The niche hotel trend can be blamed on, well the internet, and access to more information than a consumer knows what to do with. As we all know, the internet connects people from many locations, so we are not just seeing a rise in niche hotels in the United States, we are seeing this shift throughout the world. There is also a continued trend towards empathy for other cultures, and the want to experience these cultures firsthand. Hotels in South Africa, need to be thinking about what the U.S. traveler would want, and vice versa.
This major shift is being defined by consumer preferences. With increased access to images of beautiful hotel properties, Airbnb’s that provide an experience like no other, and the rise in influencers promoting these properties, there is not a lack of knowledge as to “what’s out there.”
Airbnb not only changed the hospitality game in terms of new accessibility, it has also played a huge role in consumer taste. According to Alex Thorpe, who created the Veriu brand, Airbnb has motivated travelers to search for something different and authentic, they have fired a desire among travelers to stay in interesting near-city neighborhoods. As most millennials continue to look for the opposite of your big-box brand, from the 70s and 80s, more innovation geared toward the guest experience is entering the hospitality industry.
Lately it seems as though every major player in the hospitality space is launching new niche brands, and most are mainly targeted at the millennial generation. These brands are up for the challenge of creating an experience that caters to guest’s specific lifestyles, from tech-savvy to health conscious. Brands are going all in to meet the passions of a niche group, rather than offering a little bit to everybody.
Visual appearance and overall presentation may differ, but there are key elements that remain the same.
According to an article by “RMS the hospitality cloud,” these include:
Focus on the experience rather than simply the product or service.
Connect with individuals and build relationships.
Connect with their local environment to leverage what the precinct offers.
Offer innovative facilities and new forms of entertainment.
Enhance online presence and implement aggressive marketing strategies.
Emphasize life enrichment, creativity and rejuvenation.
Mainly when we think about boutique and lifestyle type hotels, we have a feeling we associate with them. A feeling of local culture, friendliness, modern touches while sticking to historical roots, a true sense of place. As stated by Brian McGuinness, global brand leader for Starwood’s Specialty Select Brands, “we see millennial travelers more as explorers than tourists.”
Lighting in hotels is one key element to creating a unique and emotionally pleasing experience for your guest.
Central to any discussion of light is the Circadian Rhythm. This term refers to the 24 hour period it takes earth to revolve once around its axis. The human body is very in tune to this cycle. The problem is we are removed from the natural elements. We spend 90% of our day inside, as opposed to our caveman ancestors, where the sun was their only source of light. However, technology in lighting has come a long way. When designing lifestyle and boutique hotels that are meant to provide a positive and happy experience, lighting needs to be at the forefront of the discussion.
1. Your hotel should be designed to bring as much natural light into a space as possible. As an example, if you are catering to business travelers, according to research by Medium, people who work in windowless environments get 46 minutes less sleep on work nights, experience lower-quality rest, and are less physically active during their workday that their colleagues who are afforded adequate light exposure.
There is also research that supports the color blue as a creative force. Begging the question, does the cool light of day improve performance? Although people may function better at different times, due to simple phrases like “night owl” and “early bird,” it does not take away from the fact that people’s productivity, and overall wellness, rely on a healthy intake of natural light.
OLED lighting technology can provide the feeling of sunlight. When designing a space, it is often challenging to bring in natural light at every location. When this is not a possibility OLED light sources can be included in space design to give the feeling of sunlight. Even in areas where natural light is present, it is favorable to include OLED light fixtures. These spaces now can provide for the feeling of natural light on a dreary day, later in the evening, early in the morning, and any other time that natural sunlight is not available.
2. If the transportation industry is on board, can a hotel afford not to be? Many guests that arrive to boutique hotels have spent hours, maybe closer to day(s) traveling to get to their end destination. Transportation companies are also catering and trying to attract the same types of guests that the hospitality industry is. Airplane lights are designed to impact mood and emotion. Airplane companies want their passengers to be calm and feel good. Therefore, they do what they can to present soft light hues. It does make sense. An airplane full of unruly, anxious passengers would be bad. Airplane companies go as far as purposeful lighting to induce sleep, wake passengers up, and to energize them. According to an article by Travel & Leisure, “a team of researchers from Stanford helped Airbus create a lighting system that seamlessly mimicked various times of the day for an easier trans-continental transition.”
As a hotelier, being cognizant of the experience your guests had before arriving to your establishment, will help to create the best experience possible for them. If transportation companies are taking strong measures to make sure the traveler’s experience is impacted by light, hotels need to as well. OLED is becoming more commercialized, and being considered and utilized by many companies in the transportation industry to impact guest’s emotions. If hotels can continue this trend when their guest arrives, it will promote an overall positive emotional experience, as part of the guest’s entire travel journey.
The hospitality industry is heavily impacted by changing consumer preferences. The couple points regarding lighting above, are just a few ways that your guest may be impacted by light design. As guests continue to become prone to personal and healthy travel experiences, hotels need to keep elevating how they provide to their guests, exactly what they want.