Hotels are blurring the line between indoor and outdoor spaces, encouraging guests to stay outside—and order more food and drinks from the al fresco social spots. This means that designers and suppliers are finding new ways to cater to new demands in the outdoors, adding the amenities guests expect in the lobby to the exterior spaces.
Hotels have been adding workspaces—and the outlets and charging ports that go hand-in-hand with these spaces—to lobbies for years. “We saw that trend really take hold in public spaces indoors, but now it's starting to expand outdoors,” said Sabrina Snyder, product marketing manager at Legrand, a specialist in electrical and digital-building infrastructure. While USB ports are ubiquitous in lobbies, Legrand and other suppliers now offer devices that let guests charge their phones in outdoor spaces as well—and Snyder expects this to grow. Legrand recently launched umbrellas with solar panels on top and USB ports at the base. The concept not only makes it easy to recharge a phone outdoors but, because the unit is solar-powered, eliminates the need for the hotel to install additional electrical wiring in order to provide the service. Instead, Snyder said, the hotel can install the new unit in minutes.
Poolside cabanas also can provide these features, and encourage guests to book the spaces for VIP services. Furniture design company Kettal has cabanas and pavilions that provide charging capability with both traditional outlets and USB ports, as well as lighting and weather sensors that can open or close electronic roofs as needed. But Kettal Export Director Carlos Alfaro emphasized that hoteliers should pay attention to the “Ingress Protection” rating of any furniture or structure to be used outdoors. Outdoor furniture, Alfaro said, should have an IP certification of 64, protecting it from any dust and from water spray from any direction.
While adding these charging stations to outdoor spaces may be costly depending on what option is chosen, hotels are poised to see return on investment as guests linger outside and order more drinks from the bar. “They're staying longer at the pool, they're eating more, they're drinking more, so it's actually turning into a good source of revenue for property owners—which is music to their ears,” said Nancy Snyder, senior manager of global hospitality sales at Legrand North America.
Keeping It Cool
Another way to keep guests outside is to make it easier to control the overall climate. Outdoor ceiling fans extend the usage of outdoor spaces during the summer in the same way that space heaters do in the winter. “When there’s a breeze, people feel two to three degrees cooler than when the air is still,” said Shelley Wald, president of WAC Lighting and Modern Forms.
When selecting a fan for external use, designers and hoteliers have to carefully consider the area’s climate and how the weather could affect the appliance. “The electronics and motors would have to be completely factory sealed,” Wald said. Depending on where the hotel is located, the fan blade itself also has to stand up to extreme temperatures, direct sunlight, humidity and pounding rain. Wald recommends seeking blades made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS plastic, which is durable and resistant to corrosion. “They're not going to have any concerns over deterioration or rust or other issues that might arise if it was less robust,” she said.
“It is important, when selecting a ceiling fan, that the aesthetic be consistent with what the designer's intentions are,” Wald added. Designers and hoteliers should pick an indoor-outdoor model so that the same fan in the lobby can be used on the patio, extending the designer’s vision and maintaining continuity.