As the Southern Hemisphere rolls out of winter and into summer, hotels across New Zealand will be looking to capitalise on their outdoor spaces, encouraging guests to put their feet up on the patio or take a dip in the pool.
Providing guests with a space in which to unwind outdoors is an effective way to diversify your guest experience portfolio, but it’s not without its pitfalls. Inclement weather, health and safety concerns, and the need to provide furnishings capable of withstanding the environment are all necessary considerations when planning a great outdoors space.
In her role as manager of Cordis Auckland’s award-winning Chuan Spa, Cherry Chia is responsible for managing staff, overseeing facility maintenance, developing budgets, and creating promotional campaigns for the Cordis’s spa, as well as its outdoor rooftop pool and jacuzzi. In a city known for being regularly subjected to ‘four seasons in a day’, Chia pointed out the importance of maintaining a pleasant, welcoming outdoors space for guests.
“Framed by palm trees and comfortable sun loungers, our rooftop pool is heated year-round to an inviting 27 degrees, whilst the jacuzzi is kept at 38 degrees,” she explained. “It’s pleasantly surprising to see guests enjoying the facilities in any weather, all year round.” Located just off one of Auckland’s hippest cultural centres, Karangahape Road, Cordis has managed to create an outdoor space in the heart of the city, a product Chia manages with careful consideration of customer feedback.
“We aim to deliver a five-star experience with heartfelt service, so we rely on our guest’s satisfaction levels to ensure their expectations are being met,” she said. “I also constantly monitor guest satisfaction levels through our post-treatment survey, and through interacting with guests visiting Chuan Spa, Health Club, and our outdoor pool and jacuzzi areas.”
By staying in dialogue with her guests, Chia is able to continue to maintain her facilities and her commitment to quality: “Our pool and jacuzzi offer an oasis of serenity in the midst of a bustling city,” she said. “It’s of the utmost importance that we keep it that way.”
Of course, not every hotel wants or needs an outdoor pool, and smaller businesses may struggle to find the space or budget to install and maintain such a costly feature. Outdoor lounging areas can drastically transform the guest experience without the need for a great deal of manual labour or construction on the part of the hotelier. The addition of a fireplace or electric heater and some form of partial shelter – be it an umbrella, awning, or gazebo – helps keep such spaces in use year-round.
Juliana Souza, general manager of Swiss-Belresort Coronet Peak, explained how a little consideration when it comes to design can go a long way: “I like to create consistency between inside and out by matching the style of the interior aesthetic while also adding in things that are new and interesting. I love adding texture where I can – contrasting hard furniture, such as tables or umbrellas, with softer ‘inside comforts’ like cushions, blankets and colourful beanbags can really make your outdoor area appealing.”
Building upon or decorating existing spaces is a great, cost-effective way to add a splash of character. Souza recommends incorporating plants into outdoor space to soften edges and create a sense of tranquillity: “I’m a big fan of live green walls – there are so many plant options now that are low maintenance but look great when illuminated. To that point, the use of innovative lighting means a space is not only useable when the sun sets, but completely transforms come nightfall.” It’s important to think about the colour and sources of light outside as much as you do inside, as good lighting can make or break your outdoor space.
Though the décor and ambience of an outdoor space offer endless possibilities for innovative design and creativity, it’s important to remember that, like any aspect of a hotel, safety should always be of top concern.
Pools, in particular, present numerous potential hazards, especially for children. Poolside areas present a slipping hazard, one which may be alleviated by the installation of anti-slip tiles. According to a recent rewrite of the building code section D1/AS1, accessways expected to become wet during normal use require a tiled surface with a rating of 39 or above on the pendulum test, or an R11 ramp test rating.
The pendulum slip test involves sliding a weighted boot over a tile in a pendulum. The height reached by the boot on its ascension out of the swing is an indication of the amount of resistance provided by the tile – any value under 35 is considered ‘low resistance’, and potentially a hazard.
A ramp test is a simple although potentially unreliable test also used to determine the slipperiness of a tile. A tester walks across the tiles under scrutiny, which are in turn fixed to an adjustable ramp. The surface of the tiles is covered in oil, and the angle of the ramp is increased until the tester can no longer maintain balance.
Prior to the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 was enacted, an average of 10 young children drowned every year in residential swimming pools. By 2014, this average had reduced to two young children every year, most of whom were under three years of age.
The residential pool provisions of the Building Act 2004 require residential pools – defined as any pool in a place of abode including hotels, motels, inns, hostels, boarding houses, and campgrounds – to be fitted with a barrier that restricts access by unsupervised children under five years of age.
Law changes in 2017 meant that residential pools must be inspected every three years, and allowed covers to be used as barriers for small heated pools such as spas pools and hot tubs when the pool is not in use. Importantly, existing pools installed before January 2017 are deemed to comply with the requirements if they complied with the Schedule to Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 – valid exemptions granted under the 1987 act continue to apply, including the conditions of those exemptions.