantly changing, and the circumstances of our hyper-connected lives do not let us stay at one point for a long time. Perhaps, covid-19 has just become an accelerating push the industry already needed.