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colorful and bright hotel lobby with millennial pink chairs and accent on spiral staircase, and partitions with plant designs

Choreographing Guest Confidence Through Design

Staci Patton

The globe’s current climate has given us reason to pause, listen, and reflect. To better understand the pandemic’s impact to the hospitality industry, we embarked on an effort that detailed both immediate and long-term consequences. My colleagues and I conducted ideation sessions with several leaders in the industry, including Concord Hospitality and Davidson Hotels & Resorts, and from those conversations I learned the single largest concern facing travelers in the wake of COVID-19 is the unknown: a lack of control and inability to independently reduce perceived risk in their surroundings.

In response, and to help our hotelier clients and owners safely operate their properties, we designed a playbook comprised of solutions that cultivate guest confidence in a pandemic landscape. These concepts place guests firmly in control of their travel destiny. From morning to night, individuals can expand and contract their environment based on personal preference of interaction and protection, allowing the space and experience to continually transform.

Our Guest Confidence Playbook explores common spaces of a model lifestyle hotel – arrival, lounge, dining, and more – and restores the vibrant social fabric of a memorable hospitality experience.

Welcoming rituals set the tone for visitors, and while the arrival sequence may be altered for some time, our design guide offers elements that promote safety, personal space, and cleanliness. Guests are greeted with check-in options that artfully cue social distancing. These include kiosks with voice-activated digital hosts that provide keys and guide guests through requested information for their stay, as well as ceremonial handwashing stations that celebrate personal hygiene. Other design features such as ceiling-projected distance markers, glass barriers, air-filtering planters, and diaphanous fabric screens seamlessly maintain physical distance during the arrival process.

A newly imagined guest arrival sequence that discreetly cues social distancing. Rendering © DLR Group.

Giving guests direct agency to change the physical space around them as a means of controlling exposure is a new concept for hotels, but we are living in unprecedented times. Our design for the new lounge empowers guests to control their interactions through movable furnishings and partitions, creating either more protection or more connection. This is accomplished through semitransparent movable divider walls that easily pivot and glide across a floor-track system, further enticing guests to create smaller spaces within the larger, bustling social landscape. Lightweight yet comfortable furnishings invite guests to move them to meet their needs. By scaling personal space up or down, and self-selecting furnishings, guests can capture the mood of their moment with unconventional, motivating design.

Movable walls and booths fluidly transform the dining space in concert with guest needs. Rendering © DLR Group.

A packed restaurant is no longer a sign of a local hot spot. Now, discerning guests seek out a dining experience that offers a sense of personal space and invisible service. In response, DLR Group conceived the Jacket, a furniture solution that provides a protective cloak around guests in groupings of two to six. Jackets, which move along the same recessed floor track as the adaptable walls, feature a gesture-based user interface, anti-viral finishes, a HEPA air-filtration system, and UV sanitizing between uses. Guests can cluster walls and Jackets to their liking, and hotel staff can transform the space in preparation for programmed activities day to night.

White and gold booth with rounded canopy. Ribbed, translucent side walls are raised, with view of black table with partition
The Jacket, designed by DLR Group, features anti-viral finishes and a HEPA air-filtration system. Rendering © DLR Group.

Other high-traffic areas call for intentional strategy around spacing. In contrast to the standard front and-center bar placement with direct adjacency to arrival, a separated, deconstructed bar becomes a tucked away destination. This strategic positioning diffuses high-traffic, high-transfer activities, giving staff space to navigate without infringing on guests. Separating the bar experience from main arrival allows guests to feel connected to the social lobby but maintain personal space.

A separated, deconstructed bar separated by glass diffuses high-traffic, high-transfer activities. Rendering © DLR Group.

Guest Confidence Playbook

Read more about hospitality design. Here, we explore the common spaces of a model lifestyle hotel where this game plan comes to life – and the solutions sing for not just months, but years. Download the playbook.

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