Hotels Bring Unique Brand Experiences to New Travelers

By Keith Simmel Principal, Cooper Carry | June 01, 2014

Co-authored by Robert F. Uhrin, AIA, Principal, Cooper Carry

They're in their 20s, traveling for business and they're not choosing a hotel based on loyalty points. The hotel industry is banking on this new group of travelers to boost its economic growth well into the future. Hotels are repackaging the brand experience to appeal to this new customer and they're spending tremendous resources to get it right.

This new demographic is not a uniform, homogenous group and they don't necessarily have loyalty to any brand. People years ago wanted to stay at a Marriott so they could build up their points, but that doesn't drive this generation. They don't fit into a box or stereotype. This is the young twenty-something coming into the business world and it's becoming increasingly important to tailor brands to appeal to this new segment.

Almost every hotel brand is developing and transforming its flags to better respond to generational changes and elevate brand identification. Once those brands identify the needs of this new, young traveler, we at Cooper Carry must figure out how to bring that brand vision to life at a hotel site.

We recently completed an Embassy Suites Springfield in Virginia, which is a project that caters to the younger generation's preference for variety by providing multiple public space options for travelers. The project totals 189,650 square feet of hotel space, including a full restaurant with expo-kitchen concept and bar, an indoor pool, and fitness center. There are shared facilities for teams to meet as well as opportunities for solo travelers to connect and work outside their rooms. Approximately 5,700 square feet of meeting space is spread amongst formal meeting salons, a boardroom and flexible meeting spaces. AC Hotels by Marriott is another player that's being very aggressive about appealing to that segment with unique designs and experiences.

These travelers want experiences that are cool, hip and comfortable. The trend is to create larger public spaces that are more inviting even in the select-serve brands. Many new select-service hotels feature food and beverage components, which allow guests to check-in and provide them with the option to go downstairs and get a snack or meal.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.