The visual appeal, comfort and experience of a hotel should be as universal as possible, which is why designers and hoteliers make it their mission to create design elements that work for every generation of traveler.
GLOBAL REPORT—Hotels often target certain generations or mindsets with marketing and experiences, but some elements of a hotel stay—visual appeal and comfort—should appeal to guests of all ages.
Hotel design experts say they strive to create elements that translate to both older and younger generations. Here are five tips:
1. Creating a ‘wow’ factor is a top priority
One guest want that seems to transcend generations is a unique design element that could serve as a photo op for guests and their friends and family, designers said.
The No. 1 thing guests wanted to see when walking into a hotel, said Jessica Lotner, senior designer at The McBride Company, is “something iconic where they can take a selfie.”
The McBride Company worked on the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida, where a giant blue flip flop was installed in the lobby to serve as that iconic element, Lotner said.
Nunturat Robbamrung, associate design director for Wilson Associates, added that she always hears “guests are looking for a ‘wow’ moment, something that’s unexpected yet still approachable beneath all the excitement.”
2. Guests prefer a well-lit guestroom
Xanterra Hotels & Resorts, which operates hotels at national parks across the U.S., appeals to guests of all ages at its properties.
Betsy O’Rourke, chief marketing officer at Xanterra, said the company did some research and found that room design elements that worked well for older guests are also accepted by younger guests.
An example of this is a well-lit room, she said.
“Lighting is really important to older guests, and what we found when we did the research is, it’s also really important to younger guests,” she said, “and while they might not notice as much the difference, they really prefer a well-lit room.”
3. Durable materials work best
On some trips, such as multigenerational family vacations, guests across several age groups may get to take in the design of a hotel together.
Keeping in mind the youngest guests, The McBride Company “is aware that every single surface could be stepped on or jumped on,” Lotner said, which is why the company selects durable furniture and ensures that tables and other surfaces have rounded corners for safety.
With multigenerational design, Robbamrung, at Wilson Associates, said he* focuses on the overall experience rather than a specific space in the hotel.
“Providing a sense of place is one of the many expectations that guests share, regardless of the generational demographic,” she said. “I always infuse and (am inspired) by the sense of place from the beginning of the design process for a hotel.”
It’s also important, he said, to create a balance between all design elements.
“The balancing of all elements (is) key, whether it be the colors, fabrics, textures or bigger elements,” she said. “When you have the design concept, you can create the balance of all of these elements to create a look and feel that works well for multiple generations.”
5. Use neutral colors and create a gathering place
The McBride Company focuses on the design of public spaces to appeal to multiple generations, Lotner said.
The goal is to create a space where people can gather together, Lotner said, which is especially important for families traveling together on multigenerational trips.
She added that neutral colors with a splash of color work well, as do outdoor fabrics for indoor use and vinyl, which are easy to clean and look like leather.
*Correction, 2 February 2018: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified a source.