With the new demographic of Millennials starting to influence the market with increasing spending power, hotels are wondering how to evolve and cater to this new audience. I can't speak for all Millennials, but as a part of this group, I have some thoughts on how to engage this next generation of guests.
Hotels should be authentic to their destination, rather than provide the same product in every location. Millennials want to feel connected to their environment; they want to be part of something bigger in their search for purpose. Some luxury brands really have to work to catch the eye of a Millennial, because some might perceive them as "stuffy" or a brand their parents would find appealing (which, obviously, we must rebel against). One of the brands I have seen excel in this area is Andaz, promoting themselves as "cultural insiders," "unexpectedly localized" and "eclectic." Their logo is the first promise of a creative brand, via alternating fonts and colors. One of their mottos is "arrive a visitor, depart a local." The brand realizes that the decision to travel is not just about the hotel: It is about the destination and the distinct experiences available.
Millennials want you to enrich their lives. It's more than the number of room amenities or fancy shampoo and slippers they will be receiving. They want to walk away changed. What experiences can a hotel offer that they cannot plan on their own? And it needs to be more than lei-making for an hour in front of the pool bar. Ojai Valley Inn & Spa does a really great job with unique enrichment experiences offered at their Artist's Cottage & Apothecary.
Free Wi-Fi and food to go
It shouldn't even be a question: Wi-Fi should be free. An even better experience would be a relaxed lounge or Starbucks-type atmosphere where we can plug in and relax after traveling. Millennials are always on the go and can't afford the time or expense of table-service restaurants for every meal. To-go food options are perfect for their lifestyle. If you don't want your Millennial guests walking to the nearby Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, you need flexible meal outlets on property. These features are especially desirable for business travel hotels.
Millennials have had access to the Internet for so long, they can't remember what life is like without it. With so much information at their fingertips, they like to do a lot of research online before making decisions. We've had so many marketing promotions thrown at us, we are the generation of "best deals" and will stop at nothing to make sure we're savvy shoppers. We will scout out any and all feedback on the web on at least page 1-2 of the Google search engine, typically on TripAdvisor.com and Expedia.com. We have no problem endlessly scrolling to find out anything and everything to expect. It is very important for hotels to have good online ratings.
Millennials look to social media and real-time feedback to see what others are saying about different hotels. If a hotel doesn't have a Twitter or Facebook page, I assume they don't have a solid brand. It's almost as bad as not having a website. I follow Four Seasons, Starwood, Fairmont, Hilton and others that all seem to do a great job with their social media outlets. Hotel brands looking to stand out with social media should focus on image-based content to show what's going on at the property and what unique experiences are being offered that a traveler can't get anywhere else. Following are some brands that I think are doing a great job marketing to Millennials (including my new favorite, Faena, with two properties, one in Miami Beach and one in Buenos Aires, Argentina):
Kelly Parisi is a solutions development manager at Dallas-based meeting and incentive firm Spear One (spearone.com)