Right now, few are thinking seriously about booking travel to bustling tourist destinations. Most of us are not traveling at all. The unprecedented pandemic we are facing has caused hardships throughout the hospitality industry and tourist destination communities. Yet, we are still seeing brisk business in building and remodeling hotel properties. Why is now a good time to build a hotel in top tourist destinations?
There are several reasons and the most apparent is that once this pandemic subsides and normal life resumes, people will be anxious to travel and vacation. Building now, during a slow time, allows developers the opportunity to have the newest facility, making their hotel the most competitive once everything opens again. When travel picks up and people plan vacations, they will want the newest, latest, greatest—and building now assures just that. Post-pandemic, consumers will continue to be concerned about health, wellness, and cleanliness. A fresh, new (or newly freshened) property will do well to take advantage of technological developments, as well as lessons learned throughout the pandemic, around guest circulation and foot traffic flow, airflow, disinfection and other positioning of its property and practices.
There is no better time to take on hotel renovations than right now. With many hotels running below optimal occupancy, the time is now to update finishes so your property can stand out from the crowd with improved energy efficiency and cleanliness. There is a window of opportunity that can be used to isolate entire floors to quickly mock up a new room renovation with touchless systems or easily cleanable touchpoints. If your property is part of a longer-term hold, install of higher seasonal energy efficiency ratio systems, insulated window units and higher efficiency plumbing fixtures can be done now. Additionally, noise isolation can be rolled out relatively quickly, floor by floor to improve the guest experience.
Lobby upgrades can also be done with relative ease. Creating more intimate “break-out” spaces can solve two problems: partition and subdivision to add social distancing comfort and limit the visibility of empty seating. The feel of a lobby space—where guests are looking to feel welcomed—is critical. View corridors can be arranged so that they do not leave guests feeling like they’ve walked into a deserted hotel. Owners want to cultivate spaces for guests to feel like they are in good hands and provide comfort so that they will return.
Advances in construction processes are another great reason to build now because they can offer significantly compressed build cycles. With modular design and construction, hotel development is accelerated and the build time only takes between 12 – 24 months to complete. A modular approach means less phasing than conventional construction, and because labor costs are down right now, this can translate into significant savings. Everyone knows that time is money, and by reducing the build time a modular process is a smart and viable option.
Another benefit to building a hotel in a tourist destination now is that the pandemic has made the ability to purchase more available. Property that was once unavailable may have to be sold, which gives developers an opportunity to acquire land in desirable locations. The most desirable locations are places where the hotel can receive tourists as well as business travelers.
A possible alternative to building is the takeover of a hotel that was unable to sustain business. One of the many unfortunate consequences of the COVID crisis is that fantastic hotels that were once very successful will not weather the financial strains of the pandemic, which leaves opportunities for developers to purchase existing properties and revitalize them.
Eric Price is the commercial studio director for Lowney Architecture.