Reopening Hospitality: Five Ideas to Create a Positive Guest Experience

Health and safety is everyone’s top priority, and property owners should wait to open until it is deemed safe to do so. We recommend following CDC, state and local guidelines to understand when and how this can happen. But when the time comes to open a hotel, inn, or resort, guests should feel comfortable just as much as they feel safe.

As social distancing measures are enacted and masks are donned by staff, a hotel can easily start to feel more like a hospital than the relaxing retreat it is meant to be. Guests may have anxieties about travel and may question their safety in unfamiliar environments. Design can alleviate some of these anxieties, build trust with guests, and help to ensure a positive experience.

So as part of our ongoing look at how design can respond to COVID-19, we’ve come up with these 5 ideas to help guests feel comfortable, relaxed and healthy during these unsettling times:


From the moment a guest steps foot into a property, they should be greeted with a sense of calm and a reassurance that they are in a healthy, safe space.  The best way to establish this positive first impression is through the use of biophilic design at the reception desk and check-in area.

Biophilic design is the use of natural materials or the use of design elements that emulate the patterns, colors and forms found in nature.

Natural materials that emote a strong psychological reaction may include reclaimed wood or natural stone.  Greenery and fresh flowers can be incorporated into the reception zone, and artwork and sculpture are great ways to engage guests.

To abide by government guidelines, clear panels may need to be added to reception desks to maintain separation between guests and hosts. Custom solutions can more successfully integrate the panels with the overall hotel aesthetic. As privacy panels and other health measures are added, the use of natural materials, plants and interior landscaping becomes even more beneficial to maintain a positive guest experience.


One way to express commitment to guests’ health and well-being is with a thoughtful care package upon arrival.

Personal protective gear may include cloth masks, disinfecting wipes, disposable gloves, or bottles of hand sanitizer. Products may be branded with hotel graphics, and masks could be procured from a local artist, using fabrics and colors that relate to the hotel aesthetic.

Supplement these safety items with treats that give guests a taste of the neighborhood. Local chocolates or candies add a touch of local flavor. A map of the area may highlight activities compatible with social distancing guidelines, such as walking and biking routes.

A welcome package like this is a friendlier way to distribute needed health and safety items, with an added focus on local products. This helps forge a personal connection with the hotel and reaffirms that the hotel cares about guests’ well-being.


Instructional signage is quickly becoming ubiquitous as buildings open amidst this pandemic. In addition to required signage detailing the signs and symptoms of the disease, floor markers are used to designate areas for people to stand six feet apart. With these new signage requirements, we run the risk of cluttering our interior spaces to the point that guests will simply ignore the messaging.

A creative signage solution can reinforce a hotel’s brand and strengthen the interior design. Consider signage that playfully encourages positive behavior rather than simply dictating rules. This can be more effective at communicating a message since it captures your attention in such a unique way.

At the recently reopened Graceland Mansion, visitors are invited to step on the blue suede shoes.  Do you remember Burma-shave and its iconic highway signs?  Imagine hotel signage that is spaced strategically around the lobby to promote social distancing.


With new limitations being placed on the public areas of a hotel, guests may find themselves spending more time in their guestroom. This is a good time to give those guestrooms a refresh, so that guests feel comfortable, safe, and right at home.

The use of technology is sure to increase in the post-COVID guestroom, from wireless door access to automated room controls. In light of this trend, we think it’s important to maintain a sense of comfort and to add a personal touch with furnishings and accessories that speak to the locale. The guestroom should remain a place of refuge: a serene, protected space to put a guest’s mind at ease.

To facilitate cleanliness, the interior design should be kept simple. Hard flooring, simple bedding, and limited furnishings can be elegantly designed but also easy to clean.

What’s good for our physical health is also good for our mental health. Visual clutter should be eliminated. This means getting rid of stacks of magazines, pens and notepads.  Instead, guests could be given the option to have fresh flowers delivered to the room.


As hotels are forced to reduce capacity in dining rooms and restaurants, other dining options can be introduced to make up the difference.

One idea that presents a unique opportunity for branding and adventure is the Picnic Kit. Complete meals may be prearranged and cleverly packaged so that guests can take their special meal to a spot of their choosing, inside or outside the hotel.

Guests can take their picnic kit and find a quiet spot in the corner of a lobby, socially distanced from others. Lobby furniture can be rearranged to create seating areas for small groups at a safe distance from others. Or guests may choose to venture outdoors, either to outdoor seating areas on the hotel property or to find their own spot in a nearby park.

The picnic kit is a clever way to reimagine the typical to-go order, and it feels interactive without the need for face-to-face service. The package may include multiple courses or may be a more casual spread. There may be a menu to guide the guest through the meal or other branded touches to connect to the hotel. With a little bit of creativity, the picnic kit can offer guests a new experience and a sense of adventure.

These are just a few ideas that may help hotels improve the guest experience while preparing for a safe reopening.  But every hotel, inn, and resort is different, and may need its own unique response to COVID-19. We have been working with hospitality clients across the country on properties of all sizes, and we are here to help with a creative solution of your own. Please reach out if you would like to set up an appointment with one of our designers to discuss a better way to safely and successfully reopen your hotel.