Resort & Hotel Outdoor Space Design

How to maximise outdoor spaces for guest enjoyment and bottom line results



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Resorts and hotels have a lot to gain from a well-designed outdoor space. With the right exterior design and set up, you have the opportunity to open up (or improve) a whole new stream of revenue.  

The recipe for setting up a successful outside area is equal parts stylish and functional, with the proof in the pudding being the return of increased revenue and profitability. The key is to provide comfortable environments offering protection from the elements that are consistent with the style of the rest of the venue. On your end, you want a space that remains low-maintenance after the initial investment, increasing the profitability of the space. This requires investing in long-term, quality products.

We know that resort and hotel owners/managers are busy people, so we put all the essential information on one page, with links to other articles on our site for additional reference.

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How to design an outstanding exterior resort space

Optimise space and optimise revenue

First things first, assess your space - your poolside, restaurant exterior, beachfront lounges, villa deck or patio areas, balconies, interior courtyards, outdoor spa, rooftop decks, etc. These are all spaces that can do with a revamp.

But don’t let your evaluating eye stop there. Do you have empty space not being used for anything? Consider reinventing this into a functional, revenue-generating area.

For example, you can delight resort goers by simply setting up an umbrella, lounge chairs and a drink cart next to a sandy dune overlooking the ocean.

Goal:  Improve the customer experience. From the atmosphere, to unique offerings or value adds, your space has to inspire your customers and be an experience they truly enjoy.

Making an experience out of the nooks and crannies of your property improves your chances of positive online reviews, and increased spend-per-stay. Good reviews inevitably bring more people to your property, increases chance of repeat visits, and pleasantly surprising spaces generate high levels of ‘feel-good’ spending during a guests stay.

But how can you visualise a space that isn’t there? Follow this simple 3-step process to uncover the possibilities.

Step 1

Optimise the space you have

Make a list of all outdoor areas available at your venue. Identify areas that you're not taking full advantage of, or using at all. Ideally, select a space that isn’t impeding upon the experience of other customers. For example, a relatively small patch of grass could become an exclusive dining area or a specialised drink location when coupled with some quality surroundings, and a little savvy marketing.

Solutions don't have to be complicated either. It can be as easy as adding the right tables and chairs, an outdoor umbrella, and consider selected plantings, so customers can enjoy a beautiful outdoor space.

Step 2

Consider the type of activity and seating

It’s time to brainstorm ideas: how can you best use those spaces? When visualising, consider the type of activity that will best suit the area. They don’t have to be large areas to become an opportunity for more revenue. That grass plot we mentioned might make a nice romantic dining spot with a premium charge, but it wouldn’t work as a setup for a full on bar.

Once you’ve chosen the activity, you need to set it up so people are delighted and comfortable. Attention to detail will make all the difference: for example, adding loungers or comfy couches to a poolside, or restaurant table settings on the patio near a food outlet, or bar leaners for the veranda.

Tip: Adding touches like outdoor umbrellas will shield customers from too much sun, or from an untimely drizzle, ensuring they stay in their seats for longer, particularly when enjoying nearby food/drink amenities as additional revenue generators for your venue.

Step 3

Make it a seamless inside to outside experience

The exterior space should be an extension of your indoor aesthetic. If you use cheap outdoor furniture or umbrellas, or the space is untidy, while the interior is all luxury with fine wood, marble, and premium fittings, the mismatch will be noticed and make a bad impression. Often it is never verbalised, but is the niggling uncertainty that breeds a half hearted result in an online review, or in the crucial “do you think we’ll be back?” conversation on the flight home.

Your exterior needs to be an investment in capital that returns over time, just like your buildings. Outdoor umbrellas, for example, are often considered just part of the repeating expenditure for the year. But, if you spend time and apply for capex to invest in quality umbrellas that will last, you’ll add to the ambience of your property, have less maintenance costs, and remove expense, relieving budget and improving the P&L bottom line.

A big part of ensuring the indoor/outdoor experience is seamless is to get your colour palette right. As research repeatedly shows, colours influence mood. For example, certain tones of blue can make people feel more relaxed, ideal for a resort setting. Or, get playful and add colours like Pantone’s ‘Ultra Violet’ to your detail to give your space a trendy, modern feel. Spend time researching colour matches for the existing decor, but don’t overlook being adventurous if the space deserves it, a good umbrella supplier will support customisation with fast turnarounds when needed.

When used sparingly, vivid colours will give a definite personality to the space. Whatever you decide to go with, make sure the style and quality of the outside space is as considered and consistent with the inside.

Choose the right outdoor shading solution

If there’s one element of your outdoor space where you’ll want to invest in premium products, it’s your shading solution. Shade is one of the most important elements in making the outside area comfortable, and therefore improving the revenue you bring in.

Review this range of outdoor shading solutions that will help make the space more functional:

Outdoor umbrellas: This option will give you both flexibility and coverage, so they often are the best solution. Outdoor umbrellas’ are easy to maintain, and because the structure is not fixed to the ground or a wall, it can cover large areas without occupying usable space.

Pergolas:  These are a self-supporting, permanent structure. Before investing in a pergola, you may want to carefully consider how shade moves in the area as the rafters create little or no shade. For adequate shade, you’ll need to pair with an additional solution, such as an outdoor umbrella. You also need to consider the amount of structural works required, as pergolas require quite major construction works to ensure your space is secure and safe.

Trees/plants:  Of course, flora is a good way to give a natural feel to your space. Because they are rooted in the ground, or in a heavy pot, they can’t always provide adequate sun protection. You also need to be careful for hay fever season - an abundance of pollen could quickly drive away those with allergies.

Shade sails:  These are triangular or rectangular-shaped canopies suspended overhead from poles. Like pergolas, they're fixed structures, so the same caveats apply, except perhaps more so with shade sails, whose poles are under one-directional tension their whole life. Being tricky to keep clean, and labour intensive (requiring charged visits by your provider) to do so can mean that cleaning becomes too hard, quickly leading to stains and mould. They also have quite a commercial look, not always suited to a resort/hotel space that needs to reflect a premium residence.

Awnings: Similar to a shade sail, awnings usually have a canopy that is fixed to the building and can be retractable. They also require constant cleaning and maintenance. And, in the case of a windstorm, they may stress the structure of the building.

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How an outstanding exterior space can improve your bottom line

Optimising your outdoor space helps customers spend more time in your establishment (whether that be by the pool or at the resort restaurant), helping your bottom line the following ways:

Increase in spending

More space means you can accommodate more customers, and if they have a great experience, they will stay longer and spend more.

A recent survey was conducted by VSAG on the benefits of adding a patio to one of their client’s establishment. From the proposed initial investment of $200k, VSAG calculated that the forecasted seasonal use return could lead to $500k in sales, and ultimately, following installation a gross profit of 65% was achieved.

Now, to increase seat capacity without detracting from the experience, simple solutions can make a lot of difference. For example, you could draw more customers to your resort patio by adding a bar cart and some outdoor umbrellas. Using a large cantilevered umbrella allows for more useable space beneath the shade, which means more tables and seating capacity. With multi-canopy solutions, you can cover even larger areas while only utilising one mast, without interrupting the ideal table layout.

Calculating potential daily return on your investment

Once you know your average table turnover time, you can calculate the turnover rate (the number of parties you can serve in a given shift for each table). And if you multiply that by the number of tables and the average revenue for each party (you can use your POS sales data for that), you’ll get the potential daily return on your investment. Then focus on training staff to market and sell the seats, and recommend the space to guests asking for ideas for activities.

Improve online reviews and Trip Advisor ratings

The hospitality business usually has a love/hate relationship with customers reviews: love when they’re positive, hate when they’re not.

Of course, reviews have a great influence on customers’ choices, so you can’t ignore them. In fact, you should be proactive and encourage customers to write them. If you’re confident about the level of quality you offer, you’ll have more chances to enter the virtuous circle where every business owner in the hospitality industry wants to be: more positive reviews that attract more customers, who leave positive reviews. Well designed outdoor spaces definitely enhance visitor experience, and ultimately, this flows into reviews.

More social shares and brand visibility

Social media is another place where customers share their opinions. But it’s also a place for businesses to take a more active role by sharing enticing content. Here are all the ways social sharing can improve your business:

  • Increase visibility of your brand
  • Generate new leads
  • Boost sales
  • Distribute original content
  • Communicate with your advocates and supporters
  • Develop and grow relationships with customers/influencers

The benefits of using a specialist supplier to help you design an outdoor space


Right now, your competitors are likely buying cheaper products manufactured overseas. And, because they’re buying cheap, they’re probably buying new products every year. But you can spend your budget more wisely than that.

As we’ve learned, spending time and money on interior experience and not on the exterior, is a mistake. Elevating the exterior experience, for example investing in luxury outdoor furniture, attracts people of a certain lifestyle.

Consider your big spender customers, envision the house they live in and replicate that experience - if they’re willing to spend to receive quality, you need to be willing to spend to receive quality. Your space can influence the influencers as people often look for ideas when they are away on travel to bring back home with them.

Working with a specialist supplier removes the thought of ‘I’m unsure what to do, so I’ll simply purchase the cheapest thing’ and helps you change your mindset to think about future proofing your investment. A specialist provides the expertise and will help you as a business owner to be savvy and more competitive. Specialist suppliers provide:

  • Advice and expertise on products
  • More bespoke, tailor-made solutions
  • Full end-to-end advice


For the hospitality industry, an outdoor space is a great way to generate more revenue. When customers feel relaxed and protected, they will spend more and share their positive experience with others.

Once you have a clear idea of how you can use your available space, you can easily calculate its revenue potential by optimising table turnover rate and site capacity.

The one thing to always keep in mind is that investing more now means spending much less in the long run. Cheaper low-quality products need to be replaced more often and are costly to maintain, and are regularly damaged, which will drive up insurance costs too. In addition to that, working with professional providers will be a great help, not only for the quality of their solutions, but also for the professional advice you can get from them.

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