Increasing profitability with creative outdoor spaces

Outdoor living spaces are becoming a more popular segment of home design, so why shouldn’t hotels follow suit? Many hotels are transforming some of their spaces into unique areas that guests can utilize and experience, with the bonus of increased profitability.

Up on the Roof

On the fourth-floor outdoor terrace of The Sheraton Dallas’s center tower is the ‘punfully’ named Herb ‘N Jungle—a green oasis in the midst of sprawling urban environment. The Herb ‘N Jungle was a result of a major hotel renovation in 2019. “When we were reconceptualizing the food and beverage options, we found an outdoor patio area. The chef saw it as a great space that could be converted into a garden,” said Chandana Weerasekara, hotel manager.

Herb 'N Jungle
The Herb 'N Jungle is a green oasis in the midst of sprawling urban environment in Dallas. (Sheraton Dallas)

They planted peppers, figs, tomatoes and a variety of herbs, which are utilized to enhance the dishes served at the hotel’s Open Palette restaurant. The hotel also holds events at the Herb ‘N Jungle, as well cooking and gardening classes; these are open to the public as well as to hotel guests.

To connect with the local community in the artsy Deep Ellum neighborhood, the roof garden also features work by local artist Falk Houeben, including wall art/murals and painted planters. Eventually they added three beehives, and the honey is used in the bars as well as in the kitchen.  

“You’re in the middle of the city but it’s a green space where you can sit outside, relax and enjoy the view,” said Weerasekara. “I think the traveler is looking for different experiences, not just sitting in a meeting room or having lunch or dinner. They want to see and do something different and experience something local.”

Adventure Golf & Sports/rooftop mini-golf
Adding a mini-golf course is one option to convert rooftop space into a profit producer. (Adventure Golf & Sports)

Another option to convert a rooftop into a usable space for guests is putting in a custom modular mini-golf course, such as the one Adventure Golf & Sports designed for the Caribe Resort in Orange Beach located on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. “As a business strategy, mini-golf can help set a property apart from competitors, extend guest visits and increase sales of nearby food, beverage and gift store operations,” said Scott Lundmark, president of AGS. “Nothing beats a little outdoor entertainment, and mini-golf is an ideal way to add some fun and extra revenue.”

Playing with Fire

The Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, a 400-acre resort and spa in Carlsbad, Calif., utilizes fire features throughout the property to provide a cozy feeling and to draw people out of their rooms. There are five fire pits located on the north section of the golf course and are spaced out on different patios.

The fire pits create an opportunity for community gathering, which was its original intention. The fire pits’ location by the outdoor lounge is ideal for purchasing drinks, but what the hotel did not anticipate was the requests for private use of the fire pits by families or other groups. Consequently, the hotel has been able to further monetize them by offering a saleable experience while integrating local culture, called a S’mores Experience. 

“Carlsbad is famous for its strawberry fields; the chefs now mix in strawberry-infused marshmallows to bring that to life,” said Craig Martin, managing director. There is also an adult version, where people can order spiked hot chocolate or boozy marshmallows infused with different liqueurs. The S’mores Experience is available to non-guests, as well. 

Martin believes that other hotels can incorporate fire features into an underutilized courtyard or large patio, creating a revenue enhancement point, no matter the season, as it brings a warmth element to the space.

The Buzz on Bees

Over 250,000 Italian honeybees live at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Clad in protective beekeeping attire and led by a professional beekeeper, guests can participate in The Beekeeping Experience to get an up-close-and-personal look at the intricate processes buzzing about the hive.

“Guests learn all about what keeps bees healthy, happy, safe, and productive, and even get to taste a raw honeycomb,” said Hima Duggirala, director of marketing and public relations. The honey is also used throughout the resort in spa treatments and in restaurant dishes and can be purchased onsite.

This is a unique selling point, as it is the only resort in the area that offers this experience. Duggirala said that this brings ancillary revenue from selling the experience and the exclusive honey products, as well as from tours and workshops. “Adding this program at the resort [addresses] the growing interest in environmental conservation. More and more guests are leaning into programming that is eco-conscious that boosts the brand's image, increasing guest loyalty.”

Games People Play

Piggybacking on the pickleball craze sweeping the country, The PGA National Resort recently added 12 new pickleball courts to elevate its existing Racquet Sports Club. “The expansion of the pickleball courts on property creates extra revenue streams from hosting additional tournaments, clinics, equipment rentals, brand partnerships, and collaborations, as well as hosting events on property,” said Duggirala. Extra revenue is generated from renting the courts to local clubs and organizations. “The resort also receives revenue from adding pickleball into room packages and promotions for guests looking for an active getaway.”

Island Hospitality has several properties in its portfolio in which they’ve been able to monetize outdoor spaces, while at the same time adding value to the guest experience. For example, The Winslow, an independent hotel in Winslow, Ariz., transformed an outdoor courtyard into a bocce ball court, which is accessible from the lobby bar. “It was just a flat outdoor space; by creating a bit of green space and gathering space, we are giving people something interesting to do,” said President and CEO Greg Forde, noting that bocce ball is a popular pastime in that region.

Relaxation Station

Not all outdoor experiences need to be active; relaxation is often top of the list for travelers. The Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa in Destin, Fla., delivers on that by offering a lounge space with cabanas and pergolas on the lower pool deck.

Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa pool deck
Reservations to book the cabanas sell out far in advance at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa in Destin, Fla. (Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa)

“With reservations to book the cabanas selling out far in advance, rentals of these spaces are a lucrative feature of our pool area. We currently have eight cabanas in total, all of which can be booked together for groups,” said Tiffany Howell Phillips, director of recreation. F&B service is offered as an add-on.

Even if converted outdoor spaces are more aesthetic than experiential, that, too, could lead to returns, particularly when guests are making booking decisions. The one with the pleasing environments, whether that be an updated pool area or an outdoor lounge, can help elevate the entire guest experience, and that is a feature that is priceless.