Resorts and hotels around the world have to cater to the new breed of client who wants a balanced life of travel and work
THE MASKS ARE FINALLY OFF, and people are feeling rejuvenated. COVID and the turmoil around the world have created a mindset where people want more in life than work. They want time to indulge in the more important things in life such as family, wellbeing and happiness. The last year has shown us that we can work in any environment without compromising productivity and profitability. And with borders opening up, we want to travel and explore the world with a new-found vengeance – we want to stay for as long as a few months in a place to truly feel the culture, enjoy the local food, make friends, enjoy our space with self.
Resorts and hotels all over the world are reworking their blue prints of architectural spaces to fit into the new lifestyle of this intrepid traveller and worker.
Showing how concepts can work is Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo (WATG). The architectural firm has offices in London, Singapore, Istanbul, Honolulu, Irvine, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Chicago, and have designed projects in more than 100 countries across six continents.
A CHAT WITH GUY COOKE, ASSOCIATE PRINCIPAL AND DIRECTOR OF ADVISORY SERVICES, ASIA PACIFIC AT WATG
- Resorts, hotels, homestays, inns and B&Bs now have to adapt to these intrepid workers. How does a resort modify or create space to cater to a working environment?
Fundamentally, it means that guests are going to be staying for longer periods of time and have different expectations of the resort property and experience. The result is a more residential feel to create a proper home away from home. This can start from the simplest gesture such as more wardrobe space or the provision of kitchenettes, which then leads to us thinking about the overall F&B provisioning – how about an artisanal deli where guests have the option to dine in, grab and go or pick up food staples like charcuterie and bread to assemble meals themselves in the comfort of their own rooms.
In the urban environment, there has been a huge adoption of coworking space by urban hotels, a great way to serve as a community hub as well as supporting overnight guest’s needs. This is a very different concept to the business centers of the old which will likely now evolve, inspired by the co-working trends with F&B and social components. We are therefore starting to play with these concepts in resort settings to cater to the work from anywhere phenomenon.
For families of three, four or beyond, clearly more space is a pre-requisite, especially if the stay extends from the typical few days to a matter of weeks or months. Dedicated space, quiet and conducive for work and private calls, is a must; this can be designed within the room or elsewhere in a dedicated public space within the hotel.
In room, standard desks commonly provided in the past are making a comeback for these situations. The positioning of this desk is rather important to avoid having an inappropriate background for video calls such as an unmade bed, or worse still, a glass/open bathroom – these adjacencies need to be considered in the room design – otherwise you become highly reliant on virtual backdrops which we know have limitations.
We are experimenting more with suite design; can a soundproofed work booth or micro-office be incorporated within the layout? Can we make such spaces flexible to convert to a kids bunk room or toddler room depending on the guest needs. Of course, significant changes to layout and interior design need to be considered in relation to building efficiencies and ROI.
Flexibility is key in our post pandemic world with spaces needing to cater to a broader spectrum of demands, across the week, the year and longer term in the face of inevitable market shifts over time.
- What are the three most important things that make a space conducive for both work and leisure?
Firstly, a secure internet connection, not just a fast and stable one, especially for guests working for financial institutions or legal firms where you can’t just share information on any Wi-Fi network.
The balance of programming is also important. We keep discussing hard programming, but soft programming is equally crucial to craft different interesting and fresh experiences for longer stay guests. For example, F&B options need to be in constant rotation and include elements of surprise – pop-up dining concepts or off-site experiences – i.e. boat trips with a catch-your-own-dinner fish-to-fork dining experience. There could also be a wellness programme specifically for the hybrid worker, introduced to promote productivity and/or creativity at work, or a therapist to reset your frame of mind once you’re ready to embrace relaxation.
Thirdly, proper segregation of work and relaxation zones. We go to a resort to step away from the frenetic busy world; we don’t want a beautiful holiday resort to turn into our office. We need to ensure zones for working does not interfere with the rest of the spaces for wellness, reflection, relaxation and fun! This zoning must be achieved through architecture, landscape design, interior design, and careful project planning and programming of spaces at the very early stages.
- Can outdoor spaces such as balconies, pool sides and courtyards be used? If so, how best can we make sure of these areas for work?
Absolutely. I think there are great opportunities to leverage the unique resort setting and natural surroundings to help inspire creativity at work, for example – to be able to write this article for Feast and Form, coming up with a new product line or solving a tough business problem. Imagine being perched up in an amazing ‘nest’ within the forest or overlooking the sea – they say we have our best ideas in the shower – imagine what this kind of setting could do!
Pool sides and courtyards are really interesting as well, but not just for work, we love the idea of creating private spaces throughout the public realm of the resort. Poolside cabanas are nothing new but the premise is strong and can be evolved further and across a destination. You can book your private space while being close to the action. These nicely curated spaces can also be private spaces for treatments, for a private dining experience, or for myriad different things.
- What can a resort or hotel do if it is packed with screaming children and howling adults, and workers who need their peace to write and think without stuffing their ears with earbuds?
It’s about zoning to offer nice little quiet pockets of spaces for work which must be effectively programmed and planned in the early stages to be optimal.
- What do you personally look for in a resort that you will also work in?
I have two boys under four years old, and as a result, have a new-found appreciation of the challenges and potential of travelling as a family. How to facilitate toddlers that nap during the day and have an early bedtime without compromising the parents holiday experience? Well-designed family suites, ground floor units with terraces so we can have dinner within earshot. Interconnecting rooms are better than nothing but are a quick fix – great for flexibility but at the expense of the nuances of the guests’ needs – I think we, as an industry, can do better. Parents of young children need a holiday more than anyone- let’s help them!
And of course, incredible resort amenities that support multi-generational experiences. My children are at an age where one loves the idea of water play and slides while one isn’t and if I can involve myself with the elder child while my wife and my younger one can sit and have a drink and lunch nearby, we can feel like we’re all relaxing together. It’s about letting the kids do what they enjoy and still sharing that space and moment with them.
- How do you relax after a hard day at work and what foods do you enjoy?
Quite frankly, I feel that, between work and the kids, this is perhaps not the season of my life for an abundance of relaxation. Once a week, I run or hike the MacRitchie trail, to unwind and get close to nature – it’s beautiful. I am lucky that I travel with work, so I get to sample the richness of region’s gastronomical offerings, be it Thai, Vietnamese or Japanese and of course, we are lucky to have such a wealth of options and experiences to enjoy here in Singapore – I have a bit of an addiction to the gula melaka flavored ice-cream that is served at a cafe near us.
Story by Carol Kraal. Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton and Guy Cooke photographs courtesy of WATG