Bringing large spaces indoors comes at a high cost, but ultimately with a high return on investment for hoteliers and their customers.
It used to be that sleeping in a tent was the vacation of choice for cash-strapped families. But glamping is growing in popularity as hotels cater to travelers, frustrated by two years of pandemic lockdown, who are eager to celebrate nature while disconnecting in log cabins and tents.
Hotel brands are investing heavily in design elements meant to bring the outdoors in, such as the Eastwind Hotel and Bar in the Catskills in New York State. The 26-room Eastwind has introduced what it calls “almost camping” with new secluded all-weather glamping cabins and new Lushna suites. The latter have their own terraces and unobstructed panoramic views of the mountains and meadows.
Although visitors are staying at a resort, the new cabins offer guests a Thoreau-like experience where they can easily disconnect from virtual responsibilities and distractions, say Eastwind founders Bjorn Boyer and Julija Stoliarova.
“By design, there are no televisions on the property to encourage guests to be present with their loved ones,” Stoliarova said. “Eastwind offers a distinct experience that is elevated and immersed in nature, allowing guests to disconnect from the outside world.”
The lines between indoors and outdoors continue to blur as Nikki Fox, vice president of business development at ParkWest General Contractors, believes businesses will invest more in larger patios and balconies as the pandemic emerges . Interior decorator Olga Hanono, whose studio specializes in building and renovating luxury hotels, also agrees. He says his clients support green thumb initiatives that place growing walls, plants and gardens in as many public spaces and guest rooms as possible.
These efforts are expensive. However, Rob Blood, founder and president of Lark Hotels, believes that they are really worth it. “There’s no question that features like larger windows increase construction costs and ultimately operating costs,” he said.
“But there’s been such an evolution in heating and cooling over the last 10 years that all costs have gone down because efficiency is higher. So there is a balance and we can make better decisions on how we can improve the customer experience, but also generate revenue.
He cited the expensive renovation of a former Lark property in Nantucket that included building balconies overlooking the sea, which ended up burning the hotel down to charge an extra $200 a night. Additionally, one of its boutique brand’s strategic initiatives is to add cabins to dot the grounds of properties like field guide in Stowe, Vermont. The A-frames under construction have floor-to-ceiling windows that reach up to Cady Hill Forest, repeating a formula that worked with the addition of pinewood cabins at Lark’s AWOL Kennebunkport property.
“Our guiding principle when doing projects like these is large windows, minimal design – which really allows the natural setting to dictate how people feel when they are here. ‘be the hero,'” Blood said.
He predicts an even greater increase in Scandinavian design elements in the hospitality industry over the next few years. “I think there are elements that linger from the past two years of social isolation,” Blood said. “Being indoors a lot draws us outdoors, while wanting the inside to be fresh and clean.”