February 23, 2023

Why Universal Design is the Best Way to Transform Your Hotel Reception Area

The front desk has been a hallmark of hospitality for decades, but in the age of technology, is it as necessary as before? Today, more hotels are shifting away from traditional desk-based front office operations by offering digital check-in services and kiosks to streamline the process, allowing guests to quickly check themselves in without having to wait in line or even interact with a receptionist. Does that mean front desks have become obsolete, or are they just evolving with the times?

Both. While it’s true that technology has made the front desk less of a necessity, it doesn’t mean they’re completely redundant. Hotels are relying on technology to improve operations and customer service and at the same time, reimagining and redefining what the front desk can be. It’s really the perfect example of Universal Design in action.

Waiting their turn at a mammoth desk can be off-putting for guests who are exhausted from a long journey, weary parents struggling with over-stimulated children, or guests in wheelchairs who can’t see over it. By adopting new tech processes and eliminating the physical desk, hotels are better equipped to accommodate the individual needs of all visitors.

Getting rid of the physical front desk also removes the barrier between staff and guests. Hotels are creating more of a lounge-style atmosphere. Lobbies are now used as interactive hubs where customers can find useful information about their visit, ask questions, get helpful tips, and more. In this way, hotels are creating a personalized yet equitable experience for each guest—core values of hospitality and universal design.

Delivering exemplary service will always be a top priority in the hotel industry, but how the hotel provides that service needs to evolve to meet the diverse needs of its guests. Here are eleven ways hotels can use universal design to serve guests in the best way possible:

  1. Providing an entrance without steps or thresholds ensures a highly accessible experience for all guests.
  2. Use properly distributed lighting to eliminate dark spots, which can lead to visual confusion.
  3. Install automatic doors at entries and centralized restrooms, making access to these spaces easier.
  4. Provide ample open space for better traffic flow, whether for a guest traveling with multiple suitcases or one navigating with a wheelchair.
  5. Utilize colors, contrast, symbols, and appropriate text size for guests with visual disabilities to distinguish elements in the reception area.
  6. Provide a low counter-height check-in desk with knee space below, allowing for friendlier face-to-face conversations for guests in wheelchairs.
  7. Be intentional with your wayfinding strategies, such as signage clarity for the reception desk, elevators, restaurant, and restrooms, making them easy to locate and understand.
  8. Make sure any self-service items from the pantry or café are within reach range of someone in a seated position.
  9. If you have a bar, a portion of it should be lower and useable from a seated position.
  10. Be careful using rugs that are not recessed and flush because they quickly become trip hazards.
  11. Provide a variety of lobby and restaurant seating options such as table heights, seats with and without arms, and the ability to move items easily.

Hotels always want to create an unforgettable experience, and the reimagined front desk area truly epitomizes the concept of universal design. By reconceptualizing the traditional front desk and incorporating simple universal design elements into their reception areas, hotels can create an environment that is more welcoming, comfortable, and accommodating for all.

Are you ready to talk more about these design principles? Progressive Companies can help you get started on your journey. Contact us for more information.

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