Designing Hospitality Spaces for Generation Z

As the fastest-growing generation, Generation Z has become a hot topic in conversations surrounding hotel, restaurant and bar design. Loosely defined as the group born between 1997 and 2012, the youngest members of Generation Z are entering their twenties, inching towards the possession of disposable incomes, and seeking hospitality experiences to spend them on. To meet their unique needs, designers, architects, hoteliers and restauraunteurs need to become familiar with the way in which Gen Z’s guest demands differ, and respond with innovative solutions to cater to them. 

For Sleep & Eat Virtual, our 2020 cohort of designers and hotel brands rose to precisely this challenge; creating immersive guestrooms, dining experiences and more, all uniquely designed to meet the demands of the guest of 15 years time. From integrating social media technology to crafting authentic ‘local’ experiences, we explore the design trends tipped to please the upcoming generation, and the inspiring hospitality projects of our 2020 designer cohort already leading the way.

The Use of Innovative Technology

With Generation Z having been in contact with fast-evolving technologies for the majority of their lives, designers and hospitality brands need to consider new and innovative ways to incorporate them to impress these seasoned guests.

Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel by Accor, the international hotel brand partnering with design firm, Perkins and Will, on a Sleep Set for the guest of 2035, firmly believe in using innovative technologies to improve guest experience. With a vibrant and transformative design, Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel uses ‘art in motion’, displayed on big screens in the lobby. Artists and engineers created visuals for the screens specially designed for emotional impact, using algorithms. For the first time in Europe, the Accor hotel also uses artificial intelligence to enhance guest experience, with all rooms equipped with voice-activated Alexa technology.

Designing for Generation Z

Opportunity for Engagement

Our next generation of guests do not go to restaurants purely to eat, or hotels purely to sleep; they go for the social experience, the ambience, the opportunities for engagement, and for an escape from the everyday. To satisfy these new demands, hotels, bars and restaurants need to go beyond the basic service offering, and consider how they can offer unique and engaging experiences to their guests.

Also innovated by Accor, Ibis’ music program, ibis Music, offers hotel guests a new experience in hospitality, creating social hubs and increasing social interaction. Through the programme, Ibis hotels host more than 60 concerts throughout France in order to introduce guests to new talents and provide them with exceptional experiences at intimate concerts.

Designing for Generation Z

Unforgettable Wellness Moments

Perhaps more than any generation before, a large proportion of Generation Z are doubling down on the wellness lifestyle—exercising more, eating well, and prioritizing mental health and sleep. With this shift comes a rich opportunity in hospitality for wellness-orientated spaces and services.

As the tide changes, designing spaces with a focus on wellbeing as a priority is fast becoming an industry standard. Biophilic design approaches, in particular, have boomed over the last few years. Often associated with a positive effect on mental health and productivity, biophilic designs incorporate natural elements like plants, materials, sounds, lighting, and water into the built environment to bring us closer to a state of peace.

AD Associates, the London design agency designing a guestroom set in partnership with IHG for Sleep & Eat Virtual, have incorporated innovative biophilic principles to various hospitality projects. To their Silk Kitchen & Bar on board a Crystal Cruises ship, AD Associates included four living, green walls, creating a tranquil and ultimately outdoor feel in the on-board restaurant. In combination with the sea views, AD Associates hoped that guests in the space would feel connected to nature, despite the largely man-made surroundings of the cruise ship.

Designing for Generation Z

Providing a Social Experience

For Generation Z, communal spaces for social experiences are often a vital component of a satisfying hotel stay. In response, many new hotels aimed at a younger clientele are beginning to incorporate communal spaces closer in tone to traditional hostels.

Mama Shelter West Porte de Versailles, an Accor hotel, offers travelers an authentic and lively place to stay, where guests can feel at home in a ‘sensual refuge adorned with an urban twist’. Its main features and equipment, such as the gigantic communal tables, the comfy couches, the table soccer, photo booths and video booths, have been chosen specifically to bring people together.

Designing for Generation Z

Value for money

Various research on inter-generational attitudes to money has suggested that Generation Z are among the most thrifty generations yet. Value for money is often at the top of the agenda for younger guests, who have become scrupulous in their approach to price comparisons when shopping for new hospitality experiences.

JO&JOE Gentilly by Accor is an ‘open-house’, with value for money at its core. A place where locals and travelers can co-exist in a unique open-plan design, with affordable food options and access to an array of community events. Keeping everything local – from food to events – JO&JOE is at the vanguard of a new wave of hotels identifying as ‘the new generation of hostels’.

Designing for Generation Z

Connection to the Environment

Having spent the majority of their lifetime in close proximity to technology and social media, Generation Z are increasingly seeking experiences that allow them to feel a sense of connection to the outside environment. Natural materials and colour palettes have seen a boom over the last decade, bringing with them ‘a sense of the outside in’.

Boxx Creative, the London-based design studio creating an immersive dining experience for Sleep & Eat Virtual, designed the Miramonti, a luxury boutique hotel in Italy, with similar principles in mind. Inspired by its surroundings, Miramonti, meaning mountain view, draws its name and design from nature. A deep terracotta facade evokes the changing seasons and rich natural Italian colour palette, while in the bedrooms, the complementary green and blue colour schemes, punctuated with deeper accents, are both balanced and calming.

Designing for Generation Z
Photo Credit: Mariell Lind Hansen

Boxx Creative created the interior schemes by drawing on the elements of earth, fire, air, water, wood and metal. Materials were selected for their authentic properties linked to the surrounding environment, and feature in the natural stone wash basins, carved wooden bedframes, solid trunk coffee tables, round metal bedside tables and soft natural fabrics.

Designing for Generation Z
Photo Credit: Mariell Lind Hansen

Offering Authentic Local Experience

As the luxury hospitality sector departs from the insular resort model of earlier decades, younger guests are increasingly coming to expect an ‘authentic local experience’ with regard to interiors, food, character, materials, activities, and beyond.

To answer this demand for authenticity, designers need to bring the atmosphere of the local culture inside – at home, as much as abroad. At The Hunter’s Moon, a stylish pub and dining room, Boxx Creative’s interiors explicitly celebrate the best of the British countryside. With its warm, rustic interior, the cosy autumnal hues and authentic, tailor-made features championing British trade and art, welcome its discerning clientele with a rural home-from-home environment.

Designing for Generation Z
Photo Credit: Annabel Moeller

British makers crafted the furniture, designed by Boxx Creative, and the seating showcases British wool, leather hides and sustainably sourced wood. Natural, textured walls, a stone fireplace, an AGA, a vintage dresser, and reclaimed mirrors, window and door complete the homely farmhouse feel.

Boxx Creative Co-founder and Director, Nicola Keenan, says: "We wanted to create a welcoming, country home-from-home feeling, with rustic farmhouse charm, and the grounding warmth and comfort of the countryside, celebrating some of the finest in British arts, crafts, materials and making."

Offering an authentic local experience was also the central goal of Atellior, the luxury interior design firm creating the Lounge Bar for Sleep & Eat Virtual, when designing the Park Plaza Utrecht. Utrecht, known as birthplace of Theo Van Doesburgh one of the founders of De Stijl movement, inspired the hotel’s design, and brought the past into the future for art and history lovers.

Designing for Generation Z