Eye on Hospitality: Hotels Scramble to Attract Millennial Guests

Eye on Hospitality: Hotels Scramble to Attract Millennial Guests

By Paul Schlienz

Millennials are the hospitality industry’s top marketing demographic. Everyone wants their business, and nowhere is this more obvious than in hotels.

Increasingly, signs are everywhere that lodging establishments are tailoring themselves to meet the unique and distinct sensibilities of this generation that was born roughly between 1981 and 2002.

According to research from Phocuswright, seven in 10 18- to 34-year-olds took at least one leisure trip in 2014. Although Millennials spend slightly less annually ($3,217) than older travelers ($3,381), they travel more on the spur-of-the-moment. In fact, nearly a quarter of Millennial travelers booked their last trip less than one week before departure.

Obviously, this is a generation that can’t be ignored.

So, what do Millennials want? When they travel, they want connections to local communities, unique experiences, convenience, technology, health consciousness and spontaneity.

To appeal to the Millennial demand for local connections, many hotels are starting to offer local and specialty foods, in their restaurants, in addition to providing guest mini-bars with locally sourced, artisan products.

“The trend is being driven by a new generation of Millennial Airbnb-savvy travelers who are looking for an authentic neighborhood experience rather than a formulaic cookie-cutter luxury stay,” said Adam Farmerie of design firm AvroKo.

One way to do this is for hotels to partner with top chefs in developing their on-site restaurants. Examples of the trend can be seen in Seattle, where restaurateur Josh Henderson opened Scout and Nest, the restaurant and bar at the Thompson, and the Four Seasons, which has partnered with local chef and restaurateur Ethan Stowell.

“This generation is bringing out a creative side in all who shape food and beverage programming because they seek a unique experience every time they enter the hotel,” said Shawn Hauver, managing director of New York’s Knickerbocker.

And the Millennial sensibility is starting to be seen in many other aspects of hotels. For example, Aloft, Starwood Hotels’ boutique brand, features free Wi-Fi, areas for working in the bar or by the pool, and robotic bellhops that appeal to tech-savvy Millennials.

“We see Millennial travelers more as explorers than tourists,” said Brian McGuinness, global brand leader at Starwood’s Specialty Select Brands. “Our Aloft hotels are specifically designed with them in mind.”

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