What appeals to you when you see a hotel room? Your preferences may say as much about your gender and age as your driver’s license, according to a new study from the College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manitee.
Do you long to spend the night in the company of Barcelona chairs and sleek midcentury lamps? You’re probably 45 years old or younger. Would you be equally happy in a room furnished with woods and florals as one awash in stainless steel and solid colors? It’s likely you were born before 1969.
As for color, if the pink and blue rooms look inviting, chances are you’re female. But if you’re vehement about spending the night in the masculine-hued blue rooms, you’re probably a man.
Surprised by the ferocity of that last one? So was Vanja Bogicevic, the USF graduate student who put together the study and won an award for her findings at a conference at the University of Houston earlier this year. “I was expecting the women to be pickier,” she says.
The strong preference for contemporary décor among younger travelers, in contrast, was much as she expected. “The older generation didn’t seem to care nearly as much about room design as the younger,” says Bogicevic, who holds masters and undergraduate degrees in architecture and urban planning from University of Novi Sad in her native Serbia.
Surprises aside, the study fuels the growing perception that hotels should think hard about choosing guestroom colors and styles of decor as a way to reach specific audiences and boost sales. “Color is a part of marketing,” Bogicevic says.
In a phone chat, she said hotels have no shortage of options for finding ways to tweak color and design choices, especially since most hotels renovate on seven-year cycles. One idea is to customize colors and room details for each guest. The hotel would start with a neutral room. But guests could select the color and style of accessories on the hotel website, like bedding, artwork and even a few pieces of furniture. “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, especially if they’re going to be spending a lot of time in the room,” she says.
Lighting is another room enhancement ripe for customization — and for a future study. Strides in lighting technology indicate we’ll likely see the day when the colors on the wall can be changed to whatever hue a guest wants.
To conduct her research, Bogicevic created four virtual rooms, each with a king-size bed and layout patterned after the Sarasota Ritz Carlton, and elicited responses from a control group of men and women in a range of ages. Based on research that pegged dark blue, brown and gray as masculine colors and orange, purple and pink as feminine (yellow and turquoise are deemed gender neutral), she devised two traditional rooms, one pink, one blue and a contemporary room in each color.
“You have to go to extremes to trigger people’s responses,” she says, noting that the pink was more intense than you’re likely to see in a hotel, a reason, perhaps, for those fervid reactions from the men. “I think what happened is the men saw the pink room and thought, ‘Oh my God, that looks like Granny’s house,'” she says.
In short, there’s more research to be done. Next time Bogicevic would like to create rooms using less polarized combinations of colors. Let’s see how Mars and Venus react to that.