Hotel Design for the Millennial Generation

By Corinna Kretschmar-Joehnk Co-Managing Director, JOI-Design | November 01, 2015

Co-authored by Peter Joehnk, Co-Managing Director, JOI-Design

Designing a hotel oriented towards Millennials, or Generation Y, means addressing the revolutionary shift in society's "gestalt" created by the instant accessibility of information. Although people of all ages are participating in this transformation, those born in the last two decades of the 20th century are shaping how these changes materialise through their attitudes towards the accessibility of technology, sense of community, work / life balance, experiences vs. possessions, memory-making, and personalised service – all of which impact a hotel's interior design.

As digital natives who are intrinsically comfortable with technology, Millennials expect their hotels to have a design that is seamlessly compatible with the flexible lifestyle made possible by their devices. Generation Y has been the driving force behind the blurring of boundaries between work and free time, placing greater value upon the "living" aspect of the work/life balance since they can work anywhere using technologies developed as they grew-up, for example the smartphone, tablet and laptop.

Our job as designers is to create spaces that enable adaptability and customisation so that more personalised service can be delivered with the ability to work at any time of day. So the scene has been set for combining work, meeting, eating, and relaxation activities within hotel lobbies, with the preference today for loosely defined, open plan areas. Fitted with plenty of charging points and flexible seating arrangements, the setting can be suitable for casual business meetings, reading a Kindle book, and coffee or lunch either solo or with friends. But instead of working from a comfortable sofa or big communal tables where you can meet others, some guests prefer sitting on the bed in their guestroom with their tablet – it makes one wonder if desks are even still required.

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This was done with the flexible layout of the Hotel Reichshof Hamburg, the first and benchmark property for Curio - A Collection by Hilton in Europe. The hallmark of this new brand, a curation of uniquely storied hotels that provide travellers who have a passion for discovery with a taste of the authentic flavour of communities, syncs perfectly with the values of the Millennial generation. Feeling connected to the local culture is highly valued amongst this demographic; this trait can be implemented within a hotel in a number of ways.

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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.