Poolside design that stands out in the shade

Outdoor hotel pools have become much more than a place to get a few laps in—they are now social hubs, where hotel guests will spend a significant amount of time—and money—to see, be seen and relax in the sun. Designers are taking note of new demands and expectations.

“In the past, the most important decision for the property was if they were going to have a pool or not,” Jennifer Lutton, VP of hospitality sales for Tuuci, said, adding that creating shade around the pool area was generally “an afterthought” of the process. “Now, it has become an important element in the scope of the design—and great thought and planning has gone into the choice of shade product for the specific environment it is going into, along with what exactly it will shade: deep-seating groups, two chaises, dining tables, etc.”

The choice of product is further influenced by the overall look of the property and the brand identity it is trying to convey, Lutton continued. These can be classic, contemporary, trendy, cityscape, oceanfront, local or international—all of which impact the decisions in their shade choices.

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And hotels have plenty of reasons to keep guests relaxing poolside. “On average, cabanas rent for a rate of $250-$500 per day, not including the amount that guests spend on food and beverages,” Catherine Deist, VP of business and brand development for Cabanas by Academy, said. “In exchange, guests enjoy an exclusive, luxury experience. By night, cabanas morph into the perfect venue for a romantic dinner at a restaurant, or a VIP area to be utilized by the hotel nightclub.”

Umbrosa Export Manager Khadidja Thys agreed. “Outdoor umbrellas and shades create a significant added-value to hotel terraces, lounges and swimming pool areas,” she said. “There is an increasing awareness among designers and hotel owners that umbrellas are the finishing touch of a project and allow to create an entirely different setting, a perfectly designed outdoor space.” 

“Oftentimes, [the poolside space] will be the space the customer remembers after they leave,” Lutton noted. “The goal for the hotel is to create an experience that brings the customer back again—and also [makes them] recommend the property to their friends, family and co-workers.”

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McKibbon Hospitality manages the 200-room Hyatt House Chicago/West Loop-Fulton Market.