Millennials are entering their prime traveling years.
The largest generation in the U.S. (25% of the country’s population), millennials (young adults born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s) also have purchasing power - by 2018, it’s estimated Millennials will drive 50% of purchase decisions.
So how can the travel and hospitality industries appeal to the Millennial guest?
By taking advantage of Millennials’ behaviors and preferences to drive innovation across the entire guest experience.
Millennials are a generation who have grown up in a technologically advanced world where traveling and communication go hand-in-hand and are easier than ever before.
Their travel behaviors and preferences reflect eight main themes: Local, Influential, Disloyal, Mobile, Adventurous, Social, Spontaneous, and Green.
Hotels that adopt these themes into their product, services and marketing are in the best position to appeal to the millennial set.
So how can hotels innovate their guest experience in a way to win over the millennial?
- Build a Space to Fit Today’s Needs
Sure, it is expensive and not everyone can, but when you have the opportunity, reinvest in your public spaces to encourage social and productive guests:
Mobile devices mean guests no longer have to sit at the hotel desk or visit the (increasingly vestigial) business center to do work or sit in the hotel room to watch TV. 85% of adults ages 18-29 own a smartphone, the highest of any U.S. demographic.
Change the hotel lobby to reflect this by making it a more social, work-friendly space, where guests can plug in and connect, both online and with each other.
The Ace Hotel in New York has perfected a lobby space where you can work hard and look good doing so.
- Change the Guest Room to reflect the advance of personal technology:
It used to be that when you went to a hotel, everything was better than the set up you had at home. Now, it’s increasingly the case that guests arriving at your hotel are accustomed to bigger televisions, faster Wi-Fi and more outlets. Hotels need to reinvent luxury by enabling the technological preferences of their guests.
- Allow for Guests’ Self-Expression and Individuality in your hotel’s design, offerings and amenities:
Personality, authenticity and options in hotel design and offerings carries more weight for the Millennial set than the star ratings of yore. This generation cares more about amenities and the subtle look and feel of your hotel than they do about the consistent, predictable experiences perfected by brands like the Four Seasons and Marriott. Many boutiques are in a better position to capitalize on this generation’s preferences by recognizing it’s not about the hotel, it’s about the guest, and every guest is unique.
- Change up the Communication Options and give your guests options beyond the in-room phone:
Millennials’ desire to control their experiences and environment extends to their communication. Hotels should meet their guests where they are, which is increasingly on mobile. Hotels should think beyond the hotel room phone (indeed, phone calls are universally in decline) and give their guests the option to tweet, text and communicate in-app with the front desk.
- Control the Content by being proactive about reviews and online conversation:
Just as Millennials are more influenced by your hotel’s amenities, design and offerings than traditional rating systems, they put more stock into reviews than anything else. You can stay ahead of the conversation by asking your guests for reviews, showcasing them on your site and being as responsive to comments, questions and possible criticisms as possible. Quick, personalized responses to negative feedback is often all that’s needed to turn the disgruntled into fans for life, as well as positively influence those using reviews to make a decision about your property.
So too, mobile and text engagement tools allow hotels to connect with guests and privately resolve issues before they reach social media or TripAdvisor. Real-time communication tools empower staff to deliver timely solutions before issues escalate, as well as prompt guests for reviews after delightful experiences.
Hotel brands recognize these changing preferences of their guests and beginning to adapt and innovate accordingly. Major chains, which could have resisted change, are instead proactively embracing these shifting values (Local, Influential, Disloyal, Mobile, Adventurous, Social, Spontaneous, and Green) and unveiling new projects like Cordis by Langham, Moxy by Marriott, and Canopy by Hilton. Indeed, an entire class of hotels - independents - is gaining strength based on their appeal to Millennials both now and in the future.
As the OTAs increasingly encroach on hotel revenue and the pressures of the sharing economy mount, there’s never been a better time to innovate on your guest experience to appeal to the Millennial traveler. While some of these adaptations require big budgets (lobby and guest room redesigns, for example), some innovations can be achieved with far less. Introducing mobile communication options for guests and staff costs far less than you might expect, while curating and controlling your online presence can be achieved for nothing at all.
Want more insights as to how hotels can innovate on the guest experience by appealing to the preferences of the millennial set? Review our presentation from Travel + SocialGood’s second annual Academy Day or reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More great reads on designing for the Millennial: