I have a confession to make. I’m a Millennial. What’s more, I prescribe to a lot of those ideas that greet Millennials with derision: the fickleness, the desire to be both connected and alone, the need for experience above anything else, the authenticity factor. It’s generally a fine way to live, by the way. I have no complaints.
Millennials, who in this industry at the very least, have driven a lot of the trends in the last few years, from newly branded hotels specifically created for them and communal lobby areas to guestrooms without desks and bedsides full of outlets. Those cries for complimentary internet in hotels: that’s a Millennial mission.
But soon, another generation will take their place in importance and numbers: Gen Z. This post-Millennial group (cool name still TBD; my vote is for iGeneration), includes people born in the mid-1990s to early 2000s, who have come of age with the internet and social media and are seeking revolutionary ways to travel.
How will this demographic change our industry? And what does this mean to designers who will be crafting the very spots Gen Zers will be booking in the next few years? Here, Justin Colombik, senior designer for San Francisco-based Puccini Group, answered a few of these questions for us:
How does the Gen Z generation differ from Millennials?
Justin Colombik: Gen Z is less bargain-focused and overall express fewer concerns about prices. Remember: this group did not enter the job market in a recession; they are more entrepreneurial spirited, and this shines through in their purchasing decisions, which are an extension of their self-identity and used as a part of self-expression; they are even better multitaskers, and they can quickly and efficiently shift between work and play better than previous generations; and Gen Z—as a whole—is more global-minded in their thinking, interactions, and opinions, and as a result they tend to espouse socially conscious and eco-friendly values.
This generation has essentially grown up with technology and the internet. In what ways will designers try to cater to this?
JC: It should be at once fully integrated into every facet of the experience, yet totally in the background. Technology is not for show; it’s to make the experience more luxurious and fun. A hotel should have a multifunctional app that allows the guest to do, order, customize pretty much everything before, during, and after check-in.
How will designers respond to Gen Z’s needs?
JC: Gen Z is connected deeply to a narrative. They see themselves as fitting within a context of communities and a narrative arc in history. Authenticity in finishes and a palette with a strong narrative at its core is key.
[They also want] more localized and curated experiences. To them, each space isn’t just a hotel room, it’s an experience to be shared and archived. Spaces, therefore, must be personal and connected to their locality. Not to mention photo-worthy, preferably so beautiful there’s no filter needed. It’s not just aesthetics, though. To be a full experience, the rooms have to be personalized—even customizable.
How will you create loyalty with a demographic that is decidedly less loyal to brands?
JC: They want the easiest option that will give them the experience they want—and all from their phone. As long as a brand connects with the expectations and values of the generation, including learning to speak their digital language, they’ll find brand loyalty.
How important will it be for designers and hoteliers to incorporate virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and other tech-forward innovations into the design?
JC: I could imagine a hotel having VR stations for some sort of armchair tourism, but a hotel is also the destination within a larger travel destination. If I stay at a hotel while traveling to Prague, I won’t want to sit in my room with a VR headset on. Technology should facilitate and customize the experience.
Can we expect social media to be incorporated in any way?
JC: Will bathroom mirrors be connected to Snapchat? Yikes! Have you ever tried to take a picture of something and the camera was accidentally reversed to selfie-mode? It’s not pretty.