The new decision-makers

As a hospitality designer, we are often given detailed briefs on creating sophisticated and elegant spaces for guests. We spend hours discussing the design direction, crafting concepts and creating unique experiences for well-traveled, discerning guests, but very seldom does our perspective shift to the most precious guests of all: kids.

Little princelings and princesses — as they are often called in China — may take up the least amount of physical space, but their opinion is an important voice when it comes to guest satisfaction. In parts of Asia and particularly in the one-child nation of Mainland China, these little royals have incredible bargaining power and passive influence when it comes to the family unit. And with Chinese tourists spending more than US$165 billion last year alone (which is almost 50% more than U.S. tourists), designers are starting to take notice.

Traditionally, the most thoughtful kids programs exist in resorts and holiday destinations, where the needs of families with children are considered from the very early stages of design. For example, play areas and swimming pool facilities, recreation zones and F&B outlets are all designed with the needs of younger guests in mind.

But in spite of all this, we cannot ignore the leverage the younger generation has over their newly wealthy parents in China. I am wondering what this means for the future of hospitality, not only in China, but globally. After all, Chinese tourists are set to represent one-fifth of global tourism spending in the next decade.

To be honest, decades of experience in hospitality design have helped us tackle the most complicated operational requirements and out-of-the-box F&B concepts, but I find myself a complete layman when it comes to designing a space for a target audience younger than 10 years old. I just feel uncertain if I can impress them enough to love our creation.

Therefore, I truly have the highest respect for toy designers and animators. They can apply their lifetime of professional knowledge to create something that will appeal to a miniature audience. Cheers to Josh Baskin (Tom Hanks’ name in the “Big” movie)!