Is customization the way forward for hotel design?
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
As competition from shared accommodations and niche offerings increase, large hotel chains and even some boutique hotels are seeking new ways to attract guests to their properties.
Design has long been one of the main factors that transform an ordinary lodging into a go-to destination for travelers and vacationers. Recent research suggests offering guests customized designs could provide added incentive when prospective customers are searching for and comparing possible places to stay.
Up to now, hotels have touted on-site amenities (e.g., bars, restaurants, gymnasiums, business centers) and staffed services (e.g., in-room dining, laundry and dry cleaning, concierge and travel assistance) as a way to distinguish themselves from shared or rental properties. That is beginning to change.
As reported by hospitality consultant Larry Mogelonsky in a recent blog for Hospitality Net, a presenter at the Cornell Hospitality Research Summit in October stated that the lines were blurring between traditional and shared accommodations. The speaker cited several programs already available to Airbnb hosts that would allow them to add services very much like a hotel, such as housekeeping, food and beverage, concierge (via a mobile app), experiential travel recommendations and even forms of security.
One of the advantages that shared accommodations have over hotels is the diversity of styles and configurations available. Hotels, on the other hand, tend to be monolithic in their designs, hoping to appeal to a broad range of guests with fairly generic accommodations. Boutique hotels have a definite style and attitude that a prospect either will or will not find appealing.
What if it were possible to offer guests something in between?
Vanja Bogicevic, a graduate fellow and lecturer on consumer sciences in the Department of Human Sciences at Ohio State University, has conducted a number of studies on consumer preferences in hospitality, travel and retail environments.
An award-winning 2014 study done when she was a graduate student was recently published in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management. The research examined how age and gender affect hotel guests' preferences and thus their decision to stay at a particular property.
Bogicevic found that younger guests have a definite preference for contemporary style surroundings, whereas older guests were equally satisfied with either traditional or contemporary styles. Similarly, men were choosier about room colors, eschewing those they deemed too feminine. Women, however, were comfortable with feminine, masculine or neutral color schemes.
In an interview, Bogicevic, who also holds a degree in architecture, states that hotels might think more about the colors and other design elements they select to attract particular kinds of guests. The fact that some guests are more comfortable with certain types of surroundings than others suggests that hotels could use a certain type of design that could then be customized to appeal to those guests who have more definite preferences.
For instance, guests could select the color and style of room accessories on the hotel website, like bedding, artwork and even a few pieces of furniture. Lighting also could be customized. Observes Bogicevic, "If you present the opportunity to customize the details for a cost of, say, $20 more, I believe that many people would be willing to do it."
Another study, conducted by a team at Oklahoma State University and published last year in the International Journal of Economics and Business Administration investigated the effect spatial colors have on guests' perceptions of hotel rooms.
It found that cultural background also can influence whether guests find a room pleasing or not. Persons from Eastern cultures, for instance, preferred colors that were less bright and less saturated. Overall, participants preferred blue rooms to red rooms, as they found them more relaxing.
According to a recent article in Building Design + Construction magazine, hotels are entering an era of "hyper-personalization," in which properties will cater more to guests' use of smart technologies to customize their experience. The studies cited above suggest that hotels may also want to explore design customization options as a way to attract and accommodate a wide range of guests and increase their level of satisfaction.
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