Webinar: Design Insider & BIID discuss the hospitality sector

On Thursday 4th June at 3pm we discussed the impact of COVID19 on hospitality interior design, including the boutique hotel and cruise sector, with British Institute of Interior Design President Harriet Forde, Rita Bancroft and Philip Jones.

Harriet Forde Design was founded in 1999 by Harriet Forde, an interior and textile designer with over 20 years’ experience in the interior design industry. She has worked on projects in the commercial, hospitality and high-end residential sector. Harriet is the current President and is responsible for the strategic development of the Institute. She runs her own design practice.

A regular features writer on Design Insider, Rita also produces the BCFA sector reports which have become a valuable resource to members. Having worked at a senior level for international interior brands for over 25 years, she set up her own consultancy business in 2011, Bancmarketing. Today, she works with several international brands to develop and implement their sales and marketing strategy, and also enjoys writing her monthly Marketing Insights feature for the flooring industry.

With longstanding industry experience, Head of Business Development at Havwoods, Philip Jones brings with him over 30 years of flooring product knowledge with a focus on the specification market. Philip Jones, says: “Sustainability and the environment are key drivers in the specification market right now. My enjoyment lies in discussing and influencing the specification of the correct product for a project and ultimately winning the order and seeing the product installed.”

Watch our full discussion here.


Several of our webinar attendees sent questions for our panellists to answer once the webinar had finished, here are their answers:

Harriet Forde:

I’ve seen hotels linking far more to their geographical locations, picking up on local the history and heritage of areas. is this your experience?

Yes, we have always looked to see what the environment offers as reference to make the hotel have context. There has been a long move against the cookie cutter style of hotel design.

How do you see hotel designs being adapted more towards the new “way of living “? I read about some hotels transforming into recovery stations to support capacity of hospitals. Do you see this trend coming over the next 12 months?

Possibly it depends on the demand and pressure on hospitals. If needed, I would have thought this would be suited to the middle market – premiere inn type of offering rather than boutique hotels. Hopefully, we are now over the need for such mass responses to infection rates.

I am receiving various enquiries for external furniture in order to allow some venues to open as soon as the advice changes. Has the team seen any external designs/furniture layouts for bars & restaurants?

As the virus has a much lower rate of transference outside I would have thought that the catering/hospitality industry would be definitely looking for ways to maximise their offering our doors…even if it’s with patio heaters to counter the UK ‘summers’!

We have an anti-bacterial agent added into our wallcoverings and are a UK manufacturer producing for the hospitality market – we see this as huge benefit – do you believe this will be an advantage to the industry.

It depends if it is specifically useful against viruses. The market has always developed anti microbial/bacterial products for healthcare but this is a new scenario – i.e. a virus not microbe/bacteria.

Do the panel think that once the hospitality sector re-starts that there will be a greater emphasis on sustainability and wellness?

Definitely, but what that will actually mean remains to be seen.

Rita Bancroft:

Is there a place for cookie-cutter hotels where the experience is toned down and just getting your head down is important ?

Still providing comfort, security, safety. Motel type environments perhaps!
Yes, I believe there will be a market for this type of motel room model, particularly in the budget chain scale as it will appeal to both business and leisure travellers. Also think that serviced apartments will be popular as you have the brand security but less social contact than you would in a hotel environment.

Re cruising. There will need to be better upgraded air handling equipment on ships to allay any fears regarding the spread of an air borne virus.

I believe so, but there is still debate on how contagious the virus is as it spreads through air. It has been found to spread from cabin to cabin through water droplets in the air and it looks like there are some filtration systems that can capture the particles but these bring their own challenges as require changing more regularly as the particles are small. The most effective method so far appears to be the introduction of fresh air combined with filtration. I think there will be new regulations as knowledge develops but here are a couple of related links that may be useful:  The latest paper from Federation of European Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning Associations – see link for further info here.  This article recommends clean air-delivery rates of 26 to 980 m3/hr and their filters are changed in buildings, click here.

There’s a lot of talk around the use of cleaners and increase in cleaning but how many of the surfaces can withstand these regimes? Are they resistant to regular treatments with alcohol based products?

Different surfaces will react to different cleaning regimes, so this is potentially an opportunity for manufacturers to differentiate their products. For example, different fabric specifications will withstand cleaning at higher temperatures better than others. Some materials won’t be suited to being cleaned with alcohol based products such as painted surfaces. The cleaning regime will be decided by the operator of different hotel brands, this will determine the specification of products selected for different areas of use.

Given the quarantine restrictions being imposed by the UK government as of Monday – What effects do the team believe this will have on hotel occupancy rates?

The occupancy rates will no doubt be affected by a lower overall level of consumers. But occupancy may also be affected by Govt guidelines – for example currently German hotels have to stay within a 60% occupancy level. I think the UK will benefit from more domestic leisure customers, but business hotels particularly at the luxury end will find it more challenging due to financial constraints placed on business travel.

Philip Jones:

Is cork antimicrobial?
Yes, Cork has been shown to inhibit microbial reproduction in multiple different tests. Cork Phenolic Extracts are the subject of continued study for their antibacterial properties.

We make lighting for hospitality and have already completed projects with antibac and wipe cleanable lighting and have seen an increase in enquiries in this area. Do you think this will become an industry standard?
Microbial resistance is likely to be added to the most common testing for materials considered for healthcare and for use in the service industry and workplace. Testing for compatibility of product surface finishes with antimicrobial cleaners is already something which we are seeing.

Research shows that Pine heartwood showed good antibacterial qualities – far better than synthetic material, is this something you have looked in to?
It has been well established that both pine and oak have far better antimicrobial properties than synthetic materials, this is one of the factors that has driven the choice of materials used in the construction of engineered flooring/cladding products and composite decking. Although ‘natural’ and ‘healthy environment’ may be viewed as over-utilised terms when promoting timber products, there are strong scientific foundations to these statements based on factual evidence.

The majority of engineered floors have an oak surface layer accompanied by pine or birch core layers (birch has also been shown to exhibit strong bactericidal properties). This means that the product construction utilises materials with antimicrobial properties throughout.

Do you believe stepping away from carpets ( which are known to carry dirt and bacteria ) is a solution thinking about cleaning and maintenance?
Trends are driven my many factors and the trend towards natural, hard flooring materials has been one based on the positive impact timber has on the internal environment as well as the aesthetic appeal of timber products.

Antimicrobial treatments applied to other types of flooring/decorative surfaces are most often temporary and diminish in their performance under time through usage and cleaning. Timber materials such as Oak, Pine, Cork etc. possess properties which are inherently antimicrobial and provide lasting benefits against retention or growth of pathogens on these surfaces.


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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