We called the Baby Boomers just that because of an influx of births after World War II and they were expected to be the biggest generation. But we have entered a time where the millennials have outgrown their parents. They've grown up with iPads in their hands, and have vastly different culture and set of values from any previous generation. Now, Millennials are the dominant consumers, especially in the hotel industry. As they sweep into our hotel lobbies, they place those values and expectations into our hands. I read an article the other day about a hotel that installed Amazon's Alexa in their rooms. Guests can use their voice alone to order an Amazon package from their hotel room and receive delivery in less than 2 hours. Yes, the Millennials are quickly changing the hotel industry. Personally, I find it exciting!
Business over pleasure:
According to the Global Business Travel Association, Millennials are almost twice as likely to travel for business (46%) as Boomers (26%). Moreover, millennials are more driven by economic success than any other generation. Previously, hotel design focused on creating dreamy escapes. Now, the focus is more on creating flexible spaces that meet the needs of business travelers. These digital nomads no longer have the need for large pieces of lavish furniture nor full-sized, oak office desks. Their portable devices work better with headboards that convert into mini desks, room lounge chairs with sliding tablet holders, and sofas with pull-out lap trays.
To the same note, the tradition of designing hotels as dreamscapes puts the traveler in an environment that requires him or her to fit into the designer’s vision. However, this approach to hotel design fails to provide millennials with the personalized experiences they crave. While boutique hotels offer a variety of options for rooms and styles, these options are not the same as customization. One example of how hotels are raising to the call is by including sliding doors and movable walls that allow the traveler to define spaces as they like--entirely open, or separate rooms.
Technology also plays a role in customization. Hotels are installing lighting systems, such as Hue, to allow guests to set the mood of their rooms with brightness and color. Other hotels are handing over the thermostats, allowing guests to not only select the temperature of their room, but also the exact temperature of their shower water.
It is no surprise that Millennials’ love of technology pushes us to keep up with the times. Just a few years ago, we were worried about providing enough electrical outlets. Then, USB outlets became a priority. Now, we are integrating wireless charging options to accommodate devices that will no longer have charging ports, and Bluetooth capabilities in our appliances for devices that no longer contain headphone and speaker jacks. As I mentioned before, some hotels even outfit their rooms with Amazon’s personal assistant, Alexa.
Social media is not just a hype work in marketing. Design teams are also placing a bigger emphasis on creating social-media-worthy moments in hotels. We are conducting studies and monitoring the posts of guests to see what design elements are most photographed. It is through this process that we learn about what matters to our clients. While you might think it is the themed lobby, you're wrong. Because millennials are more in-touch with social causes than any other generation, they are more likely to share pictures of an eco-friendly shower or flooring from recycled materials. These Instagram photos are the best marketing a hotel could have.
Lastly, You might think that Steve Jobs has nothing to do with hotel design, but Steve Jobs is arguably the biggest influence of the millennials. His clean design style was originally inspired by Joseph Eichler’s open floor plans, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, exposed post-and-beam construction, concrete slab floors and lots of sliding glass doors. This lead to Apple devices with fewer buttons and cleaner surface areas. This clean philosophy resonates far beyond the confines of electronics. In design, Millennials tend to prefer less visible sinks, faucets, and appliances. The sleeker the design, the better.
There is an out-of-date misconception lingering that millennials aren’t customer's worth pursuing, but the generation that still lives with their parents and eats ramen doesn’t have much value. The generation that doesn’t have job loyalty won’t have brand loyalty.
It’s safe to say that we’ve moved far beyond that shallow, uninformed view. Millennial customers are clearly a huge commercial force commanding both trendsetting power and tremendous buying power. We want to be a part of that. We want to contribute to their innovation and strengthen their capacity to create.