Main­stream ho­tels with a mil­len­nial mind-set

Ameni­ties aimed at younger pa­trons mean to at­tract all

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - BY KATE SIL­VER travel@wash­post.com Sil­ver is a writer based in Chicago. Find her on Twit­ter: @K8Sil­ver.

Ho­tels, they are a’changin’, as hote­liers de­velop prop­er­ties that cater to the younger, tech-savvy gen­er­a­tions.

New and older brands are mak­ing moves to do away with the beige, in­ter­act via apps, dou­ble as co-work­ing and so­cial spa­ces, and score share­able selfie love along the way. But don’t call them “mil­len­nial ho­tels.” While many of the perks and ameni­ties are in­spired by re­search on the group, the prop­er­ties in­cluded be­low — Hy­att Cen­tric, Radis­son RED, Ho­tel EMC2 and Res­i­dence Inn by Mar­riott — aim to ap­peal to guests of all ages.

Scott Green­berg, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Smasho­tels, a hos­pi­tal­ity man­age­ment com­pany near Chicago — and also the owner and founder of Ho­tel EMC2, a smart, new Chicago ho­tel with an art-and-sci­ence theme in Mar­riott’s Autograph Col­lec­tion — says he knows that if he de­vel­ops a ho­tel that his three mil­len­nial-aged chil­dren will love, older gen­er­a­tions will fol­low.

“If we at­tract young peo­ple, old peo­ple will show up. But if you build a ho­tel for old peo­ple, young peo­ple never show up,” Green­berg says.

Rose An­der­son, vice pres­i­dent of global brand­ing and in­no­va­tion with Carl­son Rezi­dor Ho­tel Group, which owns Radis­son Red, says she is less in­ter­ested in res­onat­ing with a par­tic­u­lar gen­er­a­tion and more with a men­tal­ity.

“It’s not so much about the age; it’s more about the be­hav­iors that have been kind of pegged to the mil­len­ni­als: very so­cial, on­line, con­nected. We are very much tar­get­ing a mil­len­nial mind-set ver­sus a gen­er­a­tional au­di­ence,” An­der­son says.

Even long-stand­ing brands such as Res­i­dence Inn are putting re­search into un­cov­er­ing what mil­len­ni­als want.

“You don’t want to be alien­at­ing some of your cus­tomers in or­der to ap­peal to some of your other cus­tomers,” says Diane Mayer, vice pres­i­dent and global brand man­ager of Res­i­dence Inn, TownePlace Suites, Protea and Mar­riott Ex­ec­u­tive Apart­ments. “So, if you can find things that maybe are mil­len­nia- driven but that have uni­ver­sal ap­peal, that’s the holy grail.”

While ameni­ties such as free WiFi and stel­lar bar pro­grams are prac­ti­cally a given now in ho­tels look­ing to woo younger au­di­ences, here are some other trends to look for on your next get­away (mil­len­nial-driven or not).

As­pir­ing to be Instagram-wor­thy: There was a time when beige ruled the roost and ho­tel room de­sign was rather #mil­que­toast. Many ho­tel de­vel­op­ers now know that a piece of cool art doesn’t just have the po­ten­tial to ap­peal to a guest, it has the po­ten­tial to ap­peal to ev­ery­one who fol­lows that guest on so­cial me­dia.

“From a de­sign and art stand­point, we’ve got a lot of very bold art that cre­ates back­drops for peo­ple to take self­ies and share on­line,” says An­der­son, of Radis­son RED, which has lo­ca­tions in Min­neapo­lis and Brus­sels, as well as Cape Town, South Africa, and Camp­inas, Brazil.

The col­or­ful and cre­ative de­sign of Ho­tel EMC2 ban­ishes bland and is ir­re­sistibly share­able. The ho­tel com­mits deeply to its art-and-sci­ence theme, and is punc­tu­ated with an­tique books, vin­tage mi­cro­scopes and nods to great sci­en­tific and artis­tic minds, such as Albert Ein­stein (the res­tau­rant is named the Albert) and Leonardo da Vinci (“one of the pa­tron saints of the ho­tel,” Green­berg says). In the rooms, dra­matic and pho­to­genic show­ers — which are in­spired by lab­o­ra­to­ries of the 1920s — are a cen­ter­piece, and are translu­cent on three sides (with an op­tional cur­tain), while mir­rors have an in­fin­ity ef­fect and beg for self­ies.

Con­nect­ing guests with lo­cal fa­vorites: At Hy­att Cen­tric — which is tar­get­ing the mil­len­nial-minded trav­eler and has 15 lo­ca­tions, with plans to nearly dou­ble that num­ber glob­ally by 2019 — staffers are en­cour­aged to share their fa­vorite lo­cal spots with guests.

“It’s no longer just the job of the concierge to give you rec­om­men­da­tions,” says San­dra Cor­dova Micek, Hy­att’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent of global brands. “Our col­leagues are con­stantly be­ing asked what their hid­den gems are and what they would rec­om­mend.”

In ad­di­tion, the ho­tel places orig­i­nal lo­cal guides in rooms (and pub­lishes them on the ho­tel’s web­site). It also high­lights lo­cal art and food; some prop­er­ties of­fer area tours. At Chicago’s Mag­nif­i­cent Mile lo­ca­tion, for ex­am­ple, guests are in­vited on neigh­bor­hood and brew­ery tours, and a ho­tel man­ager leads guests on morn­ing runs.

Res­i­dence Inn part­nered with Un­der Ar­mour Con­nected Fit­ness to of­fer its ex­tended-stay guests at more than 700 prop­er­ties at least one run­ning map, via the app MapMyFit­ness. “A lot of peo­ple like to run or walk be­cause it helps them be in the place they are, even if they don’t get to be a tourist,” Mayer says.

On the so­cial side, Res­i­dence Inn prop­er­ties host events three nights a week, dubbed the Res­i­dence Inn Mix, which in­clude vis­its from lo­cal food trucks; gath­er­ings with ap­pe­tiz­ers, desserts and premium beer (Goose Is­land, Stella Ar­tois, Leffe, Shock Top and some lo­cal of­fer­ings, de­pend­ing on lo­ca­tion); bar­be­cues; and tast­ing and ed­u­ca­tional events that bring in chefs from lo­cal restau­rants. Mayer says that those of­fer­ings were in­spired by re­search Res­i­dence Inn con­ducted that found that mil­len­ni­als trav­el­ing for busi­ness were look­ing for fun, so­cial events that con­nected them to the city where they were stay­ing.

Re­vamp­ing room ser­vice — and menus: Some ho­tels are mov­ing away from the stodgy, old room ser­vice trays with sil­ver domes. Hy­att Cen­tric tai­lors its room ser­vice to on-the-go guests look­ing to ex­plore the city, Cor­dova Micek says.

“We’re sort of turn­ing room ser­vice on its ear and think­ing about it as res­tau­rant-to-go de­liv­ery. So, it’s not room ser­vice on the big sil­ver tray rolling out. It’s ac­tu­ally hav­ing your food de­liv­ered in en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly pack­ag­ing that comes in a pa­per bag that you can take with you if you’re go­ing to run around and see the city,” she says.

At Radis­son RED, guests can or­der grab-and-go food (such as a Bel­gian waf­fle with mac and cheese, and fried chicken) from on-site res­tau­rant OUIBar + KTCHN us­ing the RED app, then take it back to their room or out on the town.

At Ho­tel EMC2, mul­ti­ple ve­gan op­tions are avail­able on the menu. Green­berg says those meat-free op­tions were in­spired by his mil­len­nial daugh­ter.

“I think back to my daugh­ter, who was raised on salami and eggs, ham­burg­ers and T-bone steaks, and she comes home on va­ca­tion and marches off to the gro­cery store to get her ve­gan in­gre­di­ents,” he says.

Chang­ing the form and func­tion of lob­bies: In th­ese days of lap­tops and mo­bile of­fices, peo­ple like to work alone — to­gether. Ho­tel lob­bies are ac­com­mo­dat­ing that, of­fer­ing lots of work spa­ces — as well as plugs and free WiFi — with easy ac­cess to snacks, caf­feine and cock­tails. At the Hy­att Cen­tric on Mag­nif­i­cent Mile, for ex­am­ple, the lobby is the kind of place where you could spend days on end. It’s filled with play­ful lo­cal art, and in­cludes a li­brary and dozens of com­fort­able chairs and ta­bles, all of which spill into the bar, which spills into the res­tau­rant, with no walls or bar­ri­ers sep­a­rat­ing the spa­ces.

Gone is the tra­di­tional lobby at Radis­son RED: The brand ban­ished the front desk.

“It’s cre­at­ing this im­me­di­ate bar­rier be­tween you and the guests, and I think the younger au­di­ences are a lot more in­for­mal by na­ture,” An­der­son says. At the Min­neapo­lis lo­ca­tion, guests can check in us­ing the app on their phone, then use the phone as the key to get into the room. Should some­one need help with check­ing in, An­der­son says, staffers are walk­ing around with iPads in hand.

Adopt­ing a high-tech — or all-tech — ap­proach: That Radis­son RED app doesn’t just give you ac­cess to your room — it’s your key to com­mu­ni­ca­tion at the ho­tel. It’s pos­si­ble to spend a night, or week, there and not phys­i­cally talk to any­one but still man­age to or­der food at the on-site res­tau­rant, call a cab, check in, check out, re­quest more tow­els and even chat with other guests. “You want things when you want it and how you want it. The app al­lows them to con­trol this and do ev­ery­thing,” An­der­son says.

Across many brands, in-room tech­nol­ogy is mak­ing stays more per­son­al­ized and con­ve­nient. At Res­i­dence Inn, Radis­son RED, Hy­att Cen­tric and Ho­tel EMC2, guests can stream Net­flix (and in some cases other ac­counts) onto the television. Ho­tel EMC2 guests can also con­trol the light­ing and ther­mo­stat us­ing the TV re­mote con­trol, and each room has an Ama­zon Echo unit that streams mu­sic, reads the weather re­port, looks up info on the Web or does other tasks via voice com­mand.

At Ho­tel EMC2, two ro­bots, Leo and Cleo, bleep and bloop up the el­e­va­tor and down the hall­way to de­liver bot­tles of wa­ter, tooth­brushes and ex­tra linens to rooms, upon re­quest.

Pri­or­i­tiz­ing so­cial con­scious­ness: At Radis­son RED, you won’t find any pa­per — ex­cept toi­let pa­per — in the rooms.

“We have pa­per­less rooms and we’re very proud of that,” says An­der­son, adding that mil­len­ni­als are very eco-con­scious as a gen­er­a­tion, and the ho­tel em­braces that.

When Green­berg came up with the Ho­tel EMC2 theme, he wanted to in­spire di­a­logue about art and sci­ence. (There’s even a res­i­dent sci­en­tist at the ho­tel.) He also wanted to make a dif­fer­ence. The ho­tel pro­vides fi­nan­cial sup­port from di­rect book­ings to Project Syncere (an acro­nym for sup­port­ing youth’s needs with core en­gi­neer­ing re­search ex­per­i­ments), which helps pave a path for stu­dents in un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties to pur­sue sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math ca­reers.

“Mil­len­ni­als want to feel like there’s some­thing of value, that some­body cares about some­thing and that their money is go­ing to serve the greater good,” Green­berg says.

COUR­TESY OF HO­TEL EMC2

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP: The Albert, the res­tau­rant at Chicago’s Ho­tel EMC2 res­tau­rant, is full of an­tique books, mi­cro­scopes and art; at Radis­son RED, you won't find any pa­per in the rooms — ex­cept for toi­let pa­per; Res­i­dence Inn prop­er­ties host events with food truck vis­its, ap­pe­tiz­ers, desserts and premium beers.

COUR­TESY OF RES­I­DENCE INN

COUR­TESY OF RADIS­SON RED

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