Mr. Hutcheson


Landscaping Around High-Traffic Areas

By Ken Hutcheson, President, U.S. Lawns

All hoteliers-no matter what size their properties are-have high-traffic areas. From the moment a guest walks onto the property, to the moment he or she leaves, high-traffic areas can impact a guest's experience. Since high-traffic areas are the most densely populated parts of the property, it's important to have a well-designed landscaping plan to keep those areas property crisp, clean, and safe.


Hardscapes, such as sidewalks, walkways, and footpaths, play an important role in the way high-traffic areas function. They help define the landscape's border, direct people to their preferred routes, and help guests enjoy amenities on the property. Without the use of hardscapes, guests would be walking aimlessly around the property (which is a hotelier's worst nightmare.) Just like with sidewalks located in cities or suburbs, hardscapes are a great resource to help hotels regulate foot-traffic.

Hardscapes are also great opportunities to promote your hotel's brand message. For example, if your brand message is about creating a relaxing environment and a place to escape, like a Sandals or the Atlantis, subtle winding paths are a great way to lead guests to the pool and spa areas, as well as to the gardens and fountains areas. However, if your hotel is located in a major city, or is an efficiency hotel, those types of hardscapes aren't needed.

Planting Around Hardscapes

The landscapes surrounding walkways and footpaths will be vulnerable to damage that results from foot traffic. The goal of your landscaping should be to keep guests off of grass and gardens. The best way to protect your grass is by planting landscape beds around walkways. Landscape beds work to add greenery and highlight a property's features, while helping to regulate traffic and re-directing guests back onto sidewalks.

That being said, ensuring your guests' safety is the number one priority for all hotel property owners and managers, which is why selecting the right vegetation to plant around high-traffic areas is critical. Obviously, having spikey or hard vegetation planted along walkways isn't a smart decision, since a simple trip or fall could result in a prickly situation. Plant texture is a factor that hoteliers must keep in mind when working with their contractors. You should always be aware of plant length. High plants will eventually make their way onto footpaths, which could lead to potentially hazardous accidents. Even though hardscapes are used to direct people to their desired locations, planting around them can add texture to the landscape and create vibrant scenery.

Alternatives to Hardscapes:

Artificial Turf

Artificial turf is a viable option if you're looking to change the overall look and feel of a high-traffic area, but no longer want to use hardscape materials such as brick, cement, or stone. Because artificial turf adds a boost of color to the landscape and is extremely durable, it's become an increasingly attractive option among hotel professionals. Since artificial turf is composed of synthetic "grass" it's also easy on the environment, doesn't require maintenance, and doesn't fade in color.

However, from a cost perspective, artificial grass is much more expensive than grass beds or turf grass, so it's best to use it around smaller areas of the property. For example, artificial turf grass would work seamlessly around a fountain, or in a courtyard where there's an abundance of trees.

It's important to point out that artificial turf shouldn't be confused with traditional turf grass. Turf grass looks great from a distance, but should never be used for your property's high-traffic areas. Not only does turf lack visual appeal, it's the least durable option out of all the grass possibilities. For instance, if an occasional guest chooses to veer off the footpath and walk across the "turf grass," you will begin to immediately notice wear and tear on the landscape. While it's true that turf grass can be re-sodded, the maintenance cost associated with repairing it will create a dent in a hotelier's budget.

Grass Beds

If a hotel professional doesn't have the money in their capital expenditure account to purchase artificial turf, then they should resort back to using traditional grass beds. While grass beds require a great deal of maintenance, it's the most efficient way to add greenery to high-traffic areas and highlight particular landscape features. For example, hardscapes can sometimes looks too rough in high-traffic areas that include features such as fountains, or vibrant trees. In these instances, grass beds give the area a much more soft, classic look and feel.

Adding Color

If you're looking to liven up your landscape in a short amount of time, focusing on your high-traffic areas is the best way to invite guests into the landscape. Because these are the most viewed areas on the property, it's easy to create a pleasing and upscale look that everyone can enjoy. Having vegetation planted like flowers, trees, bushes, and other shrubbery, can make a high-traffic area look aesthetically pleasing, but adding a boost of color is a more impactful way to send a brand message that will activate guests.

If budget is an issue, as flowers can be expensive to purchase (and expensive to maintain), you can still add a boost of color by focusing on just a few high-traffic areas. Areas like, main entranceways and walkways, for example, receive the most visibility, making them the best investment.

That being said, you should talk to your contractor about which areas you want to focus on, as some areas may require a bit more maintenance than others, due to location, and or amount of foot traffic. Your contractor can also offer flower options based off of durability and longevity.

Trip Hazards

High-traffic areas pose the biggest threat to guests' safety. Sidewalks and footpaths, in particular, are the most common areas for slips and falls. To help decrease the risk of a potential accident, it's critical to work with your contractor to ensure that all sidewalks and footpaths remain clear at all times. Issues like uneven elevation changes, cracks in hardscapes, water runoff and downed tree branches and roots are all major sources of accidents. Poorly packed mulch and irrigation heads have also been known to cause problems.

Not only should hoteliers work with their contractors to create a plan to treat "high-risk" areas, but they also should physically walk around their property-with their landscapers to identify the most hazardous high-traffic areas (especially those areas where people have slipped and fallen in the past.) This prevention tactic is extremely important for those who are working with new landscaping professionals, as they won't be familiar with your hotel's property yet.


High-traffic areas will become even more congested with guests during events, peak season, or even busy times of the day like check-out time. Hotel professionals need to work with their landscaping contractors to create a maintenance schedule that works around the hotel's activity. For instance, you wouldn't want a landscaping crew working on repairing cracks in the hardscape or trimming back vegetation when you're expecting a large tour group to be arriving at the hotel. It would also be beneficial to give your landscaping contractor a schedule of upcoming events (there's nothing more distracting then a lawn mower going off during an outdoor business luncheon...or wedding). This way your contractor will know not to carry out yard work during that time frame. Giving your contractor a quick heads up about last-minute or unexpected events will also work to keep guests happy.

As far as safety is concerned, the maintenance plan should include a daily check of all sidewalks and walkways. Whether you designate someone from your landscaping crew or an employee at the hotel, this precautionary measure is critical in keeping guests safe.

Aesthetically, a hotel's high-traffic areas are constantly in the spotlight, which is why they need to appear crisp, clean, and safe, at all times. While landscaping maintenance costs can be expensive, keeping your high-traffic areas attractive is worth the investment. Talk to your contractor to identify all costs that will go into treating these areas, and establish how many times a week your contractor will need to stop by to ensure these areas are being maintained.

Landscaping around high-traffic areas can be a tricky situation. Although there are many factors to consider (hardscapes, grass-selection, vegetation selection etc.), with the proper planning, you can be sure your property's high-traffic areas remain attractive and safe all year long.

Ken Hutcheson is President of U.S. Lawns. He joined the company in 1995 and has grown the organization from a regional 18-franchise network to a national network of over 250-franchises in all 48 contiguous states. U.S. Lawns is nourished by the values and passion of family-owned and operated franchise businesses. Mr. Hutcheson champions an entrepreneurial spirit and a teamwork culture. He’s skilled at developing employee, franchisee and customer bases that are anchored on a commitment to long-term relationships. His focus on the company’s Franchise Development and Support is central to the company’s steady national expansion and consistently high rankings on industry lists. Mr. Hutcheson can be contacted at 407-246-1630 or Please visit for more information. Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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