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As wellness becomes more than a buzzword, hoteliers are using ergonomic outdoor furniture to help improve the overall guest experience

By Pradeep Suvarna

While visiting a hotel, even the most travel-weary and reticent hotel guest will take some time to lounge by the swimming pool or relax at the lawn. It is not uncommon to even see some people carry their laptops and then spend several hours working in the outdoors, while soaking some sun and fresh air.
These changing guest expectations means that hoteliers have to provide their guests with ergonomic outdoor furniture that are designed as much for a working environment as they are for relaxing. After all, these small touches go a long way when it comes to enhancing guest experience.
So, guests staying at the Novotel Kochi Infopark usually make a beeline for the infinity pool and deck bars to enjoy the soothing views of the city. The hotel provides poolside deckbeds and chairs where guess can unwind and relax. Sachin Maheshwary, general manager, Novotel Kochi Infopark said, “With limited spaces in cities, hotels need to be innovative in enhancing outdoor guest experiences, and using outdoor ergonomic furniture does just that.”
The two areas where outdoor furniture are most used in a hotel room are by the poolside and in the verandahs and balconies outside guest rooms. The poolside area is a very social area, especially during peak season, whereas the balconies are for more private moments. Hence, the choice of furniture for both areas varies accordingly.

OUT AND ABOUT
The choice of appropriate ergonomic outdoor furniture plays an important role in the wellness and wellbeing of a guest. This is becoming an increasingly important part of the helping guests feel comfortable while they are away from their homes.
Every guest visualises himself seated on a comfortable designed outdoor chair as an antithesis to our contemporary digitised existence. Like Ankur Modi, director, Modi Woodspace stated, “In today’s world, most people living in big cities, which are highly polluted and crowded, look for scenic beauty, peace and a perfect outdoor environment while away from their homes.”
Devendra Parulekar, founder, SaffronStays agreed that with decreasing open spaces in cities, citizens are seeking getaways with large lawns, pools and gardens. “Outdoor furniture helps guests to disconnect from technology and keep devices aside. Pool loungers, gazebos, outdoor swings and pergolas are excellent spots for guests to unwind and relax,” he noted.
Vaibhav Kala, founder, Atali, Ganga, an Activotel By Aquaterra noted that whether it is an outside patio or a lawn sit out, hotels have to first do their best to draw guests out. The furniture plays its part by enhancing the proposition, the suggestion coming by its mere presence.
Many hotels have rooftop restaurants and dining areas in a natural environment. In such scenarios, Randip Dhingra, founder and CEO of World Bazaar, advised adjustable umbrellas and shade-producing arches that can help control sunlight. “Outdoor furniture should look familiar and be sturdy, stable and suitably arranged. There should be dining style chairs and more comfortable chairs of different sizes and heights for different outside experiences. Other outdoor seating types that create a home-like environment include park benches, porch swings and rocking chairs.”

A Furnishing Apart
To a layperson, a chair is a chair is a chair. However, an ergonomic chair is a well-designed piece of furniture that reduces stress to the spine and prevents back problems, while evoking good posture.
According to Dhingra, the interest for ergonomic outdoor furniture is due to the growing inclination towards wellness. “In the outdoor furniture, there is a growing incidence of the inflatable variety, which takes the body’s shape. This type of furniture is low on maintenance and can be stowed away easily when not in use. The staff can easily fold, unfold or inflate it, making it easy to maintain,” he said.
Keeping comfort at the center of their designs, Modi Woodspace, has been creating handcrafted ergonomic furniture. Modi said, “All our furniture is handcrafted and designed by skilled designers who take utmost care of every minute detail. We also customise designs for our clients according to their requirements to ensure complete satisfaction.”
Amit Sawhney, creative partner, Wicker World also stated how his company places great emphasis on advanced design concepts for ergonomic outdoor furniture to meet the wide ranging demands for open spaces. “It is very important to understand that ergonomic furniture characteristic before actual putting it into the production. The furniture is specifically designed to alleviate stress and strain, as well as reduce the potential risk of injury,” he stated.
While guests are busy beavering away or relaxing on the ergonomic chairs, hoteliers have to ensure that they pick the right ones products. So how do they know they have the real deal?
According to Maheshwary, it has to do with understanding what sets ergonomic furniture apart from other substitutes – it is durable, easy to maintain and also light to move around. “The characteristic that determines whether a piece of furniture is ergonomic or not is very simple – it should be stable, made of turnstile strength, easy to replace and repair. Moreover, it should be able to accommodate all guests with little assistance and be comfortable and relaxing above all,” he said simply.
Kala added that it is also pleasing to the eye. “Ideally, I would select one that would meld into the hotel’s ethos. Lets leave overtly large and garish out; small and functional is equally big on comfort,” he stated.
Parulekar claimed that outdoor furniture should be designed in an ergonomic way that allows guests to conveniently spend hours at a stretch. “Community tables and loungers are spots where guests can gather around and have meals together and then spend time playing games, reading and bonding with each other. These tables are a common feature in our homes and usually have a backrest and cushions,” he added.

RELAX, YOU ARE AT EASE
Ergonomic furniture promote healthy and spontaneous movement, whether one is moving or at rest. It helps business travellers relax, since they often spend a majority of their time dashing from one meeting to another or attending events.
Kala also made an interesting observation. “We spend a major duration of our lives in upright office chairs that do not allow us the luxury of putting our feet up. Outdoor seating at hotels must offer options to put your feet up, relaxing by the poolside or outdoor bar.” If furniture is needed to transport guests to enjoy this experience, then so be it!
Sawhney, too, agreed with Kala, and noted that people spend to much productive time at office, so when in the outdoors they seek complete relaxation. “Therefore, it is essential that when guests are unwinding, the lounger or day bed brings then comfort. For complete relaxation, this outdoor furniture must offer adequate lumbar support, arm rest, comfortable seat depth, foot rest and soft cushioning,” he added.

VALUE FOR MONEY
Given that they offer better services than their simpler counterparts, are these ergonomic outdoor furniture more high maintenance as compared to the regular variety? Modi does not believe so. In his opinion, ergonomic outdoor furniture do not require high maintenance as they are a mix of style, high quality, long-lasting materials, innovation and skilled craftsmanship, which do not lose value over time. “While they may cost a little more, they will certainly last you a lifetime and more. Spending money these products is seen as an investment because the designs will continue to stay relevant for years to come,” he said.
Sawhney echoed his opinion and said that the Wicker World line of ergonomic outdoor furniture requires low maintenance as it is intended to be left outside all year around. Nonetheless to enhance its longevity, the company uses outdoor fabric from Sunbrella and Para Tempotest.
One rarely gets a second chance to make a positive first impression on a guest’s mind. As appearances go, a guest’s first impression of a hotel’s outdoor areas, the furniture included, goes a long way in communicating what the property holds in store for him. Hence, the selection of the right outdoor furniture will help get you that extra edge.

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