Catering to millennials


By Bharat (Bruce) Patel, AAHOA Chairman (2016-2017)

Say what you will about Millennials. Call them tech-dependent (as Gen-Y expert and author Jason Dorsey has) or even cheap (they prefer “cost-conscious”). According to USA Today, in less than 10 years, they’ll make up 75 percent of the American workforce – a reality that has the hotel industry doing whatever it takes to call them customers.

“[Millennials] are becoming the earners, the spenders, the travelers, and … the workers,” Marriott’s Tina Edmundson has noted.

Marriott itself has introduced Millennial-focused Moxy Hotels and AC Hotels, while Best Western, Hyatt, Hilton, Carlson and Trump Hotels have also unveiled moderately priced, experience-oriented brands intended to cater to Millennial tastes (Vib, Hyatt Centric, Canopy, Red and the just-debuted Scion, respectively). They offer everything Millennials claim to want, including open, inviting spaces that encourage socializing, “localized” decor, and mobile everything.

The problem, as online travel-industry intelligence platform Skift reports, is that Millennials are “the least loyal, most emotional, and least satisfied guests compared to all other generations.”

In other words, Millennials want a unique and totally seamless experience – and they want it right now. Here’s how you can give it to them.

Recognize that technology rules. Fast, free WiFi throughout the property – and especially in common areas – is a given. Millennials look for hotels that take it a step further by offering fully automated check-in and check-out, eliminating the need for face-to-face interactions, and personalizable customer service at the touch of a button (or launch of an app). They aren’t impressed by by-name greetings or friendly smiles, as did their aging counterparts, but by instant, self-servable gratification.

Showcase your personality. Vibrant colors, local artwork and offbeat architecture will catch a Millennial’s eye much more effectively than a competitively priced but traditional-looking hotel. For example, Radisson Red, a Carlson Rezidor brand, commissions artwork from area artists for every location to inject a more local feel to social spaces. AdWeek reports that every 21C Museum Hotels location “features a contemporary art museum on the first floor, and [is]built in restored historic spaces.”

Keep prices down. For now, Millennials’ spending power lags behind that of Gen X and the Baby Boomers – but for the experience Millennials want, you don’t have to break the bank. Automated guest service reduces the need for paid staff, for example, and Millennials simply don’t want or need a sophisticated on-site restaurant. They are similarly unlikely to notice or care about thread count or wood type. Skimp on the physical and focus on intangibles, like ambiance, to maintain wallet-friendly rates.

Millennials’ combination of big expectations and early career incomes are forcing the hospitality industry to rethink what “budget hotel” really means – creating an enormous (and perhaps even unprecedented) opportunity for today’s hotelier. With the most travel-loving generation in history set to spend $1.4 trillion annually by 2020, it’s an opportunity that every hotelier should seize.


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