Designing for social distancing

By Giles Fuchs

The hospitality industry can breathe a sigh of relief following the announcement that the U.K.’s COVID-19 restrictions are set to end on June 21. Yet, with experts warning that there will be a long-term increase in mental health conditions such as social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, hoteliers must continue to prioritize health and safety to prosper post-pandemic.

Yet, such measures don’t have to compromise a guest’s ability to relax and recover. By facilitating “positive” social distancing, hotels can create positive, unrestrictive and enjoyable experiences for guests as we overcome this stressful period.

Enhancing intimacy
A vacation offers a welcome respite from the day-to-day, yet there has been little escape from the rules and regulations we have endured over the past year. Hotels must continue to safeguard occupants, but surroundings could be updated to meet social-distancing measures.

One such example might be to extend sittings in restaurants or to vary the areas where guests can dine. For instance, opening lounges or libraries for private dining can offer a great alternative to larger communal areas. Instead of restricting guests, we can introduce them to a more varied and intimate array of locations.

Showcase your assets
While many hotels have closed their more exclusive facilities, such as spas, gyms and high-end diners, this should not be seen as a detriment to the business but rather as an opportunity to showcase other, less-appreciated assets.

Hotels can use footfall routing to accentuate the best of a hotel’s design features and services, allowing guests to appreciate their luxurious surroundings while maintaining a safe distance from other guests.

Attractions such as art displays, bars and lounge areas can go a long way in making diversions more like a tour than an imposition. At Burgh Island, for example, our one-way system has provided an opportunity to cast the spotlight on our unique Art Deco collection.

Investing in the great outdoors
Outdoor spaces and gardens have provided a safe space for guests to gather during the pandemic. In its wake, these areas will continue to offer crucial mental health relief and escape. After all, research has shown that spending time outdoors can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and ultimately improve health. There is no question that investing in outdoor options for guests is a must in the post-pandemic era. Even small gestures like increasing the number of seating and dining areas or offering outdoor lunches and teas can help guests to relax and recuperate.

At Burgh, we encourage guests to get out and explore the island’s many trails, offering walking maps that guide guests along our unspoiled shores and green landscapes. We also partner with local tradespeople to offer outdoor artistry classes, foraging and fishing to ensure that every guest leaves with a healthy dose of fresh air.

Leveraging technology
More than 70% of hotel guests now consider an establishment’s digital experience before making a booking. Today, catering to demands for innovation can improve both guest satisfaction and safety.

From the moment guests arrive, contactless check-in services, motion-activated door mechanisms and voice-controlled operating systems can provide the peace of mind they need to de-stress and enjoy their break.

These measures may seem difficult to implement for some hotel businesses. Fortunately, there are a variety of easy-to-implement measures that hotels can utilize to improve the guest experience. From online booking systems to takeaway and delivery services, technology can significantly bolster the hotel industry’s efforts to provide safety and sanity, creating the sanctuary that guests need to recover following a challenging year.

Giles Fuchs is owner of the Burgh Island hotel in Great Britain.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.

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