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How to provide for tomorrow’s traveller?

Millennials are now the biggest and fastest-growing group of travellers in the world. Last year, they outnumbered bookings from Baby Boomers and Generation X for the first time. It’s this significant wind-change that hotel developers, operators and architects must collectively understand to thrive.

Convergence of the internet, Air BnB, millennial aspirations and the homogeneity of the traditional hotel means that future hoteliers must become experience providers. The days of providing standard rooms and service are gone.

Australasian hotel developers have become increasingly creative with their approach to supplying a growing tourism market. Conversions of residential and commercial buildings are on the rise in all major cities. Mixed-use vertical developments provide variety and assist in maximising their return. Smart developers look at placemaking, such as Laneways in Melbourne, making a hero out of ‘place’. They are developing properties which allow them to do more, connecting to location and community.

The new 152-room Sebel Hotel in Manukau, designed by Context, is due to open in 2018 and connects directly to the airport route for business travellers' convenience, and responding to tourists who touchdown in Auckland for a night as a gateway to the country.

Despite Air BnB representing one-third of bed supplies across New Zealand and Australia, record-high occupancy levels for hoteliers continue to flow as tourism and business travel explodes. Last year, 3.7 million people visited New Zealand alone; 311,000 more than the previous year. Gen Y China will be the biggest travel market in the world as they quickly transitioned from ‘big brand’ to experience seeking travellers.

The traveller of today is not only looking to sleep in their own individualised room, but also want a place to socialise. This means breathing new life into the traditional lobby and creating ‘living lobbies’. Travellers want an experience, designing activated spaces where you can happy hour, grab a coffee, work, or share a meal. This means transitioning lobbies into becoming the heart of a hotel. This heart, is something Air BnB simply cannot complete with.

Younger generations want understated luxury as opposed to opulence; connectedness, as opposed to brand. Connectivity is the new luxury. Our job is to create moments of connectedness.

As designers, we are creating a canvas for hotel guests to share your brand story. Instagram moments, facetime backdrops and hook-up addresses – this is what the millennial desires and is key to providing a meaningful design and connected experience.

Technology should be used and not seen, as is the case at the Sebel hotel we’re designing that’s due to open 2018. Seamless integration of technology is a priority, from interior design through to the hotels operational requirements. From the social hub to the bedroom, guests expect unlimited connectivity and don’t want to pay for it.

When it comes to a room design, desks and office chairs are a thing of the past. Most travellers come with their suitcase and laptop/device, and would rather use their own equipment than those provided by the hotelier. Total connectivity in rooms is essential and good sound systems are a bonus. Luggage racks and free WiFi take precedence over a larger room.

Individualised rooms with a story help build on the customer experience. While boutique hotel offerings find it easier to personalise rooms, achieving this is within all hotels’ reach.