The hotel industry is now seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic with no end in sight. Hotels that have been able to start welcoming guests back have had to make major adjustments to ensure staff and traveler safety during this time. One way they’re keeping guests safe—rearranging spaces to better facilitate social distancing. Suzie Hall, president of Cornerstone Design, offers the following advice for hoteliers looking to implement socially distant design at their properties.
1Account for movement.
“Socially distant design starts by taking into account traffic flow and the patterns that people will travel throughout a property, then applying the guidelines and recommendations put out by the CDC and other organizations to make that route as safe as possible,” Hall explains. Deciding how to best place furnishings should always start with consideration of patterns of movement and touch points throughout the hotel.
Hall says that when she’s deciding on a layout for furnishing, she’s now taking a new element into consideration: the direction the guest is facing. “I’m starting to see more pinwheel layouts where furniture is arranged back-to-back and everyone is facing outward. It helps us main density of seating in a furniture plan.”
3Balance safety and comfort.
Even though hard surfaces are easier to keep clean, “you don’t want everything to be hard and cold,” Hall says. There are vendors out that offer high quality and durable upholsteries and other materials that can be cleaned with the medical-grade cleaners required to kill COVID-19 and other viruses. “We know hotels are going to be cleaning everything with bleach right now, but we still want the hotel to feel comfortable and fresh.”
4Ask for guest feedback.
When it comes to ensuring guests are comfortable, Hall suggests going straight to the source. “I’m a big proponent of two-way communication,” she explains. “Guests should be able to provide feedback during and after their experience to the hotel. Hoteliers should take that feedback seriously and see if some of those adjustments can be made in real time.”
“It’s really important that hoteliers are as informed as possible and that they are getting their information from trusted and expert sources,” Hall says, noting that not everything people read is accurate or true. “We want to make evidence-based decisions when it comes to our designs,” she adds.