New Zealand

Biophilic design: Hotel trends in interesting times

Out of crisis comes opportunity... The past few months have thrown the hotel industry into turmoil that has challenged and focussed the need to be more relevant than ever.

New Zealand has an opportunity to be a key destination for travel once the world opens again, and to that end, we should make sure we are ready for business and can meet the relevant, changed social dynamics and traveller demands.

How has the post-COVID world shifted tourism and influenced hotel design? Here are some key trends…

Less is more.

Image courtesy of Space Studio

The rise of experiences as essential. Returning to a simpler way of life has been one of the shifts that has occurred through these strange times. Coupled with millennials’ awareness of care for the planet, the design trend is heading back to minimalism with a sustainable focus. Overt materialism is now a turn-off.

This has manifested not only in the elimination of single-use plastics for guestroom amenities in lieu of bulk refillable dispensers, well-designed of course, but also the elimination of guestroom non-essentials, such as leaflets, sewing kits, and the like. In the spirit of hospitality, these may still be available upon request like stocking up a minibar. However, guests no longer demand endless consumption of electricity. Including a bar fridge in every guestroom, to be replaced in the next refurbishment cycle, is no longer necessary.

Consider every aspect of the room: what is essential? Craft that with care.

New standards of hygiene and interaction, sanitation and density.

As we all emerge from various levels of isolation with a heightened sense of hygiene, the impact on design in hotels will be felt.

Simple solutions may include well-designed sanitation stations integrated into various areas of the hotel;  a heightened importance of a towelling ritual on arrival; the ability for less density in restaurants and bars; and, a complete review of how shared food stations or buffets will be managed. Buffets are in for a revamp to ensure better standards of hygiene and control over open food areas.

Seamless technology

This period of isolation has only enhanced reliance on technology. The appeal of contactless registration and checkout, contactless access to rooms through the use of your device and the ability to access hotel offerings through apps is appealing in the new era of hyper hygiene awareness: this should be carefully balanced with an increased desire for digital privacy.

While artificial intelligence can be used to monitor guest behaviours and present options to them, this should be balanced with a respect for their privacy.

Consider wireless device charging stations throughout the hotel: in-room but also in shared co-working and leisure spaces. The ability to support streaming of one’s own content, keyless entry, contactless payment, digital control of lighting, temperature, etc., are also worth considering.

Technology is becoming more reliable in this area and new-build properties should be integrating their systems to prepare for a brave new wifi-centred world.

Solo travel: an emerging trend

This drives several key design considerations for operators, such as creating meeting spaces within the hotel for informal interaction, a homely atmosphere for socialising in common areas, and providing social activities to encourage solo guest engagement and interactions.

Image courtesy of Space Studio

Wellness and biophilic design

A focus on wellness is a well-established trend in hotel design that has resulted in better gyms, in-room exercise options, and healthy food options.

Biophilic design is becoming a key consideration in creating interiors that provide for a wider concept of wellness that can reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, and improve wellbeing as the world continues to urbanise. In its fullness, the concept goes well beyond the simple visual connection with nature.

Three key constructs influence how this key design trend will be realised:

1. Bringing nature into the space.

  • Direct visual connection;
  • Auditory, olfactory, haptic or gustatory stimuli;
  • Thermal and airflow variability: subtle changes in air temperature, humidity, and airflow across the skin;
  • The presence of water through hearing or touch;
  • Dynamic and diffuse light varying the light intensity and creating light and shadow that change over time.

2. References to nature.

  • Biomorphic patterns, textures, and forms;
  • Material connection with materials that reflect natural ecology and geology.

3. The nature of the space.

  • Unimpeded views allowing for surveillance and distance balanced with areas of ‘refuge’ providing a secure space secluded from the main flow of activity.
  • A sense of mystery or areas to be explored and discovered that draw one deeper into a space.

Above all, biophilic design must nurture a love of place. As we await a resurgence in our tourism sector, let us prepare to provide experiences that surpass expectations, provide engagement with our people, create love for our place and surpass the needs and desires of the new mindset for tourists.

Author – Vee Kessner, Space Studio

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