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Millennial Travel Habits Affecting Hospitality Design

Because They Are One Of Its Fastest Growing Markets

When designphase dba was appointed to renovate Grand Copthorne Waterfront last year, its creative director Joris Angevaare knew that things had to change. Part of the brief was to make the hotel more appealing to the new generation of travellers known as the millennials.

In doing so, Angevaare did away with the traditional reception counters, allowing guests to move seamlessly between the lobby, restaurant and bar. “Interior design is about creating a space that allows for the best activity flow,” he says.

The direction at Grand Copthorne Waterfront is especially relevant given that a study by Hilton found that hotel guests today enjoy being “socially alone” – meaning being in a large social space, even if they do not mingle with others.

“Essentially, by providing guests an area to linger for prolonged periods, hotels add to their return on investment through food and beverage sales. More than just a transitory lounging space, hotels are creating a more engaging environment for guests to build new connections and get things done,” he explains.

With this change in direction, firms like designphase dba will have to keep up with the Joneses, something that Angevaare is cognizant of and working hard to do. He references Frasers Hospitality chief executive Choe Peng Sum, who said that with millennials being one of the fastest growing markets for hospitality, the next generation of hotels have to be design-centric, and yet not cookie-cutter.

“It’s no longer a commodity where we just provide a room, people check in, stay, eat and check out. It's more a lifestyle and an experience. If we don't change, we will be left behind,” said Choe. 

But it isn’t just the public spaces that need to be revamped. To stay relevant, hotels need to keep their design, functionality and how they connect with their audience fresh and up to date.

“For instance, self-service is no longer a bad thing,” says Angevaare. “Today, people are more willing to shell out money on experiences that enhances their lives, rather than on unnecessary frills. Hotels need to keep that in mind – that they are selling an experience, not simply just a room for the night.”

He reveals that he started noticing changes in the travel industry well over a decade ago, when people started shifting away from making bookings at traditional travel agencies to the Internet.

Unfortunately, the hospitality industry did not catch on fast enough, leading him to realise a change in strategy was needed, “This new audience was open to sharing with others and did not want large rooms with amenities they did not need. I noticed that these travellers would rather spend time in a ‘social space’ and be part of a community that provided them with a sense of home, and at the same time, adventure.”

To date, Angevaare and his team are working on a few “exciting” hotel and serviced apartment projects from Seoul to Silicon Valley. These are designed to attract millennials, business and leisure travellers alike who are looking to join a like-minded community and seeking fresh travel experiences.

The good news is that hotels that provide these new experiences are often being built modularly, giving them the ability to customise the interiors as if they are a single piece of precision-built furniture, resulting in a bespoke design.

Clearly, interior design can be that arsenal in helping hospitality bridge the gap with new age travellers.

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