Lifestyle hotels may tick all the boxes for millennial travellers but they’re not the only generation drawn to their mix of contemporary design, nods to local culture and good wifi connections.
In recent years, they’ve become an increasingly popular choice among travellers across all age groups – by combining the personalised touches and high-quality service of a boutique hotel with the convenience and reliability of big hotel chains – while operating at a premium price point.
As lifestyle brands such as Indigo by the InterContinental Hotels Group, Aloft, Moxy and W under Marriott, as well as Andaz by Hyatt pop up across the globe, they find that Baby Boomers – people in their mid-50s to early 70s – make up a growing number of their guests.
“With so much attention on how the millennial traveller has shaped travel, it’s easy to associate the rise of lifestyle hotels in the last two decades with the generation’s coming of age and spending power,” says Tom Sawayanagi, Senior Managing Director, Head of Japan JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group.
“While there is no hard data just yet, we’re hearing a lot from lifestyle hotel operators and brands that they see a trend of older Generation X and Baby Boomers guests staying with them.”
Hotels such as W have hosted large-scale events and conferences for major corporations which attract audiences through from Millennials to Baby Boomers. Even niche hotel groups, like Design Hotels, are targeting the Meetings Incentive Conferences and Events (MICE) market with the launch its Co-Lab MICE Edition to showcase how its hotels could create immersive experiences for professionals.
Hilton Group’s Canopy brand, which was launched three years ago, does not see age as a defining factor for guests, says Daniel Welk, vice president of Luxury and Lifestyle, Asia Pacific, Hilton.
“Existing lifestyle brands currently focus on either high-end design or low-end modernity with limited services, whereas Canopy by Hilton appeals to any traveller seeking a locally inspired experience, creating an ‘accessible lifestyle’ that is available to a much broader base than the traditional lifestyle concepts in the region,” he says.
Senior active travellers unite
The burgeoning popularity of lifestyle hotels also highlights a wider shift in senior travellers’ preferences and expectations.
A report by travel solutions provider Amadeus revealed that by 2020, there will be an estimated 775 million “Active Seniors” – those aged between 50 and 75 – worldwide. Similar to Millennials, these travellers are found to be “experience driven”, prefer “sight-doing” to sight-seeing and enjoy local, authentic interactions.
“Regardless of generation, travellers these days are savvier and are seeking a greater variety of choice,” says Sawayanagi. “They want a hotel they feel reflect some aspects of their lifestyle and personality.”
Sawayanagi explains that many older travellers also enjoy the relaxing, lively and communal atmosphere that lifestyle hotels offer at their signature lounge, eschewing the formal setting of a traditional upscale hotel.
“And at the end of the day, they still get to go back to an exclusive space in their hotel rooms – it’s similar to the experience of flying business class after relaxing at a large airport lounge,” he adds.
Better use of real estate
The strategic positioning of lifestyle hotels in prime locations, alongside their relatively affordable rates, have also helped to draw in older travellers.
“Lifestyle hotels are more streamlined and efficient – they don’t tend to have large banquet spaces or numerous on-site restaurants, which are volatile sources of revenue,” says Sawayanagi. “That not only makes them more economical for hotel owners, but price points for guests are also lower as hotels are not able to charge a premium unless they’re a luxury lifestyle brand.”
Guests rooms may also be smaller, although travellers are willing to make this trade-off for convenience to local attractions.
“Having conducted extensive research on our guests, we know they prefer a travel environment that allows for authentic experiences. We have experts we call “Enthusiasts” recommending local favourites and unique hole-in-the-wall gems, or setting up of special gourmet experiences and delivering customized services,” says Welk.
Striking a balance
Nevertheless, there are bound to be differences in how Millennials and Baby Boomers travel, such as their adoption of technology.
“Lifestyle brands should be careful about introducing new-age technology all at once, as the older generation might take some time to familiarise themselves with these digital innovations,” says Sawayanagi. “On top of incorporating solutions such as a one-stop phone application, we must be mindful to still provide alternatives, such as remote controls and conventional switches, for guests who may not be as tech-savvy.”
As lifestyle brands continue to take centre-stage as an appealing option for affluent travellers, they must continue to strike a balance between pursuing what is new and trendy, with what travellers are after.
After all, eye-catching design and local knowledge on tap is something that appeals to affluent travellers of all ages.