Umbrellas VS Shade Sails : Hotel & Resort Design

Do you like happy customers? Good, so do we. Happy, content and satisfied customers are proven to spend more money. How can you attract and create more happy customers at your hotel or resort? It’s easy: Design, build and maintain high-quality outdoor spaces with ample shade.

There are a lot of different ways to shade your outdoor space but it comes down to how you want your patrons to use and interact with the space. Perhaps you’re looking to develop a brand-new luxurious poolside patio? How about an exclusive hammock nook for those looking to relax? A new bar and eatery will breed loyal, repeat customers who are attracted to the comfort and relaxing experience you provide.

All your outdoor projects will need a shade solution to protect your valuable customers from the sun, rain and anything in between. The two most common shade solutions for outdoor spaces are outdoor cantilever umbrellas and shade sails. Both solutions have their pros and cons and we’ve curated a list for you so you can consider the options and make the right decision for your space.

In the red corner - Shade Sails

Shade sails are custom made to cover large areas such as a public swimming pool, children’s play area or a large outdoor area.

The sails are affixed to several anchor points around the area that require shade, whether it be a bracket on the side of a building or an independent pole system that’s erected and concreted into the ground.

The system is a permanent solution that’s installed by the manufacturer and not designed to be taken down until it needs to be replaced or repaired. Shade sails are a year-round solution that can protect those situated below from the sun. It’s important to remember that when it needs to be taken down, it will require the help of an expert to remove it from the fixings and then reinstall it.

Shade sails tend to be manufactured from UV-stabilized fabric. Fabrics such as a knitted shade cloth or PVC are used, with stainless steel edging cable and eyelets to fix the sail.

They’re custom designed to fit the space intended. Sometimes multiple sails are used for aesthetics and coverage.

Larger scale shade sails often require engineering for wind loading, consent and permits from local authorities as they're treated as a permanent structure. If they're attached to a build there could be a requirement for some modifications to strengthen the point where the sail is attached.

In the purple corner - Outdoor Umbrellas

Outdoor umbrellas are a versatile shade solution, available in different shapes, sizes and configurations. Umbrellas provide UV protection and shade from the sun. Umbrellas are modular and can be deployed and retracted as needed. They are movable and provide exceptional options for resorts and hotels to change their space in line with trends, seasonal demands and customer needs.

Cantilever umbrellas are attached to a free-standing mast on one side. This opens up the space they are covering for more tables and less interference from poles in the middle of the setting. They are great outdoor umbrellas as they can both tilt and rotate the umbrellas to counter the position of the sun throughout the day.

Another exceptional feature of the cantilever umbrella is the ability to mount up to four umbrellas off one mast, providing versatile shade configuration options. Our customers also utilize the wall-mounted umbrella options to enhance the unimpeded use of the space below.

Our umbrellas are designed for harsh conditions with UV protection built into the fabric and a wind resistance rating of Beaufort 5.



Pound for pound - What’s the difference?


Coverage is a key factor in any shade purchase. Shade sails cover more space than an umbrella. On the other hand, umbrellas are designed for more of an individualized shade solution. Shade sails are fixed in their position which is useful for the sun at high-noon but you have to remember that the sun only follows the same path once a year.

When it comes to coverage, the question you have to ask is quantity vs quality. Pick a shade sail if you want a lot of shade, and umbrellas if you want quality of shade.


You want your customers to spend a lot of time (and more time = more money) with you. Key to this is how pleasant it is for them to be outside, enjoying the company of their companions. Outdoor umbrellas and shade sails are both available in a variety of colours to ensure consistency and contrast to the design of your establishment.

Appearance over time is a key consideration you need to make when choosing a shade solution. It takes staff time to maintain your fixings to a standard your guests expect. Shade sails are difficult to clean as they’re quite high up. You will need a cherry picker, a harness for safety and a water blaster to wash the moss and mildew off at least once a quarter. Outdoor umbrellas are easy to maintain and clean as they should be retracted each day and the hospitality umbrella models are designed to not have any moving internal parts that can break.

Outdoor umbrella canopies are interchangeable. Our Sunbrella, Recasens and Dicksons fabrics come with extensive warranties, so if you choose to change the colour of your fabric it’s an easy process you can do yourself for a space refresh or if you want to set some industry trends.


This is where umbrellas rise above the rest. Umbrellas can go wherever you want, follow the sun, follow the rain and provide the perfect level of shade and comfort for guests. Shade sails are fixed in place when they’re installed and will need to be reinstalled in another location if you discover the location of the sun is shifting too much throughout the year.

It becomes very noticeable at breakfast and/or dinner when the setting sun sends its rays in a horizontal direction which will undercut a shade sail. With outdoor umbrellas, it’s a quick rotate of the canopy to cover up your guests to keep them happy and spending. It's all about that dwell time.

During the day or time of year, your patrons may also prefer the warmth of the sun. Umbrellas allow you to deploy or retract the shade in just a few seconds, allowing an opt-in approach to shade. Sails are always up and can end up being detrimental to the enjoyment of your space on a cool morning or evening.

On a cloudy day, when your guests are looking for a comfortable stop and a long lunch, the overhanging gloom of a permanent shade sail can dampen spirits. Umbrellas can light up your space with a built-in LED light to create warm ambient light or retract to allow natural light to warm up your all-important patrons.

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The final bell - conclusion

Shade sails and outdoor umbrellas both have their markets and uses. It comes down to how you want to shade your space, how you want your guests to feel about your establishment and how you want them to interact with you. Consider all of the above when making your purchasing decision.

Both solutions provide protection from the sun and elements but you must choose the one that is going to fit your space and the expectations of your guests.

We’ve got a team of outdoor shade specialists on standby to help you with all your shade needs and advise you on the best umbrella options for your needs.

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