With travel plans on hold for now, many of us are missing the experience of staying in a hotel, although doing a staycation comes close.

Gensler’s Mr Calkins says that going forward, hotels can consider three ideas to meet new expectations and deliver an exceptional guest experience in a post pandemic era.

The first is to revive and rethink room service. Self-serve options and grab-and-go markets have reduced the demand for room service. But with a heightened concern over health and physical distancing, room service could provide an opportunity to care for guests. And instead of relying on manpower, hotels could utilise more robot butlers.

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“In negotiating limited occupancies and limited operations, we have heard our clients take meal orders and delivery times at check-in, allowing them to understand and manage load and supply. This also extends the window of communication with guests, providing individual care, offering curated menus, and learning guest preference and applying loyalty knowledge,” says Mr Calkins.

Secondly, while a large number of hotels are already offering touchless technology, that number will certainly increase. “Any digital experience in a hotel must be designed to deliver experience and convenience – when visitors arrive at their rooms, throughout the property, and within the hotel’s loyalty app. The technology must also provide opportunities for guests to connect with the property to provide feedback and offer visibility for the management team for issue resolution,” he says.

Lastly, hotels don’t just cater to travellers but to events too, and that needs a relook. “Hotels can position themselves as remote offices or as virtual event hosts,” says Mr Calkins. “They have an opportunity to serve as strategic partners with local office tenants and building managers.”

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When it comes to how hotel rooms will be designed, Woha’s Mr Hassell says that will still be dependent on the space available and how to keep the hotel profitable. So it is not simply a matter of having more villas over highrise blocks.

“If guests are concerned about the close proximity to others, or the transmission of aerosols, hotels could be more transparent about things like their mechanical air systems,” he suggests. “Post pandemic, guests will likely appreciate natural ventilation, so having windows that can be opened would be good, or having a balcony.”

Jean-Michel Gathy, principal designer at Denniston, a well-known design firm in the hospitality industry, adds: “Basic rooms will give way to more studios and suites with kitchens and laundry to reduce housekeeping and room service interactions. Within five years, I predict that all these things will be standard in the hotel industry, especially at the highest end.”

This article was originally published in The Business Times.

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