Millennials desire experiences—over things. Travel and adventure are priorities for this generation. But Millennials aren’t traveling the same way, on the same timeline, with the same technology, or with the same expectations as their parents.
Why is the Millennial market important to hotels?
According to the Pew Research Center, the Millennial generation— born between 1981 and 1996—is 71 million strong. That makes them the largest living generation. Hotels that want to stay relevant to this enormous group of adults will need to leverage the trends vital to them.
Don’t fall behind—keep your hotel portfolio up-to-date for the Gen Y wave by understanding Millennials and the experiences that turn them into loyal customers. Read on for a rundown of the top 8 strategies for targeting Gen Y, with tips for experiential services they’ll love.
1. Modernize your website and go mobile
Put everything—everything—online. From researching hotels to booking a room to check in to ordering room service: Millennials are looking for opportunities to do it all online. Accustomed to conversing with AI, they’ll also appreciate the option of a chatbot to guide them through the reservation process.
Remember that Millennials are event planners now, too. While phone calls and in-person meetings are still important for group bookings, give as many details as possible online about event spaces, parameters, A/V setup, F&B options, etc. Have a way to request more information online, and give potential customers the option to choose whether they would prefer outreach via email, text, or phone call.
Think beyond the computer display, as well—a lot of Millennial travel activity is researched and scheduled through mobile devices. With 46 percent of Millennials booking travel through a smartphone or tablet, a site that’s hard to use on mobile is a non-starter for this generation. Don’t lose customers right off the bat: Make certain your mobile site is easy to navigate.
Consider developing a hotel app, even. Millennials interact via text and place food orders on mobile; they’ll value an app that lets them chat with a concierge or order room service. (Or, even order a burger while en route to the hotel—something any weary traveler or family can appreciate.)
Mobile check-in and check-out, and room key options are also popular with this group. No more waiting in line upon arriving and leaving the hotel, and no triple-checking for the hotel key card, when the phone IS the key.
Finally, for this set of travelers, Wi-Fi is not considered an add-on service or a perk. It’s more like water for the shower—if it’s not fast and easy to access, they will spend their hotel dollars elsewhere. Powerful Wi-Fi supports conference experiences Millennial attendees appreciate, such as video Q&As and live social media feeds with event hashtags (free exposure for your venue, so make your visuals Instagrammable!).
2. Keep limited-frills properties in the portfolio
According to Bankrate, Millennials are averaging $1,943 annually on travel, while older generations average $2,665. Travel is highly popular with Millennials and Gen Z, but these generations are willing to spend less on hotel accommodations than Baby Boomers. At least at this point in Millennials’ young- to middle adulthoods, they prioritize travel experience and frequency over luxury.
Make sure that Millennials who want to spend their money on outside-hotel experiences know your budget-friendly hotel makes an excellent basecamp for their excursions. Provide helpful lobby materials for a variety of local culinary, artistic, cultural, outdoor, or niche offerings, and conduct staff training on the best options for groups, families, foodies, nature lovers, or whatever segments are common at your hotel. Solicit ideas from staff, as well!
3. Ride the trend of last-minute bookings
Spontaneity is up. As a group, Millennials are big on last-minute travel: In an MMGY survey, 49 percent reported taking a last-minute vacation in the last 12 months.
Gen Xers aren’t averse to a last-minute vacation, either: 30 percent of them said they had done so in the same survey. But while Gen Xers are the group most likely to vacation last-minute because of a schedule opening, Millennials lead the pack on citing ‘desire’ (50 percent) and ‘flash deals’ (30 percent) as deciding factors.
So, drive those last-minute bookings with flash sales. First, consider what kind of flash deal structure might work for your properties: Offered when reservations are below a certain level? Only on a specific room tier? Only in the off season, or on shoulder dates adjacent to the busy season? Then, consider what you want to highlight: Local experiences, like concerts or nightlife? Your gorgeous pool? The popularity of the destination? Decide what is likely to draw people to the properties in your portfolio, then grab enticing images to share in an email blast or social media posting.
4. Whenever possible, personalize!
Appealing to Millennials can seem like a paradox: This highly segmented market shares an expectation of personalized experiences and marketing. So, to make a sweeping generalization, this group expects that it will not be treated with sweeping generalizations!
Take full advantage of customer segmentation features in your CRM software. Offer deals and promotions based on individual’s past upgrades, such as a room with a view, a king-size bed, or a specific drink. Offer groups options likely to appeal to them. (A ‘yogurt and yoga’ workout-and-breakfast option for a wellness-focused trade show, for example.)
And good news: personalization is good business practice across the board. It keeps marketing communications and up-selling relevant—instead of annoying—to all generations.
5. Engage with the local community
Get local and authentic. Millennials are after more than a reprieve from the workaday world; they also want to experience cuisine, recreational opportunities, and cultural events they could not experience at home.
Actively look for ways to liaise with or host local happenings, festivals, events, or parties. Be the hotel of choice for groups coming in for these events from out of town, and welcome attendee groups with custom signage. Host a get-together before or after off-site events.
Be especially alert to opportunities in Millennial-favorite areas like food, nature, culture, and art. Train your staff so they can recommend breweries with chef-created bar food, mountain ziplines, kayaking, outdoor music festivals, art studio walking tours, and other similar activities. Because some Millennials will appreciate more traditional activities, ask event planners and guests what most interests them.
6. Pick a Millennial-friendly food strategy
For hotels that don’t offer full F&B, one common way to appeal to Millennials is to provide limited F&B within a lobby store or at certain busy hours of the day. Think, grab-and-go options, such as granola bars, yogurt, packets of nuts, or even ‘hike packs’ if there’s a popular nature trail near a property.
Hotels with a full F&B setup appeal to your Millennial guests by offering food experiences they won’t find elsewhere. Food is an area in which Millennials are ready to spend. According to Bankrate, on average Millennials spend $233 per month on restaurants, while older Americans spend an average of $182 per month—more than 20 percent less.
Offering local, authentic, and unique items is a great way to win some of those dollars. In addition, the most recent survey of Gen Y and Gen Z travelers from the WYSE Travel Confederation found that 37 percent were willing to pay more for food and beverage ‘experiences’. Tasting experiences like beer flights are popular. But consider expanding these beyond microbrews: A flight of local cheeses? A flight of house-made pickles? A dessert flight?
7. Get social media savvy
An astounding 97 percent of Millennials will post their travel experiences on social media—which then influences the travel choices of others. Almost 90 percent of Millennials on Facebook (and that, of course, is most Millennials) use the platform to inspire their travels.
According to Hotel Management, 73 percent of Millennials check a company’s social media before booking, and 33 percent say if a hotel had no social media presence, they wouldn’t book at all. Twitter is a popular platform for brands; it also exposes many users to new travel destinations. And as Instagram has exploded in popularity, an ‘Instagrammable’ vacation is key for many Millennials. Offer a signature or scenic backdrop for photos in or around your hotel. Or, offer a free drink at the bar for posting a selfie with a specific hashtag.
The Millennial market is big on travel, experiences, and technology. Meet this group of travelers where they are—and you’ll reap the rewards for your hotel portfolio.
Next, learn more about millennial engagement at your hotel’s events. Or up your social media game by matching the right content to the right social media channel, like these 10 hotel brands are doing.