Watch: Reshaping hospitality design for a future post-COVID

Renowned designers Guy Heywood and Stephane Lombard share their perspectives on the industry’s direction on design and operations


Guy Heywood, chief operating officer at Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, and Stephane Lombard, vice president design Asia Pacific, design and technical services at Accor were invited by Kohler to share their insights on hotel design and their opinions on the path of which the future of hospitality design might take.

Guy reveals the values of the Six Senses Hotel and the utilisation of biophilic design as the underlying principle of the global hotel chain. Biophilia is the connection to nature in design, workplaces, and spaces. Over the years, hotels have tried to implement sustainability policies and encourage guests to do their part in conserving the environment, but such implementations have to change amid the pandemic.  

However, Guy mentions that consumers have become wary of hotels, making the assurance of hygiene a critical factor. With that, the use of plastic has increased dramatically, contradicting the hotel’s aim to reduce plastic use.  

“Now, we’re creating so much more plastic,” said Guy. “Labels, stickers on things, even losing amenities out of hotel rooms. It’s super sad. Ultimately, we just have to learn to live with all the other viruses and diseases.”  

Moreover, hotels are currently undergoing dramatic changes like applying plastic screens at reception desks and helping guests from a distance. Hence, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has placed the industry in a sticky situation. As hospitality revolves around interacting with consumers, providing their services with a smile, “how can you smile with a face mask on?”  

“It’s a real shame. A lot of people will have to change and adapt, which will affect their business model,” said Guy.   

Stephane further adds that sanitation will greatly influence the future of hospitality design. The realisation of hygiene standards are currently an emergency, but it will soon become part of the norm where developers will need to contemplate on what actions to take next. Stephane believes that hotels will need to strengthen the promises they offer to guests, as consumers will become more demanding with higher expectations.  

“They will be more demand because there’s more risk coming to our hotels. Expectations are higher, so we need to foresee that and consolidate our assets,” he said.  

It will be very difficult to foresee the future, but seeing that companies are big players in the industry, huge commitments need to be made. “Allow us to fix some aims and communicate about it. We need to challenge our competitors and ourselves, and create participation in the hospitality industry to improve these things for the good of the industry because hotels are one of the components of society.” 

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Kohler, a global manufacturing company and Asia Property Awards’ platinum sponsor for numerous years, is taking big steps to respond to the world’s changing needs. Annie Sim, director of GPS and sales operations at K&B Group Kohler Co., says the company is trying to understand what the hospitality business in the future will be about. There has been a huge drive for touchless products, but the challenge is how to incorporate that component, while also preserving the environment simultaneously. From a manufacturer standpoint, Kohler recognises the importance of helping the environment and creating social impact.  

“It has pushed us to think beyond what we’ve been doing today and what new materials we should be thinking about. How do we use and create products that contribute back to society,” said Annie. “Sustainability is a big ask from our operator friends, and design people are looking at localisation, touching base with what is available in the local market.” 

She concludes by emphasising the importance of improving hotels to keep up with consumer expectations, saying that “a lot more upgrades are needed from hotels to make sure they’re up to speed, including maintaining standards so people would travel into hotels. That’s the few things we were thinking to support our design partners and operators.”