Designing for social distancing: factors to consider

Social distancing has been widely seen by people as a restrictive and anxiety-inducing experience. As hospitality businesses continue to reopen, adapting to these new health and safety guidelines, Giles Fuchs, owner of Burgh Island Hotel, examines the importance of designing social distancing for boutique hotels.

tels are under attack from increasingly sophisticated hackers, intent on stealing sensitive data, such as guests’ credit card information and identification documents.

In the last decade, there have been around 30 data breaches for high-profile chains including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and even Trump Hotel Collection.Consequently, hundreds ofmillions of customers have had personal detailsstolen and billing information compromised.

There is a belief among cybersecurity professionals that hotels are either not doing enough to combat this growing threat or usinginadequate solutions.

“The challenge with hotel chains in general is that they tend to be looking at running things as low-cost as possible,” says Joseph Carson, cybersecurity expert and chief security scientist at Thycotic.

“At the same time, I don't think that they see the value of the data that they are actually collecting and processing. And that ultimately becomes the major issue.When you don't see the value yourself, but attackers do, then they'll take advantage of your failure to protect it.”

Cyber criminals are continuously seeking opportunities to exploit. Not only can a data breach harm a hotel brand’s reputation, but owners will also be hit with hefty penalties from authorities. The EU’s GDPR law has imposed tighter rules on how companies treat customer data and how long they can hold onto it, with considerable fines imposed on those found in breach of regulations

“Hotels hold millions of pieces of data, which can have a great value on the dark markets. Therefore, when hotels are not properly protected, criminal hackers will continually exploit wherever possible in order to extract whatever they can,” explains Jake Moore, cyber security specialist for ESET.

Trump’s election in 2016 had a questionable negative impact on tourism

Despite the pandemic having dealt blow after blow to the hospitality sector, the industry has valiantly weathered the storm. Last March, few would have predicted the bustling beachfronts, packed eateries and hotels at capacity that we experienced in the summer. This was a testament to the swift action taken by those in the industry to implement measures to protect guests and staff alike.

Ensuring safety will continue to be of paramount importance moving forward, but this need not detract from the guest experience. Indeed, there are several ways for boutique and luxury hotels to provide safe social distancing, while enhancing the experience of those desperately in need of rest and relaxation.

An intimate experience

With Covid-19 having forced us apart for long periods of 2020, we’re all undoubtedly eager to reconnect with our nearest and dearest.

Public health measures have been shown to heighten feelings of isolation, loneliness, stress and anxiety. Yet, as hoteliers, we’re in a position to turn this on its head and show our guests that such measures can, in fact, improve the hotel experience.

While there will be less opportunity for mingling between groups, this also means that we can offer a more personal, peaceful experience than would otherwise be on offer.

We’re in a position to turn this on its head and show our guests that such measures can, in fact, improve the hotel experience.

Restrictions on restaurant capacity, for example, can be marketed as new, exclusive dining experiences. Hoteliers can open up other areas of the hotel for private use, giving each group of guests the run of a lounge or library as an alternative to crowded dining spaces and adding an extra layer of intimacy to the experience in the process.

Rather than rushing guests through their meal to cope with reduced capacities, hotels can allow their guests to dwell after they finish their meals, providing more time and space for them to enjoy their surroundings and company.

Showcasing your best features

Implementing a one-way system has been an important step in making many hotels pandemic-ready, but with a little strategy and imagination, they can offer further benefits to guests.

Such systems can be designed to draw footfall and thus attention, to a boutique hotel’s best features, including all the interiors, décor and public spaces that make the venue unique.

Guests need not see taking the long way around from their room to the restaurant as a chore, but rather as an opportunity to take in the fixtures and fittings they might have otherwise missed.

Systems can be designed to draw footfall and thus attention, to a boutique hotel’s best features.

Burgh Island boasts some of the most notable original art deco pieces of the era, a key offering that our guests are always eager to indulge in.

Using a one-way system, we have turned diversions into a tour de force, providing moments for our guests to explore the unique features, history and tales that make our hotel and surrounding island one of a kind.

For any boutique hotelier, such an opportunity to showcase your appeal, while maintaining safety and keeping business going, should not be passed up.

Investing in the outdoors

As hoteliers, we’ve gained a new appreciation for our gardens and outdoor areas. These spaces have provided another solution to constraints on capacity, as alfresco seating and dining areas enable guests to feel safe in an environment without overbearing social distancing measures.

Looking ahead, outdoor space will remain integral. Reported levels of anxiety and depression have risen during a year spent stuck largely under the same roof.

However, with 95% of those suffering with low mental health reporting that nature has helped to improve their wellbeing, these spaces can provide the escapism that guests will undoubtedly seek.

At Burgh Island, the 26 acres of natural beauty that surrounds us has played an important role in maintaining a seamless operation during the pandemic and will continue to cater to our future guests.

Even finding space for outdoor tea or lunch service could help to make guests happier and healthier.

Surrounded by green landscapes, unspoiled shores and with an open-air ballroom for guests to dance away under the stars, we have made the great outdoors a central part of our guests’ stay.

Coupled with a programme of events and experiences designed to connect guests with the local culture and environment, such as sustainable shark fishing trips and coastal foraging, Burgh Island offers a welcomed escape from hectic, grey cityscapes.

Not all hotels boast access to ample green space and natural landscapes, but the benefits of outdoor areas, no matter how small or significant, shouldn’t be overlooked. For those situated in built-up urban areas where space is at a premium, even finding space for outdoor tea or lunch service could help to make guests happier and healthier.

Of course, we cannot forget about the employees that have worked tirelessly throughout the turbulence to keep doors open and guests in good spirits. Expert hotel management company Inntelligence recently launched a week-long Hospitality Positivity Challenge, spanning eight hotels across the country and overseas, with the launch event at Burgh Island hotel.

Some 20 members of the Burgh Island team took part, and the initiative is designed to lift the spirits of hotel workers who have endured a difficult year as a result of the pandemic, by encouraging them to travel a chosen distance by any suitable means.

Raising money to support the industry’s recovery in the process, the event offered workers their own opportunity to escape, explore and experience the great outdoors.

Getting tech-ready

The hospitality sector is already home to a plethora of technological solutions that enhance the experience of both staff and guests. It is now time for boutique hotels to flex their technological capabilities to elevate the guest experience.

There are, of course, important health reasons for this. Minimising high-touch interfaces throughout a hotel will help limit the spread of germs; for instance, keeping guests safe and boosting their confidence.

The latter is of particular importance, with almost half of British travellers unconvinced about the cleanliness of post-lockdown hotels according to a study conducted by the End of Tenancy Cleaning Company.

Hoteliers must invest in the technological infrastructure to create a safe and healthy environment.

With 84% of travellers stating that technology-driven experiences would increase their confidence to travel in 2021, hoteliers must invest in the technological infrastructure to create a safe and healthy environment. With 84% of travellers stating that technology-driven experiences would increase their 

Innovations such as contactless check-in services, motion-sensitive door mechanisms and even voice-controlled operating systems can bolster the safety and security offered to both guests and staff.

While it may seem a world away from the welcoming, human customs at the core of many boutique hotels’ identities, this doesn’t need to be detrimental to the guest experience. The adoption of technology can make processes run smoother and more efficiently, creating a more satisfying guest experience.

Even with an end in sight, it will take some time for the hotel industry to overcome the pandemic. To overcome lingering fears and anxieties, we must persist with social distancing measures. However, hotels shouldn’t simply focus on making the best of a bad situation.

With the right changes and investments, we can enhance the guest experience, offering our Covid-19-drained guests the escape they need – while continuing to prioritise safety.

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