The millennial generation is aging into a formidable juggernaut for the hospitality and tourism industry. Defined by Pew as individuals born between roughly 1981 and 1997, millennials globally comprise almost 2 billion people, making them the largest living generation.
Diverse and steeped in technology, this generation is aging into more secure jobs and more disposable income, and are therefore hotly sought by marketers. The issue? This generation is a lot different from those that came before them, like Generation X and the Baby Boomers. Less brand-loyal and more mobile, the millennial is often seen as prizing experiences over material things.
The hospitality industry has naturally seen an opportunity in this adventure-hungry audience and their tourism dollars. But it takes a decidedly different approach than wooing their parents or grandparents. What makes the millennial generation unique in terms of hospitality? From top to bottom, chains and boutique operations are redesigning the guest experience. Let’s take a look inside:
While the youngest millennials were ten when the iPhone was introduced, this generation aged into the workforce with information in the palms of their hands, just one click away. As such, they expect services to be as simple and seamless as the latest Apple product, and available at the touch of a button.
This has forced the hospitality industry to rethink their offerings at every level but none more so though than before the millennial customer has stepped onsite. Mobile and digital tools to organize, book and customize their experience are more than a “nice to have” for this segment, they are must haves. Catering to the millennial guests’ love of mobile messaging means bringing to concierge experience to Facebook messenger and Whatsapp.
Being able to respond to instant messages within minutes requires a different kind of staffing approach for chains like the Ritz-Carlton, which provides an app enables guests to order services and extras, or Best Western, who allows guests to self check in to some of their properties.
Hoteliers are also cognizant that millennial customers want to engage with their brands before, during and after their stay during social media and have invested more heavily in social media marketing, along with cultivating influencers who have proven key to winning the hearts and minds of their target customer groups.
Millennials are transforming travel and often in ways that forces executives to think out of the traditional hotel “box.” When your millennial customer is used to booking someone’s apartment via AirbnB, how do you tempt them back to #hotellife? For each hotel chain or property, the answer may be different but we are seeing a lot of experimentation in creating more socially connected experience.
Marriott is making a play to create a real-time digital-real world social experience with the Six Degrees app. Created by MIT’s Mobile Experience Lab, this app takes in information from guests (including LinkedIn info) and encourages them to interact in the hotel space and sign up for social activities based on shared interests like running or food.
The hostel, once the smelly province of the budget backpacker, is getting an upgrade, with new chains touting roof decks and communal game rooms. Millennials craving unusual accommodations and communal experiences see the fact that you’re sharing a room is a benefit of the hostel and not a downside.
So we see that in much the same way the retail environment is being reinvented, so too are hotels and cruises rethinking the kinds of environments they can offer their customers.
Millennial customers also want their travel experience to embody their values, and so we see travel brands looking to augment their cultural sensitivity and eco consciousness.
Holland America Cruises has introduced a slew of environmental initiatives that range from black water treatment system, supply chain innovations, and trained, on-board environmental officers. Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice touts solar panels and LED lighting throughout the ship.
In working with major hospitality firms to place executives in a number of marketing, operational and finance roles, we look for innovative and creative thinkers who are ready to fully embrace the millennial mindset. From weaving technology through the entire customer experience to creating Instagram-worthy settings, those who excel and reaching millennials are able harness the unique qualities of this generation.