As today’s design standards continue to evolve, outdoor spaces are being enhanced and seen as value-add offerings at hotels. In fact, many recent hotel-trend reports identified integration of nature and outdoor spaces as popular features for 2022 and beyond.

Hilton’s report The 2022 Traveler: Emerging Trends and the Redefined Traveler identifies the desire to experience and connect with nature (even indoors), natural light and indoor/outdoor spaces (such as rooftop bars) as key elements shaping hotel design, highlighting these among features that help “create feelings of warmth and relaxation as well as renewed energy and focus.”

The report specifically calls out event spaces featuring floor-to-ceiling windows offering views and natural light, as well as terraces and patio spaces as features on the rise.

Through recent years, guests have been increasingly enjoying and enhancing their own outdoor spaces, and that desire and expectation will be carried over to the travel experience. “Guests have come to expect and appreciate outdoor space more than they ever have,” says Graham Marsh, national director, Franchise Development at Choice Hotels Canada. And, he adds, “Outdoor spaces were much safer than indoor spaces during COVID.”

“The whole business has changed over the years and just travelling from one city to another, doing your business and sitting in a hotel room is no longer what guests are expecting,” says Serge Primeau, managing partner and president, Urgo Hotels Canada. “They want to experience the city that they’re travelling to, whether it’s for business or leisure.”

As a result, new design mandates are embracing the inclusion of more outdoor public spaces and amenities. Primeau notes the company’s recent openings — which feature a variety of outdoor amenities, such as terraces, rooftop pools and alfresco dining spaces — are representative of Urgo’s “new vision of [hotel] design.”

Choice Hotels’ new Comfort Rise & Shine prototype is another example. “The prototype for our new-build Comfort hotels [was] totally re-designed in 2021 to include a multi-season patio area,” shares Marsh. “This will now be the basis for not just our new-build Comfort hotels, but as a concept that can be incorporated into existing Choice properties.” These spaces are anchored by an indoor/outdoor fireplace and often include casual seating and a covered/shaded area.

Embracing the local environment and culture are key considerations in the design of outdoor spaces. “For the the exterior, we will [often] try to replicate the environment of the district that you’re in,” shares Primeau. As an example, he points to Humaniti Hotel Montreal, Autograph Collection, which opened in mid-2021 as part of mixed-use development project in the heart of Montreal’s International district.

“Outdoor spaces are usually an extension of the lobby, providing guests with an additional space to relax, socialize and enjoy,” adds Marsh. “We look for the interior public spaces of the hotel to spill out into a patio area, [which] will be visible from the front of the hotel, thereby making it visually interesting and inviting for guests.”

“In southerly locations, there is more of a demand for outdoor spaces, as well as in our resort-style properties such as our Ascend Collection hotels,” Marsh notes. In fact, he points to Choice’s waterfront properties, such as The Bayside Resort in Parksville, B.C., for its prominent inclusion of outdoor spaces that take advantage of the location’s natural views. “These can incorporate decks, patios or even docks in a few cases,” he adds.

Beyond capturing the essence of a local, Primeau says, “The other aspect is we’re trying to provide a greener environment.” By incorporation features such as plant life, open spaces and water features, Primeau says Urgo’s hotels aim to offer a more comfortable, inviting atmosphere.

As an example, he points to the dual-branded Hampton Inn/Homewood Suites Montreal Downtown which opened in late 2021. “We did quite a big [outdoor-living] space on the rooftop (5,000 sq. ft.), which basically feels like your backyard, he explains. This space, which features a plunge pool, hot tubs and lounge chairs, is located on the sixth floor, adjacent to the hotel’s gym, facilitating indoor/outdoor training.

The sixth floor is also home to Terrasse Carla restaurant and the property’s ballroom, which connect to a 6,5000-sq.-ft. rooftop terrace, allowing event-planners and diners to take advantage of open-air spaces. Similarly, the Hilton Garden Inn/Homewood Suites Montreal Midtown’s Westbury Ballroom features retractable glass doors that lead to its 1,800-sq.-ft. heated terrace with a pergola, adding value and flexibility to the space.

To extend the seasonal operations of these spaces, Primeau notes that many have supplemental heating and areas with awnings that can be enclosed. Outdoor fireplaces are also used to create ambiance, while providing added heat and comfort.

“We don’t like to be to be inside for long hours,” says Primeau. “Especially for us Canadians…whenever we have the ability to connect outside, we want to be outside as much as we can.”

By Danielle Schalk


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