It is important for the hotel industry to understand the wants and needs of its guests. As one group grows out of its twenties and a new generation comes in, a new market will be created for businesses –- but that doesn’t mean those other markets are gone forever. The hotel industry caters to many different markets, including the younger generation, parents traveling with children, retirees and traveling business professionals. As a design team, it is important for us to understand who is traveling and for what reason. We asked people from these different groups to share their expectations of hotels in regard to the needs and wants of their evolving culture.
A hotel room should be a guest’s home away from home, a place where he or she feels comfortable and safe to sleep, eat, work and relax. When we asked “twenty-somethings” how they use a room, it provoked responses centered on the bare necessities: sleep and shower. Retirees preferred more furniture and spacious accommodations, as they spend more time in their rooms. This is the group that wants to feel like they are on vacation but still feel as comfortable as they do in their own homes. Business professionals use a hotel room as a living and working space. For business travelers, knowing that they are able to come back to a clean, fresh room is all they need. For parents of young children, the room is in constant use – kids need to take naps during the day, and the room becomes a hangout for the family. A spacious room is a must so people aren’t tripping over one another.
Designer’s perspective: The majority of categories preferred bold room colors to neutral décor, and comfortable beds and linens were a priority for all. Although most had only stayed in guest rooms with carpet, everyone stated that they felt carpet to be unsanitary. Hard surfaces in guest rooms are not the norm for the Midwest, but they are becoming preferred for this reason.
The amenities that were most requested were free breakfast and free Wi-Fi. Swimming pools were important among all groups except young adult travelers. The business professionals said they were on the go, and because their schedules were filled with seminars, conventions, and meetings, a nice fitness center and restaurant were important to help them wind down and relax. A nice lobby creates an atmosphere for gathering with friends, and for families, it becomes a spacious getaway outside their rooms. These insights revealed that with each stage in a traveler’s life come different needs and wants.
Designer’s perspective: No longer is the lobby just a place to check in to your hotel. It now serves as a multifunctional space. Hotel brand standards have created lobbies that encourage guests to feel comfortable and welcome. Lobby and beverage service is being offered for more social engagements. Transforming the lobby from a coffee shop in the day to a lounge in the evening is starting to become common. Business centers are becoming a feature in lobbies instead of being located in rooms nearby.
Guests want hotels to take lobby design to a level that holds their attention and provides a variety of amenities to keep them from having to venture out. They want hotels to provide interesting coffee and specialty shops as well as casual and fine dining restaurants. This cowboy chic restaurant will be all they talk about when they return home.
Technology at your service
We asked each of our groups how they would like to see technology used in their hotel experiences. The majority of people like to be personally greeted and helped with the check-in process, where they can also ask questions. A lobby kiosk or computer station to get boarding passes is requested more often than the kiosk check-in system. More travelers like being able to use their smart phones as keys to their rooms.
Designer’s perspective: Furniture with multifunctional purposes is becoming more desirable, such as tables with outlets and booths with their own television screens. Incorporating electronic directories that allow guests to see where they are, where their next meeting is and where social events are taking place is a convenience. But it should not replace the concierge or the front desk customer service experience.
These insights reveal that there are as many similarities as there are differences among generations when it comes to selecting hotels. Different hotel brands have a variety of design standards and amenities. Each hotel also has its own target market, depending on location, size and amenities. While hotel owners and managers should keep abreast of demographic trends, they also should keep in mind the guest’s experience, and all five senses – smell, touch, taste, sight and sound – when employing colors, textures, lighting, furniture and technology. As a meeting planner, you may want to suggest some design elements of your own.