Presented by: HotelExecutive, January 20, 2019

Author: Felicia Hyde, Lifestyle Studio Director, H. Hendy Associates

From Baby Boomers to Gen Xers to millennials, to the ever-growing Gen Z cohort, businesses today are all working toward a similar goal: designing properties and marketing their brands to attract different age groups. While each generation has specific needs and expectations, one commonality remains – the desire to travel. Hospitality continues to draw in people of all ages and is the world’s fastest-growing industry to-date, leaving hoteliers scrambling to determine what works best for their target demographic.

Essentially, hotel accommodation shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all environment, but rather a unique and vibrant destination that offers a customized experience. A destination that delivers on the wants, needs and desires of its core audience and local community.
So, how can hoteliers create successful experience-driven properties that cater to myriad age groups? To start, consider applying design strategies that multifamily and apartment communities nationwide have implemented that delivered on millennials’ needs for memorable experiences and baby boomers’ desire for community.

The following shed light on design strategies that cater to every age group.

Baby Boomers (and Empty Nesters)

With their children grown up and off to work or college, baby boomers and empty-nesters (1946 to 1964) are downsizing by selling their homes and moving into apartment communities. A few reasons this group chooses to forgo homeownership is the minimal upkeep, convenience, access to community amenities and the opportunity to explore new areas. Empty nesters have a newfound freedom and in addition to selling their homes, research shows that 44 percent are making it a priority to travel more once their children leave ‘the nest’. That said, hoteliers should consider leveraging similar design strategies that attract this generation to multifamily properties, into their own hotels. Key design elements and trends include:

  • Sophisticated and Luxurious Communal Spaces

Empty nesters are a group of social and community-minded individuals. Even though they’re downsizing, they still want spaces to entertain. In fact, they enjoy community gatherings at a sophisticated level. They are looking for more than a hotel or multifamily property choc-full of amenities. Instead, a sense of community and belonging are at the top of their must-have list. This group wants to attend regular community events such as bunco and trivia nights and likes to create organizations within their own communities such as book, gardening and wine clubs. To support their desire for community, they require a variety of luxurious community areas like club houses, courtyards, a community green space, a comfortable and inviting lobby area and a variety of pool areas, cabanas and lounge spaces.

  • Fully-Equipped Community Kitchens

Serving as one of empty nesters go-to spaces for networking and community events, clubrooms must include all the bells and whistles to support and meet their expectations for social interaction. A key design element incorporated in club houses of multifamily properties is a gourmet demonstration kitchen. These are designed for hosting cooking classes, wine tastings and other events, and offers residents a kitchen facility filled with a stove, large refrigerator, full-size oven, warming drawers and state-of-the art appliances.

  • Customized Spaces and Amenities

As one of America’s largest group of pet-owners, baby boomers look for hotels and apartment communities that not only support their needs but those of their furry friends – which this group often considers as members of their own families. To deliver on this need, multifamily properties are dedicating spaces for pets and their owners. From pet spas, pet drinking fountains, onsite dog parks and pet services such as dog walking and pet care, these amenities are truly a hit for this age group.

Baby boomers also are known for being health-conscious and place a high emphasis on healthy lifestyles – more so than previous generations. Consider incorporating spaces dedicated to health and wellness such as fitness and workout areas, yoga rooms, walking paths, and indoor-outdoor spaces to support the natural desire for human-nature connection. By incorporating areas that elevate empty nesters’ health and wellbeing, hoteliers can attract more of this robust group of travelers.

Generation X (Gen Xers)
Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1980, are known for being family oriented and busy working professionals. While this group is notoriously overlooked, Gen X currently has the most buying power and financial freedom of any generation. In fact, research shows that 68 percent of this generation are the chief shopper when it comes to big purchases like travel. They are also one of the top two generational cohorts spending a large share – 41 percent – of their income on rent.

One-third of this group switched to apartment living for the flexibility and community amenities. Hoteliers should keep in mind the wants and needs of Gen Xers and consider integrating design strategies that have driven this group to choose smaller, flexible communities over suburban homes. Key design considerations include:

  • Flexible Areas for Health and Fitness

Gen Xers care about staying fit and will pay more for access to workout classes, training and instructors. To attract this group of health-conscious consumers, consider incorporating gyms that feature flexible workout spaces such as rooms that double as private workout studios or spaces for instructor-led classes. Also consider implementing multiple indoor-outdoor fitness areas throughout the property, as opposed to one large enclosed gym. This design layout provides guests with the opportunity to exercise in the space(s) that best meet their workout preferences and needs for the day.

  • Concierge-Style Services

For Gen Xers, convenience matters. When searching for a new apartment community or hotel stay, this group looks for built-in services and service-based amenities to support their busy lifestyles. While much of this is operational, it’s important to consider how to design in a way that supports operations, so that your property not only meets the needs of this group but creates a lasting impression that encourages guests to return. Example services include: laundry and dry-cleaning pickup and delivery, personal training, a bell man, dog walking, and car and shuttle services, to name a few.

  • Indoor-Outdoor Shared Spaces

Spending time with their family, friends and loved ones is very important to Gen Xers, so they prefer lodging that offers a variety of indoor and outdoor community spaces. These spaces should vary in size, seating arrangements and serve different purposes. Examples include rooms and areas for games; large, open lawns; pools and BBQ areas; entertainment spaces and courtyards. To deliver on this need, and work closely with the landscape architect to incorporate courtyards and spaces dedicated to guests’ specific needs, from fitness, relaxation, social interaction and entertainment.

At Broadstone Cavora in Laguna Niguel, a multifamily community designed by H.Hendy Associates, the property features a variety of communal spaces and courtyards including a tot play area and jungle gym for residents with children, a TV lounge, and game room with vintage video games, gourmet coffee station and indoor-outdoor dining area. The property also features a social and entertainment hub complete with a shuffleboard table, life-size scrabble board and several HD TVs. This area opens to the adjacent pool deck to enhance the indoor-outdoor living experience.

Millennials and Generation Z

Research shows that today’s largest group of consumers, renters and travelers are millennials, or those born between 1981 to 1995, a generation that’s known for placing a high emphasis on memorable experiences. Much like millennials, Generation Z also prefer unique and customized experiences over material items. This group is referred to as digital natives, known for having access to technology and a high level of convenience and customization at a very young age. By 2020, millennials and Generation Z are expected to be the two largest generational groups world-wide, together making up 63.5 percent of the global population. Importantly, their unique demands are growing across all industries, specifically hospitality.

According to Cassandra Research, 42 percent of Generation Z say travel is something they need to make their lives feel complete. Millennials, too, currently spend more than any other age group on vacations. For these reasons, it’s important to understand how to design and build in a way that attracts this thriving consumer group. The multifamily world already is applying design strategies to attract millennials and Generation Z, and they’re buying into it. Hoteliers should consider the following design strategies to create a one-of-a-kind experience that these groups crave:

  • Support Remote Working

Since 2015, millennials have made up a large part of the American workforce and they continue to revolutionize how we work. In a recent survey by Deloitte, 75 percent of millennial respondents said they prefer to work where they feel comfortable, whether it’s from home, a coffee shop or even abroad. And today, more and more business are onboard with remote working with the intent to attract and retain millennial talent. Research also shows Gen Z are independent workers and will soon be the most entrepreneurial generation in history. To that point, this generation may soon be joining millennials in the need for more remote work areas and co-working spaces.

To support this trend, multifamily and residential communities across the nation have implemented private dining areas that double as conference rooms; indoor-outdoor co-working spaces; cafes and lounges outfitted with the technology and resources for these groups to work effectively and in some instances dedicated co-working spaces. With 61 million Gen Z workers entering the workforce, coupled with millennials desire for remote working continuing to grow, hoteliers should consider transforming static spaces into hubs for remote working to attract the pioneers and independent workers of these age groups.

  • Create a Hyper-Local Experience

When it comes to choosing a travel destination or new apartment community, millennials and Gen Z seek more than luxury amenities – they want a hyper-local experience. For these groups, life is all about experience and this thinking is what drives their purchasing behavior. Recent studies show millennial travelers are not only looking for a fancy hotel stay, but rather an authentic environment that allows for cultural immersion and brings the unique history and cultural aspects of the outside in. Ultimately, they seek accommodation that tells a story through the design, spaces, amenities and services offered.

While creating the design plans for North Park, a multifamily community in San Diego, the interior architecture team at H. Hendy Associates conducted extensive demographic research to discover exactly how to attract area residents. The team discovered that the city has a strong, eclectic culture made up of creative individuals who enjoy music, art and vintage craftsmanship. To them, things once old are new again – think vinyl records and vintage clothing.

To appeal to this demographic, the design team built a creative atmosphere featuring a vintage and mid-century modern blended design that is beautifully contrasted with warm rich accents and an environment inspired by the historic craftsmanship of the community. Notable spaces include a clubroom with a secret dining area; a fitness room; a rooftop patio; a pool deck with a zero-edge pool and teepee cabanas; and lawn space that accommodates vintage games, monthly concerts and events; and a maker’s room.

Key Takeaways
Key to creating spaces that encourage guests to return or recommend your property to others is to create a unique and catered experience for your audience. This starts with demographic research and getting to know your consumer – from how they live, to what they do for fun, to their spending habits and modes of transportation. These insights should inform your design strategy and inspire the amenities and spaces you need to cater to their needs. Essentially, whatever you can do to tailor your property and complement the lifestyle of your audience, the more memorable your space will be.
A hotel that seamlessly adopted this concept and re-invented the motel experience while catering specifically to the millennial generation is The June Motel. Originally a mid-century motor lodge in Prince Edward County known as The Sportman Motel, founders April Brown and Sarah Sklash viewed the space as a vintage treasure with endless potential. Together they reimagined and repurposed the property into a hip, 16-room boutique hotel offering wine country visitors a local and vintage experience. Unique spaces include the Lobby Bar, an indoor-outdoor area encouraging guests to mix-and-mingle around the campfire and enjoy local wines and beers and The Residence, a communal space for meetings, cocktail workshops and events.