July 17 2018

How Millennials Are Influencing Change In The Hospitality Industry

Millennials are the most powerful and influential consumer group that we have ever experienced.

Each generation has an impact on society and millennials seem to be an unstoppable force. Poised to reshape the economy, millennials are influencing changes in industries across the board and are forcing companies to change how they do business.

So Who are the Millennials?

The Millennial generation—according to demographers at Pew Research Center, are those born between roughly 1981 and 1997. They account for 27% of the global population or about 2 billion people making them the largest living generation by population size. Approximately 83 million of these millennials live in US, not only representing more than one quarter of the nation’s population, but also the most diverse generation in U.S. history.

Raised in a technologically advanced era, millennials are currently in their young adulthood (between 20 and 37 years of age). They are fast becoming the world’s most important generational cohort for consumer spending growth, sourcing of employees, and overall economic prospects. By 2020, they will account for 50% of the workforce globally and according to analysts at Bernstein, they are poised to have more spending power than baby boomers – in many ways, they are the most powerful and influential consumer group that we have ever experienced.

A Constant Demand for Technology

Millennials have grown up in a time of rapid change; they have come of age during a time of technological change, globalization and economic disruption giving them a set of priorities and expectations sharply different than their parents generations. They’re also the first generation of digital natives. Their expectations of technology are unforgiving; they are connected 24/7 and are capable of managing an array of applications with the ease, actively seek out ways to maximize the efficiency of their time. Their affinity for technology not only influences and shapes how they shop, travel, work etc. but over the past decade, through their sheer size, multiple industries have been impacted and affected by their ubiquitous use of technology.

When it comes to travelling and hotel stays, millennials are keen to use technology to make their lives easier and their travel experience more seamless. Millennial guests are both self-sufficient and tech-savvy and unsurprisingly have high expectations in discovery, payments and mobile experience prior to and during their stay. They are demanding more and better technology in order for their hotel stay to be a good one.

Hotels have acknowledged millennials need to use their phones and many have begun responding to these trends by embrace newer platforms and technology choices in order to build better relationships with their millennial guests. For example The W Hotel group lets tech-savvy guests unlock their rooms in some of their hotels with an Apple Watch or smartphone while Scandinavian hotel group HTL Hotels enables both check-in and room access through the smartphone. The Ritz-Carlton app enables guests to order extra towels or toiletries, luggage pickup or housekeeping services directly from their mobile. The Conrad Concierge app allows guests to choose their rooms prior to checking in and order room service during their stay and Best Western’s new Vib hotel chain even offers automated check-in and a virtual concierge service, while Sheraton Frankfurt Airport hotel has even implemented WhatsApp to communicate with guests. WhatsApp enquiries have included pricing information, booking enquiries, lost property enquiries, as well as travel questions and the hotel has implemented a successful five minute turnaround time to all Whatsapp enquiries.

Hotels like Yotel in New York, have created even more diverse methods to attract Generation Y. They designed a tech savvy space for their guests to live smarter. Not only were they one of the first hotels in the world to obtain a robot, (called Yobot) that takes your luggage before and after your check in and stores it in a bin with a pin number but they also have check in kiosks, mobile key cards, and even smart motorized beds, in order to maximize floor space.

They Crave Meaningful Experiences

Millennials view ownership differently than previous generations did. They are willing to pay for truly valuable and one-of-a-kind experiences. They desire the new and novel, and crave the unexpected. They want meaningful travel experiences and demand the distinct and different.  A study commissioned by Eventbrite found that 78% of millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things. According to the Eventbrite study, the benefits of opting for experiences is deeply personal. Eight in ten Millennials said experiences help shape their identity and create lifelong experiences. 69% said their experiences make them feel more connected to their communities, other people, and the world – essentially, they’re investing in themselves. “The growing importance of experiences is true across the board…millennials could be said to be the first true digital natives and what technology has allowed them to do is commoditize those experiences. The ability to document, upload and share further enhances the value of experiences,” says Matt Boffey, Founder of Innovation Consultancy London Strategy Unit.

Such demand for new, unique and “experiential travel” is driving hoteliers to reconstruct, and develop their product offering to be more personalized, immersive, adventurous and more attuned to local culture so as to inspire and resonate on a deeper emotional level.

A prime example is the trendy boutique hotel group, citizenM, which has properties in Amsterdam, Glasgow, London, New York, Paris and Rotterdam. The brand denounces now-defunct amenities such as trouser presses, bellboys and, in their words, “stupid pillow chocolates.” Even as a chain, citizenM works to give millennial travelers what they’re really looking for – a unique local experience. Similarly Zoku is another one of a growing number of distinctive properties worldwide that have moved away from the traditional hotel concept and instead allows guests design their stay their own way. “Zoku is a concept that begins and ends with the guest, from design to amenities to technology. Recognizing that today’s new and connected customer will take us ahead in our constant search for innovation within our concept,” says Hans Meyer, Co-founder and Managing Director of Zoku.

To remain competitive, some major, well established traditional hospitality brands have even gone so far as creating new hotel brands at attract millenials. Canopy by Hilton, Moxy by Marriott, Element by Starwood etc all were created with an experiential focus, along with the digital and social comforts craved by millennials. “We see millennial travellers more as explorers than tourists… Our Aloft hotels are specifically designed with them in mind,” says Brian McGuinness, Global Brand Leader, Starwood’s Specialty Select Brands. If that is not influential, I don’t know what is!

Millennials. They come with ideas of what they want and when they want it… and while they are only one generation, they should not be ignored. Their behaviour has the power to influence previous generations, that of baby boomers and Generation X as well. “Some of their activities and preferences are influencing the behaviour of a much bigger generation set…You have generations adopting Millennial behaviour,” says Guy Langford, Vice chairman & U.S. Leader of Travel, Hospitality & Leisure at Deloitte.

Business, companies, brands etc that listen to find opportunities among their evolving wants and adapt, will be best-positioned to earn consumer loyalty.