Millennial guests are choosing hotels that forgo cookie cutter design for authenticity.
“Authenticity is the new definition of luxury," Erin Green, vice president of development Americas of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts said at the recent Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) Conference.
That means creating bespoke hotel experiences that reflect the surrounding community, and the trend is taking over in hotels worldwide.
“Authenticity is more important than room size, finishes, and brick and mortar. It’s about feeling like you’re in place,” said Russell Urban, executive VP, business development and acquisitions, of Destination Hotels.
Hotels that make that effort to respond to their geographic location and history through art and architecture, and those that embed current technology and offer functional furniture, are the hotels securing the bookings for this generation.
Environmentally friendly considerations that go beyond towel washing is also required, as today's guests want to know exactly what hotels are doing to help the planet.
This generation is also set to grow. HVS Global Hospitality Services expects that by 2030, this generation of travellers is expected to reach 78 million, surpassing to the baby boomers' 58 million.
With all this in mind, it’s important for hotels to create designs that matter, with that phrase applyinh to a variety of key areas.
Hotels that boast about checking guests in via an iPad, offering free Wi-Fi or having an iPhone/iPad dock in the hotel room are already behind. These are not features; they are prerequisites for the millennial guest.
Hotels should not be brand-focused, offering several connectivity points or conversion adapters for guests using Apple, Samsung or Google products.
The entire room should also connect. The ability to connect a mobile through the television in a plug and play format is also important.
The next wave of technology will include swiping a smartphone as your room key.
In November, Starwood Hotels unveiled SPG Keyless, the hospitality industry’s first mobile keyless entry system.
It works via an SPG application. Guests can download an app, register, receive notifications and bypass the front desk to check into their rooms.
Starward rolled it out at its Aloft, Element and W Hotels around the world. The device is an evolution on the hotel chain’s RFID-equipped key card which was announced in 2011.
Social media requires its own category because it’s all about guests sharing their hotel experience.
Millennials in particular document their entire trip; checking in, taking photos and offering on-location reviews. Generally, if it’s not digitally documented, it might as well not have happened.
Soi Wave House Hotel in Mallorca, Spain opened as the world’s first Twitter hotel in 2013.
Along with Twitter-themed rooms and décor, guests were encouraged to hashtag their way through their stay.
Guests could also connect to hotel staff and other hotel guests via a Twitter-designed online community and ask staff to #FillmyFridge, order room service and request other amenities.
Recently, Conrad Hotels, a part of the Hilton chain, has partnered up with Like2Buy technology allowing its follwers to book a hotel room via Instagram.
Guests can click the Like2Buy link and select their hotel location (via a photo) and book a room directly.
The next stage is rewarding guests for their social media efforts - essentially amounting to marketing for hotels.
Last year, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants introduced Kimpton Karma Rewards, which offers points to customers for hotel activities such as social media check-ins, with points that can go toward a night stay, treatments or even mini bar purchases.
Last year, Marriott Hotels introduced PlusPoints, allowing guests to earn points for their social media activity.
Just like technology, traditional environmental credentials are getting stale on guests. Energy efficient lighting, changing the linens and rainwater tanks are no longer selling points.
Millennial hotel guests want to experience “green” through indoor vegetation, sustainable furniture and small environmental details.
Hotel Hotel in Canberra has a 49-point fact sheet communicating its environmental efforts, including the raw and natural design and decoration of the space.
The rooms feature low VOC paint to improve air quality, as well as synthetic-free carpet and original pieces of furniture in the room (salvaged/restored). The bespoke furniture is all made in Australia.
Hotel Hotel is also a collaboration of makers and artists who all contribute to evolving the design and credentials of the hotel.
"We will add to as we go – the making is never over,” said Hotel Hotel.
The Westin has its own “smart” arm of hotel chains - Element.
Incorporating design features including natural light and open spaces, the rooms also feature fully equipped kitchens and spa-inspired bathrooms creating space for the guest.
Additionally, rooms feature carpets with 100 per cent recycled content, filtered drinking water in the rooms (removing the need for plastic bottles), glassware and silverware in the room to replace plastic items and all-natural bathroom amenities stored in a dispensers instead of disposable bottles.
Boutique or Lifestyle
The millennial guest enjoys both the boutique and lifestyle hotel.
“I there there’s a lot of confusion about what a lifestyle hotel and boutique hotel is,” Richard Kessler, CEO of the Kessler Collection, told BLLA. “They get used interchangeably but they are totally different products and should be very different products."
Kessler noted that boutique hotels must be highly individualised and handcrafted.
It's believed hotel chains are using the term "boutique hotel" to make it seem as though they're offering that kind of experience, but millennials aren't buying it.
"A true boutique has very specific local relevance and layer upon layer of emotional relevance; not just to the hotel but the people who work there," said Commune Hotels CEO Niki Leondakis.
While millennials are pushing the trend for such hotels, their considerations are rubbing off on other generations.
“It’s not about a specific demographic but more of a mindset of consumers,” Raul Leal, CEO of Virgin Hotels, told BLLA.
So whatever the demographic, the environment and designing for people remain at the forefront of all travelling guests deciding where to stay.