Presented by: Hotel Executive, July 15, 2018

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

The hotel industry is experiencing a period of significant evolution and opportunity. From technology innovations, evolving customer expectations and the rise of alternative accommodations, the hospitality industry is shifting dramatically to meet consumer demand. Despite these changes, a simple promise will continue to carry weight: deliver experiences that are centered on connecting people and places.

According to Skift’s 2018 Travel Megatrends study, modern travelers prefer accommodations that adopt the “home away from home” concept and feature warm and inviting community spaces. Today, travelers crave intimate spaces, amenities and design features that reflect the history and culture of the surrounding community. These are concepts that are already transforming residential and multifamily communities nationwide, and hoteliers can apply similar design strategies to boost their curb appeal and attract more guests.

Rising Consumer Expectations
Millennials make up the largest segment of travelers today – more than GenXers and Baby Boomers. Understanding the needs of this demographic is crucial for hoteliers that want to remain relevant and increase guest count. Tailoring a hotelier’s design strategy to meet millennial expectations, needs and preferences is one of the best ways to appeal to travelers and provide authentic and memorable experiences that accomplish their ultimate desires: to live like locals while traveling. Hotel design strategies to keep in mind include:

• Instagram-Worthy Spaces
Consider this important stat: 97 percent of millennials share their travel experiences on social media and are more inclined to stay at a hotel that is Instagram-worthy over one that offers a fair price. Consumers have a rather strong connection to interior design and are well-informed when it comes to design trends more than ever before. This is a result of their exposure to broadcast networks like HGTV and the Design Network, as well as social media channels like Instagram and Pinterest – platforms that are flooded with influencers and businesses that share the latest design trends and concepts. Not only are consumers more design savvy, but they want to be part of the design experience. They want it in all parts of their life.

From their homes to their travel accommodations, consumers seek trendy spaces that deliver customized experiences. Multifamily properties are already meeting this need by including design elements such as accent walls, natural lighting, unique furnishings and finishes, local art and minimalist spaces that seamlessly transition from indoor to outdoor. Hoteliers that offer these types of increasingly personal and uniquely tailored experiences can extend and deepen their relationship with travelers – and help make them feel right at home.

• Luxury Design and Amenities
Modern renters prefer luxury apartment communities with all-inclusive amenities that meet their personal and financial expectations. They want accommodations that offer comfort, convenience and style – and provide all the amenities they want and need without the commitment of a mortgage. While these types of apartments are typically smaller, there is an incredible satisfaction for renters at luxury communities who want a certain standard of luxury that they may not get with a purchased home. The same concept can be applied with hotels – people don’t want to feel intimidated and uncomfortable during their stay, so it’s important to strike a balance between luxury and comfortability to enhance consumer appeal. Guests are looking for authentic, comfortable spaces that are infused with luxury design and services – to give them a taste of a lifestyle that may normally be out of reach.

For millennials, luxury doesn’t mean accommodation that’s more expensive, but rather rich in experience. For example, consumers today are willing to live in a more compact apartment if that means more functional and fluid community spaces and amenities that go beyond the typical apartment pool, clubhouse and fitness center. The multifamily world is already applying design strategies in luxury apartment communities and multifamily properties with onsite restaurants, cyber lounges, coffee shops, workout studios, walking trails and more – and consumers are buying into it. Hotels should consider following suit.

• Memorable Experiences
Modern consumers are placing a larger emphasis on memorable experiences – and are willing to pay more for personalized engagements over services or products. Specifically, 72 percent of millennials say that they would rather spend money on experiences than tangibles. They want to be a part of something bigger. They want accommodations and amenities that complement their lifestyles – whether it be a 24-hour health and fitness center, pet grooming station, golf simulator or a community green space. A factor to consider when designing spaces that meet millennials’ needs is their health-conscious lifestyle. As a result, the multifamily industry has adopted a strategy that includes incorporating myriad wellness amenities like bike-rental areas, yoga and fitness studios, saunas and steam rooms and outdoor fitness areas to ramp up leasing – and it’s working.

Inviting Community Spaces
When you look at the rise of Airbnb and other alternative services like HomeAway, House Trip and FlipKey, the allure is more than potential cost savings. Rather, there’s a comfortability factor and sense of “living like a local” that comes with vacationing in a home. But hoteliers have a competitive advantage when it comes to comfort – their ability to deliver a true a sense of community through unique spaces and amenities that serve guests and locals. Multifamily properties have leveraged this strategy for some time now by incorporating vibrant and mixed-use spaces that bring people together through co-working spaces, lounge areas, meeting rooms and club houses – all outfitted with the latest technology to support residents’ everyday needs.

These multi-purpose spaces are also used to host social and networking events such as wine and beer tastings, cooking classes, holiday parties, arts and craft workshops, fitness classes and more. This concept allows residents to feel a sense of community and belonging and gives them the opportunity to build friendships and create memorable experiences. Research shows that people are more likely to stay in a location if they establish friendships or some level of connection with the people or lifestyle – the same goes for travelers.

Another tip for hoteliers looking to design inviting and memorable spaces is to transform large-scale areas into intimate spaces with unexpected surprises, social sensibilities and unique design features. For example, if you walk into the lobby of any Ace Hotel, you will find guests congregating, interacting and using the lobby space. Whereas at a larger, more luxurious hotel, the oversized lobby and community spaces are typically used for circulation. If you really think of which spaces people are enjoying and using, they are typically not massive, over-scaled rooms but rather proportioned spaces with a unique theme designed to build a sense of community – whether it be a hotel coffee shop, boutique or spa. It’s important for hoteliers to remember that this is what stirs travelers’ emotions and leaves guests wanting to come back for more.

Catering to the Local Market
Before multifamily properties are built, they are designed and meticulously programmed to target a specific demographic. This is typically accomplished through careful, extensive local market research that determines consumer needs and interests. Research is often conducted over a span of time and includes an in-depth market analysis to understand consumer habits and preferences. What are they reading? What types of cars are they driving? Where do they like to eat? Where do they like to shop? What music do they listen to? What are their preferred leisure activities? This intel allows designers and developers to create profiles that inform their overarching design theme. In the multifamily world, these profiles allow designers to create communities and homes that complement consumers’ lifestyles and include amenities that are tailored to serve the market’s clientele.

For example, while creating the design plans for The Hesby, the interior architecture team at H. Hendy Associates conducted extensive demographic research to discover exactly how to attract North Hollywood-area residents. What we found was that the city has a strong artistic culture comprised of creative professionals in the music, art and entertainment industries. To appeal to this demographic, the design team implemented a variety of shared spaces that catered to residents’ creative work, hobbies and passions. For those with an interest in music, The Hesby features the Music Box, an onsite studio with a PA system. The property also features The Writers Cafe, designed to provide a creative space with variety of seating arrangements for residents to work on projects or relax with a cup of coffee.

A hotel that adopted a similar strategy is the Residence Inn, which is known for hosting social networking events several times a week. These events include visits from local food trucks, tastings and pairings featuring local beer and wine and cooking classes taught by local chefs. These offerings are a result of research that was conducted by the Residence Inn which discovered that millennials traveling for business wanted to attend social events that connected them to the city where they were staying.

To enhance design strategies, developers and designers are leveraging focus groups as a form of research to gather consumer perceptions, opinions and attitudes about a new project and to better understand what would attract locals to become residents. This research also informs project partners of emerging trends and provides a line-of-sight on how consumer trends may evolve over time.

Multifamily Design and Hoteliers

As the lines between residential and hospitality continue to blur, hoteliers will need to continue evolving their design strategies to go beyond their brands and services. Ultimately, when projects appeal to the local market, residents and hotel guests are drawn into the community – enabling memorable experiences to unfold. Multifamily design concepts, when carried through to hospitality projects, can help hoteliers attract more guests by allowing consumers to feel like a local – even if it’s just for a weekend.