To gain a larger market share of younger tech- and design-savvy travelers, all the major hotel brands have been introducing next-generation prototypes and some companies are creating new brands altogether. For instance, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group unveiled a new lifestyle brand in February called Radisson Red and Marriott International will debut its first AC Hotels in the United States later this year to appeal to the 80 million-plus millennials out there.
So what are the key design elements hotels need in order to attract today’s ever-connected travelers? To find out, we asked Baskervill, the Virginia-based design firm that was recently selected as the prototype architect for AC Hotels flag adaptation for the United States and Canadian market. Hospitality Principal Brad Richards and Senior Interior Designer Patricia Lopez were mum on the AC prototype details since design work is currently underway, but they shared the following 10 ingredients to consider when catering to millennials:
Lead designs with architectural brushstrokes. “The designs you’re seeing coming out are much more architectural in nature than they’ve been in a long time,” Richards says. “FF&E is just the final touch,” Lopez agrees.
Emphasize lighting. “Opening up spaces with less walls provides more natural light and highlights those architectural features we’re creating,” Lopez says.
Simplify spaces. “Being able to see clean spaces is important to millennials, so we use very simple materials,” Lopez say. “In the public spaces, we’ve been using a lot of stone, lacquer, glass, and natural wood. And in the guestrooms, we’ve been doing a lot of vinyl flooring instead of carpet, paint instead of wallcoverings, and roller shades instead of heavy drapes.”
When it comes to case goods, less is more. “Millennials don’t have to have the big desk in the guestroom, so there’s more flexibility built into the rooms, and you can make them more open,” Richards says.
“We’re going more architectural in feel,” Lopez adds. “We’re using less guestroom case goods packages with more of a built-in millwork look in hopes that it last longer.”
Create flexible public areas. “We’re providing options,” Richards says. “Especially most public spaces where it’s a range of how private you can be within the lobby, from way out in the open to a nook in the corner.”
“We’re creating those zones by using different flooring materials and ceiling heights,” Lopez says. “We use a lot of flexible furniture, so with that, we provide options for the guest to move around—barstools, ottomans, or sectionals that can be modified for their needs.”
Activate the lobby at all times. “You don’t want to see a closed bar in the morning. You want to use that space for breakfast, an afternoon event, or wine tastings,” Lopez says. “Part of what millennials look for is events within hotels.”
Integrate work and play. “Millennials don’t really differentiate between work and their social life,” Richards says. “It’s a natural mix.”
Don’t just have the technology, make it look good. “Now the outlets or how the flat screen TVs are integrated with the design in the lobby needs to look beautiful,” Lopez says. “It needs to blend in.”
“Vendors are starting to come on line and realize a standard toggle switch with a cover plate isn’t necessarily going to work anymore. They may have to reinvent some things,” Richards says. “There are several vendors working on new lines to keep up with this.”
Weave in local flavor. “Millennials like to feel the city, but I think baby boomers and other generations also appreciate that,” Lopez says. “Bring in a sense of locality with either artwork or materials, or bring in the daylight and have an open view to the city. I think that attracts anyone.”
Play up the wow factor. “Now we’re seeing this Instagram effect happening where everyone wants to share everything,” Lopez says, “so we need to create wow spaces.”
Photo credit: Rendering of the executive lounge at the new Hilton Norfolk Hotel and Conference Center, courtesy of Baskervill