As Gen Z start booking hotels beyond their parent’s preferences, the hospitality sector is adjusting course in line with a slate of new behaviours, desires and values. Already this younger guest profile has driven change with brands like CitizenM entering the metaverse, whilst younger-skewing brands like The Student Hotel, Selina and Accor’s JO&JOE ramp up expansion and reap the rewards of being early adopters.
But other than strong Wi-Fi connections, what do these guests truly value in a hotel stay, and how can operators and designers best prepare for the Gen Z takeover?
A Sense of Purpose.
With 70% of Gen Z preferring to purchase from companies they consider ethical, a strong moral compass is perhaps the most important asset a hotel can have, and efforts ranging from environmental initiatives (54% will pay higher rates if they believe a company is doing its best in the green sense) to inclusive workforces will make it significantly easier to attract and retain these guests.
But beyond initiatives that seek to save the planet, providing a platform for self-improvement is equally important. Travel concepts like Sojrn – a network of worldwide chapters each focusing on a different facet of informative and practical ‘slow learning’ experiences – play to a crowd who are staying in school longer than any previous generation, and who recognise that lifelong individual learning is just as important to brand-wide betterment.
As such, if a hotel can demonstrate progressive values whilst simultaneously offering space for others to learn and improve with them, a sense of purpose can stretch far beyond green credentials and diversity pledges.
Connections, Digital or Otherwise
The stereotype of Gen Z being attached to their phones is true in some cases, but wildly off the mark in others. This guest might well be the most technologically fluent and device-reliant the market has ever seen – 69% feel uncomfortable being away from internet access for more than eight hours – but so too are they concerned about this reliance, with 59% saying they spend too much time online.
Striking a balance between healthy usage and convenient service is perhaps the next major obstacle for Gen Z hotel brands, with this guest profile demanding spaces to connect as well as room to detox when screen-time becomes an issue. As 51% of Gen Z rely on the internet for access to other people, the creation of digital communities that connect users beyond the walls of a hotel will become an important point of consideration, though equally critical will be the choice to eschew these entirely for some down-time.
Foodie Feasts For All
A whopping 90% of Gen Z guests research where to eat before they travel, and one only has to scroll through TikTok to see how important F&B content is to the conversation. This isn’t to say every menu needs a massive sandwich that demands a photoshoot of its multi-layered cross-section, but tapping into the convenience and cultural relevance of platforms like Deliveroo and Uber eats by offering a wide variety of curated cuisines is an easy shortcut to generating substance in your sustenance.
On the beverage side of things, meanwhile, it is no coincidence that more and more hotels are exploring low-or-no alcohol menus, as this demographic is more conscious of its drinking habits and consuming 20% less alcohol than Millennial counterparts. With this in mind, some good clean fun that does not rely on booze is a must for any hotel bar to consider.
Rediscover & Revive
The general consensus among Gen Z brands when it comes to interior design seems to be a combination of bright colour palettes, vibrant patterns and a liberal sprinkling of emojis. However, these run the risk of both ageing poorly and leaning too hard into the much-maligned ‘how-do-you-do-fellow-kids?’ trappings of brand-Twitter. Likewise, as any parent will tell you, kids hate nothing more than being reminded how old they are, with these kinds of visuals only serving to widen the gap between guests and operators.
Instead, the recent proliferation of nostalgia-driven Tik Tok content and the Gen Z proclivity to romanticise golden eras they never lived through shows us that the old adage of ‘I was born in the wrong generation’ holds considerable weight, as these guests now seek out old-school vibes in the hotels and bars of New York. More importantly, perhaps, these more classically-inspired designs are more likely to keep younger guests returning even once they grow older.
Lifelong lessons: Quench the thirst for learning and self-improvement with educational experiences – Gen Z has spent the last few years of their school days on zoom, and are now used to learning beyond the classroom.
Digital Detox: Digital experiences and technology should not intrude on the guest experience; save this for later and stay fresh in the minds of younger guests with online communities that extend the reach of a hotel.
Halls of Fame: Project’s like C3 and Graduate’s ‘virtual food hall’ collab sees a single kitchen preparing different branded foods and guests ordering from an app. It might not be as authentic as the real thing, but it’s the perfect solution for hotels with smaller kitchen footprints.
Design for all: Treat Gen Z as you would any other guest with discerning design preferences and give them aesthetics they can grow with over time. This way, hotels can create a wave of loyal fans by shaping their tastes within the purview of a branded image.