One fine day, a piece of life-altering news rocked the world in unison. The information about a new virus affecting humanity came around. It went on to be declared a pandemic. Life as we knew it came to a standstill. Summer vacation was just around the corner, yet we found ourselves retreating into the sanctuary of our homes.
Are we living one of the post-apocalyptic scenarios we imagined through our movies? How long will the world stay in this hibernation? Are travel and tourism dead? These questions plagued most people.
History tells us that humanity has always bounced back. So, we will, but we will be constructing a new meaning to normalcy, especially in the field of the tourism architecture industry.
Detour from the norms
The arrival of pandemic resulted in the alteration of our routines. From one’s personal habits to the culture of workplaces. The need for minimizing public interaction amplified. The idea of work from home began to extend to fields where such an approach was previously unheard of.
This particular pandemic has brought forth the need for ramping up the standards for public health and hygiene. Public transport, public spaces, entertainment facilities, communal facilities, and commercial facilities came under scrutiny.
Despite these changes, with the race to rush back to normalcy comes the yearning for a change. After months of familiarizing ourselves with the nooks and crannies of our homes, one craves to travel and explore
Travel has always been one of the most popular hobbies amidst humanity. We grow up hearing about the impacts travel has on a being. It not only enlightens one’s soul, but it also becomes the breadwinner of local economies.
Travel and tourism are some of the worst-hit industries during the pandemic. As the countries began to lock down its borders, the tourism industry faced an unprecedented challenge. Despite the impermanence of this situation, the fear induced by the pandemic will haunt the human psyche for a while. Therefore, the tourism market looks towards altering its approach before reviving its former self.
The tourism industry and its architecture have always been driven by user demand. The tourist demands seem to see a new direction fueled by the pandemic. The need for better sanitation and hygiene takes the forefront. Traveling in public transportation has always been considered a cheaper and safer option. The present scenario shows that people might opt for private transportation more. This also increases the demand for tourist destinations closer to homes. Gravitation towards eco-tourism such as day trips to national parks will be considered more favorable.
The shift towards preferences of more privacy and social distancing is more prominent. Minimizing human contact and tactile interaction with surfaces is also a priority. The demand for hotels with lesser occupancy rates and areas to afford minimal social interaction increases. Rental villas and stand-alone luxury homes with more privacy might become the most sought-after accommodation type.
Transformation at the grassroots
A study of architectural history shows that city planning has often transformed in response to significant triggers like a pandemic. For instance, the outbreak of plague influenced the redesign of the sewage and water supply networks. Similarly, a need for policy-level changes is needed in the aftermath of a pandemic. The tourism sector of Puerto Rico made headlines when they rolled out a set of new guidelines. Their tourism-dependent economy aims to implement a two-level certification program that will govern the tourism-related businesses within it.
The transportation sector is interlinked with tourism, and similar changes are being implemented in its case as well. Health screening of passengers at check-in and exit, changes in occupancy ratios, and seating arrangement and alterations in the passenger movement pattern are already observed.
Apart from these utilisations of more automation in the various procedures within the terminal is looked into. Expansion of the available medical facilities within the transport hubs is also necessary. Similar approaches are to be adopted in the other means of transportation such as railways and cruises too.
The major changes that will occur in hotel redesign include an increase in automation and contactless operations. Incorporation of health screening at entrance and distancing in the seating arrangement in the lobby will be essential. Checking in through digital means such as mobile apps is another option. Gesture-based interactions will gain preference.
The seating in the public areas such as the lobby, dining halls, etc. will have to be enlarged in dimensions. The spatial distance between them will also need to be increased. Dependency on centralized air conditioning will also need to be reduced in such areas. The utilization of robots as concierges and bellhops is a possibility. Reduction of common touchpoints will be a priority in the architecture.
Tourists might prefer keyless entry to their rooms. The pandemic has instilled in people a tendency to spend more time in their rooms. Hence the addition of smart rooms will be essential. The focus will shift towards the improvement of personal space as the use of communal spaces will be limited.
The space allocated for horizontal and vertical circulation is often neglected at present. Post pandemic these spaces will also need to contribute towards adequate social distancing.
The preferences for materials and surface finishes will also experience a shift. There is a trend towards the usage of antimicrobial surfaces and easy to sanitize fixtures and fittings. The floor and wall finishes will also need to meet these sterility standards.
Public areas and landscaping of hotels and resorts have always been designed to encourage interaction and socializing. Post pandemic the focus will swing towards supplementing social distancing even in the design of these areas. Contamination through common swimming pools and gyms will pose a reason for worry. Hence, redesigning these areas to meet new standards is required.
Post pandemic an inclination towards experiencing architecture and tourist hotspots through visual sense will be seen. Most tourists might opt for less crowded areas. Historic monuments and museums will have to adapt to timed tours with a limited number of visitors in each batch. Frequent sanitizations and more contact-free interactions will also need to be planned in these public areas.
It’s not all downhill from here.
A pandemic brings with it a gloomy scenario indeed. But in the spirit of finding the positives in adversity, we also witness a few constructive changes in the tourism market. Over tourism has come under control, and so have the pollution levels. There is also a higher appreciation for local communities and domestic tourism. A change in the architecture of the tourism industry is long overdue. This challenging situation only hastens the process. In the words of P.B. Shelley, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”