Post-COVID-19: The New "Normal" in Hotel Design
By Lawrence Adams Principal, ForrestPerkins | May 24, 2020
In December of 2019, the pandemic caused by coronavirus or COVID-19 began in Wuhan, China, and has since spread globally. By May 3, 2020, there have been over a million cases with nearly 76,000 deaths in the US. The pandemic is fomenting havoc in the travel and hospitality industries. As business and leisure travelers stay at home, hotel occupancy rates have plummeted.
Occupancy rates in the US dropped to less than 20% in March and even lower in hot spots like New York City. All signs indicate that the current situation will get worse before it gets better, but there is optimism that a vaccine will be discovered and some semblance of normalcy will return to the traveling public – a new normal.
As this devastating virus subsides and travelers again take to the skies and roadways and look for overnight accommodations, they will seek lodging that guarantees them a high level of safety from disease. Hotel designers will face new challenges in the post-coronavirus new normal in travel and hospitality. Disruptive and innovative design will be essential to create spaces and experiences that make guests feel safe, secure, and comfortable in the post-COVID-19 world.
In this article, we will explore some ideas for design innovation and potential trends and approaches to hospitality design in the new normal. Many of these ideas for changes in hospitality design and operations might be applicable during a short term transitional period until an effective vaccine is discovered or will be more enduring as long term solutions that will shape the way we design hotels in the future. Time will tell.
Prior to the pandemic, guests identified as Millennials have shown a strong preference for working and socializing in hotel public spaces while spending less time in their rooms. (See Millennials' Impact on Hotel Design ) In the new normal we might see a reversal of that behavior and a new emphasis on the guestroom experience, where technology and cleaning protocols will establish an authentic sense of safety and wellness. Guests may once again prefer the safe sanctuary of their rooms to the crowded lobbies and bars in hotel public areas so designers will be challenged with making the guestroom experience not only safe but invigorating and enjoyable.