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IHG: Predictions for Hospitality in 2021

Director of Interior Design Henry Reeve looks at the directions in which the hospitality market is likely to move post-pandemic.

15/02/2021 3 min read

Looking to the future, the impact of the obvious factors, such as cleanliness and the facilitation of social distancing measures, will of course continue to play a significant factor in the design of our hotels. At the outset of the pandemic, IHG Hotels & Resorts moved quickly to introduce new protocols and enhance existing procedures to help keep guests safe.

The rise in staycations will continue, especially as people have discovered so many beautiful parts of our own country, and this gives us an opportunity to create experiences in parts of the country that perhaps are not your typical destinations. IHG Hotels & Resorts’ portfolio of brands has positioned us well to capture demand for domestic travel and it’s something we’ve certainly seen with Hotel Indigo.

We have seen a recent boom in expansion into Tier 2/3 cities and towns in the UK, with openings such as Hotel Indigo Bath in September this year, as well as new Hotel Indigo openings that are in the pipeline in Coventry and Exeter, which are set to open in 2022. These locations are hugely rich in personality yet remain relatively undiscovered by the mainstream. We’ve seen how a boutique hotel in a smaller town or city can really inject a whole new visiting market to an area – a notable example of this is our Hotel Indigo Stratford-upon-Avon, which opened in 2019.

From a design perspective, I expect there to be a short- to mid-term impact on certain material specifications in the future. Hard to clean materials or ones which are notorious at displaying their over-use, such as pale velvets and light-coloured fabrics, will need to be specified with extreme care, as public acceptance of visible dirt or wear and tear will be very low. I hope the industry uses this opportunity to invest in products too, uplifting what is there and encouraging the replacement of items that are showing their age.

There’s a risk with making interiors ‘COVID safe’, with elements of interior design being simply removed and not replaced with any further visual stimuli – and I believe designers will need to work hard to ensure we don’t end up with spaces that risk feeling overly sterile or empty. Now, more than ever, people are looking for escape, for memorable experiences and essentially for joy, and this is something good design can provide in abundance. Spaces need to be safe and clean, of course, but also rich in personality and interest to allow people to escape what has been an unprecedented and unforgettable year.

Outside hotel environments, I think home offices will no longer be a ‘nice-to-have’ but a necessity for many. I imagine willingness to invest in one’s home work environment will increase hugely, which will in turn impact how hotels create workspaces both in guest rooms and public spaces. Will the communal worktables of the past still be as popular as once was, or will guests prefer more individual workspaces? What is certain is catering for in-room working will need to be prioritised. I’ve always believed hotels need to be ‘better than home’, so ensuring all aspects of comfort, functionality and aesthetics are catered for to allow for great in-room working will need to be considered.

Putting short-term impacts to one side, I can see, longer term, a potential for an explosion of highly creative more experiential opportunities on the horizon – once COVID is fully under control and, dare I say it, a thing of the past. The pent-up demand for travel, for experiences, for escape, will, I hope, provide opportunities for really spectacular, immersive, and innovative experiences. Spaces and places that take risks, create impact and memory.

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