Mindset over maturity central in hotel design
04 FEBRUARY 2015 8:54 AM
Although there are obvious differences among generational cohorts, there are some common traveler preferences that transcend traditional age boundaries.
Despite some of the obvious differences among today’s largest demographics, when evaluating the travel needs and preferences of modern-day travelers, our global population has a lot more in common than you might think.
In today’s technologically savvy world, a 53-year-old baby boomer is just as likely as a 27-year-old millennial to check into a hotel on his smartphone. And when it comes to public spaces, guestrooms and amenities, men and women from all different demographic cohorts are more aligned on their travel preferences and needs than ever before.
For lifestyle hotel brands today, it is more about considering guests’ mindsets and approach to traveling than about what demographic category they inherently fall into.
So what are some of the common traveler preferences that transcend traditional age boundaries?
When comparing a 41-year-old Gen X male, a 59-year-old female baby boomer and a 30-year-old millennial male, what do they all have in common? They crave convenience. Simplicity. Immediate gratification. Today’s travelers, despite their age or gender, desire a seamless check-in process, one-stop service approach, included amenities, a full bar, and food-and-beverage options that are easily accessible.
One of the main things we are experiencing in the evolution of hospitality design is the elevated importance of the lobby and public spaces as focal points of hotel architecture and design. Why? The majority of modern-day guests want energetic and interactive public spaces for work and play. As technology continues to offer travelers the ability to maintain their work and social connectivity from anywhere in the world, it has never been more important to provide guests with well-designed common areas that allow them to maximize their time, relax and interact with other guests.
In guestrooms we are implementing significant design changes for traditional furniture pieces. Nightstand space is being completely revisited, as the days of two phones and an alarm clock in the room are gone. Conventional nightstand space is being transformed into a drop area for guests’ mobile phones. We also are increasing the number of outlets where guests can plug in their electronic devices, and are strategically placing them in areas that make sense. Closets are incorporating more open design concepts with boutique-type shelving, allowing guests to easily store and access their clothes and belongings. Moving away from the traditional bureau dresser/drawers (once the focal point of guestroom design), the typical desk and clothes bureau is being combined into a more streamlined and contemporary workspace area with the desk doubling as extra storage space.
I wrote a lot about the importance of hotel location and guests’ desire for cultural immersion in one of my earlier columns on urbanized design. In brief, we are experiencing guests’ desire for all things local. Today’s business and leisure travelers are seeking out properties that are authentic, draw inspiration from their surroundings and that offer unique and personal experiences. Think destination neighborhoods: Local food, local drinks, and easy access to nearby events and attractions.
Adaptive reuse and conversion projects also come into play here as hotel owners and developers look to urban areas where properties can incorporate strong design themes tying back to their geographic location.
Although “value” can be tricky to define, generally speaking, most travelers identify the worth of a hotel by a combination of factors including amenities, service, convenience, comfort and location—all at a price point that makes sense for their budget.
Unsurprisingly, free Wi-Fi is the most sought-after amenity when choosing a hotel while traveling for business, according to a survey by Skift and American Express conducted in 2014. Free Wi-Fi topped the list of must-haves for both men and women alike and was No. 1 in every age category (18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54) except the 55-64 age range.
A new category
Hilton Worldwide Holdings created quite the buzz back in October when it announced its new Canopy by Hilton brand. After extensive market research, the lifestyle brand is targeting travelers based on their mindset and trip occasions versus demographics or age alone. Four elements define a Canopy by Hilton hotel, according to the company: great neighborhoods; comfort and design; included value; and what brand executives call a “positively yours” culture.
A new mindset
As our population’s travel needs and demands continue to change, it is essential for lifestyle hotel brands today to reconsider the way we think about and target our guests.
Customer brackets are blending. The age gap is narrowing. With travelers’ desired “experience” playing a critical role in the decision-making process, the hospitality industry has the unique opportunity to consider guests’ preferences based on lifestyle choices and mindset, instead of just demographics alone.
After all, age is just a number.
Harry Wheeler AIA, NCARB, LEED is a principal at Group One Partners, Inc., an award-winning hospitality design firm based in Boston that specializes in architectural, interior design, and purchasing services for hospitality properties. Wheeler is a registered architect in 10 states and a member of numerous architectural, lodging, and marketing associations. For more information visit www.grouponeinc.com or email Wheeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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