The lighting decisions you make in your hotel’s lobby, guestrooms or even hallways can have a significant impact on the mood and health of your guests.
Studies have shown that lighting can transform moods, provide comfort and evoke emotion, which is why it plays such an important role in the guest experience.
Whether you’re building a new property or renovating, the intersection of light and technology can lead to new ways of enhancing the guest experience and delivering on wellness.
Natural light first
Aesthetically, natural light is the most pleasing to the eye and dynamic based on the time of day and weather, which is why it’s ideal to create spaces that bring natural light in. Sunlight is nourishment for the body’s cells and critical for wellness and health. It also stimulates the natural flow of energy within the body to trigger healing.
Offer guests the opportunity to open windows during the day and create outdoor spaces they can enjoy. For new builds, windows that open are often only minor cost increases to those that don’t. If you’re working with an architect, consider collaborating with a lighting designer who specializes in optimizing natural lighting and can provide creative ideas for enhancing the space with light.
Beyond guest experience and aesthetics, ongoing practices of “daylighting” or letting daylight in to naturally illuminate indoor areas can reduce energy consumption and lower operating costs.
I recently spoke with Diane Estner, principal of the hospitality technology strategy firm Danni Enterprises on the importance of natural light in design.
“Incorporating natural light into our hotels, homes and work spaces contributes to our physical and mental well-being and simultaneously supports environmental sustainability and stewardship,” Estner said. “We’re at the cusp where momentum and investments for corporate social responsibility are being made within our industry. It’s very exciting and encouraging. There’s no question that our health, wellness and environmental sustainability are directly connected. It’s time.”
If you’re renovating and don’t have the flexibility to bring in natural light, consider these options:
Simulate natural light
Today more than ever, electric lighting is beginning to emulate the patterns and dynamic nature of natural lighting. If you’re simulating natural light, consider the balance of warm and cool light by choosing bulbs that are appropriate for the space. For example, are you lighting a lobby nook or a bar versus a hallway?
Think about what you’re trying to accomplish with the light and how your guests will use the space. Does it make more sense for the lighting to energize or relax guests? Is light setting the right mood and aligning with live plants and decor?
Dimmers can help make lighting flexible. Most guests have dimmers in their homes, and more and more are expecting the same option when they travel. Dimmers can also be programmed with a few simple settings. Try to keep things as easy as possible with settings such as “bright and energizing” or “relaxing and dim!”
If dimmers are not an option, consider choosing two or three types and brightness of bulbs for guestroom fixtures. Then, develop a short message that highlights to guests how your hotel is being thoughtful with lighting options and how different fixtures are appropriate at different times.
Enhance wellness through color
The use of color for healing has ancient roots. Colors were used to restore health among ancient cultures in Egypt, Greece, China and India. During those civilizations, the windows of healing rooms were covered with cloth dyed red and blue to capture the healing qualities of color.
Today, multicolored LED strips are a modern and low-cost way to improve wellness through lighting. For example, violet for soothing and calming, green for tranquility, and red and orange lights for energy. LEDs with subtle color, such as a dawn-simulating alarm clock or color strip customized with settings to match different times of day, can enhance and support the natural light in a space. Lights that are connected to a network in common spaces, or with a simple remote that guests can use in their room, can be programmed for different moods or times of day.
Even better, LED costs have dropped significantly in the past five years, making it more reasonable to integrate them into hospitality projects. In addition, the quality continues to improve, and there are more brands to choose from.
Beyond aesthetics and moods, LED lights can also support a guest’s circadian rhythm—and dramatically improve their overall experience. Bright cool lights in a room or bathroom can help guests wake up, while dim lights help ease them to sleep. For example, LED Edison-style bulbs in guestroom fixtures or relaxing spaces around the hotel create warm, luxurious light. Have an iPhone? Think about the recent nighttime setting addition, which is designed to help you relax by avoiding cool light hues before bed.
Digging deeper into considering lighting on a guest’s circadian rhythm, Camille Hoheb, founder and president of Wellness Tourism Worldwide, shared additional perspective.
"Light has both positive and negative effects on body and mind,” she said. “When circadian rhythms—the physical responses to Earth’s light and dark cycle—are disrupted, as is often the case when traveling, desynchronization can contribute to jet lag, sleepiness and lack of focus. Road warriors repeatedly crossing time zones are at risk for more serious health conditions such as sleep disorders, obesity and depression."
Create dynamic spaces with light
Multicolored LED lights can also be used to make a design statement and bring spaces to life. Combine different shades of colored light with live plants or consider “gobo” or projected light with images of nature. With biophilic design, nature is central, and use of light can support this on a small or large scale. As an example, I recently stayed at a luxury boutique hotel that offered several LED light options in the guestroom showers, where colored light tones are paired with natural sounds to create an immersive experience.
Within corridors, light can add distinctive character to traditionally drab spaces—and help make them memorable. Most importantly, lighting design in hallways sets the stage for a guest’s first journey to the room and often for their entire stay. The corridor is a critical hotel transition point and shouldn’t be overlooked! When thinking wellness, corridor lighting should bring an aura of relaxation, but not so dark as to make guests feel uncomfortable—or unable to see where they’re going! For example, some hotels blend light with natural woods throughout long corridors to evoke tranquility and calm.
At the end of the day, devoting time to explore lighting options can go a long way toward enhancing the wellness of guests and delivering an experience they won’t forget.
Adam Glickman is the principal of Parallax Hospitality, a trusted partner in bringing memorable hospitality brand concepts to life. With over 20 years in the hospitality industry, he has a passion for creating premium, distinctive and wellness-forward brand concepts and helping non-hospitality companies navigate the complexities of the hotel industry to form partnerships and grow.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.