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How the Hotel Industry Is Wooing Millennials

Dec. 03, 2016
8 min read
How the Hotel Industry Is Wooing Millennials
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Millennials are the future.

Whether that seemingly inescapable statement fills you with hope or with dread, hotels are wising up quickly by bowing down to this new generation of tech-savvy, minimalist travelers born between 1980 and 2000. After all, they make up almost one third of our population and, at 80 million strong, are the largest generation of Americans to date. According to an Expedia study, people ages 30 and under also travel more than those between the ages of 30 to 65 for both business and leisure.

The study also concluded that millennials travel differently than their older counterparts. They're more likely to take part in loyalty programs, book travel on smartphones or tablets, seek travel inspiration from social media and then document their trips on these platforms. "In many ways, millennials are tastemakers for the broader culture," Marriott's Chief Discipline Leader Wolfgang Lindlbauer said in a recent interview with Fast Company. "Everybody wants to contribute to sustainability and local artisans, but the millennials are the ones driving this change."

Whether or not you call yourself a member of this generation of travelers, you can still take advantage of the hotel world's focus on their needs to travel cheaper, better and with less hassle — even if you're not a millennial, you can still travel like one. Here are several ways the hotel industry is changing, catering more and more to this particular crowd.

Adding Smarter, Tech-Savvy Tools

Newsflash: Millennials are connected 24/7, and hotels are realizing that offering services accessible by smartphone is the way to go. For example, several hotels like Starwood and Marriott have apps that'll give you special perks like keyless entry, as well as check-in and check-out options.

Many hotel brands now have apps that offer things like keyless entry. Photo courtesy of Marriott.
Many hotel brands now have apps that offer conveniences like keyless entry. Image courtesy of Marriott.

Marriott offers a variety of customer service apps, the newest one allowing reward members to chat with associates about reservations and any special requests or needs before they arrive. Digital concierges are also a new perk at many hotels, helping guests get dinner reservations or plan the sights they'll see, all from their smartphones. Many Starwood hotels even offer a robotic butler, which responds to guest requests via app — it can also be used to request and deliver forgotten items like toothbrushes. Ritz-Carlton's app allows you to view specific local suggestions from the hotel concierge, as well as a QR scanner that allows you to scan various codes around the hotels, giving you access to exclusive info and experiences.

You can even order room service at select Aloft properties using their emoji menu — different combinations of emojis will get you different room-service packages. Many Aloft properties also feature RoomCast, which allows guests to stream content from their smart devices to guest-room TVs.

You can order room service by Emoji at select Aloft properties. Photo courtesy of Aloft Hotels.
You can order room service by emoji at select Aloft properties. Image courtesy of Aloft Hotels.

It's not just about the apps. Being in a foreign city without roaming or data plans can be a millennial's worst nightmare. Some hotels, such as the Hyatt Hong Kong and the Wanderlust Hotel in Singapore (a Starwood property), offer guests complimentary local cell phones so they can stay connected. Many hotels have social media accounts or guest photo galleries, encouraging visitors to upload their memories and tag their whereabouts via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as a way of bolstering a sense of shared community. Sometimes these hotels even encourage their guests to use special hashtags for the occasion.

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Introducing Cool, Simple and Eco-Friendly Spaces

Millennials are especially clued into what's hot right now — they seek the sleek, minimalist and environmentally friendly. They prefer to travel on a budget, but will pay more for truly valuable and one-of-a-kind experiences. Previous generations wanted "familiarity, safety and comfort," Lindlbauer said, but this just isn't the case anymore with the younger set, who search for more local, sustainable experiences.

Hotels are responding by creating entire brands geared toward this demand. Marriott's Moxy Hotels are an affordable chain featuring photo booths, keyless entry and plenty of spots in rooms and around the property where people can charge their electronic devices. Instead of checking in at reception, or instance, you can check in at the bar.

The Moxy New Orleans has plenty of reasonably priced, healthy food options for a traveler on the go. Image courtesy of Moxy Hotels.

Radisson has launched its own millennial-friendly brand, Red, and plans to have 60 hotels open by 2020. These hotels have a large focus on bar and lounge areas, as well as personalized, a la carte extras like having the mini-bar in your room stocked with your favorite drinks, or your family photos flashing across the TV screen in your room.

Starwood's Aloft brand is wallet-friendly and eye-catching for millennials, who value design and color, while its Element brand offers peaceful, eco-friendly spaces. IHG's Hotel Indigo is one of the first hotels geared toward a younger set and has previously partnered with Uber on certain promotions.

The Aloft Bangkok is home to colorful hangout spaces. Image courtesy of Aloft Hotels.

Hotels are frantically competing with sites like Airbnb, which millennials love for its promise of unique, local lodging experiences. Hilton's Canopy brand aims to reflect the neighborhoods in which its properties are situated, featuring local art, design and cuisine, while Hyatt Centric touts itself as ideal for the traveler preferring a more local experience. Both brands also market themselves as being "hip" and "trendy."

A trendy eatery at the Canopy Hilton in Reykjavik, Iceland. Image courtesy of Canopy Hotels.
A trendy eatery at the Canopy Hilton in Reykjavik, Iceland. Image courtesy of Canopy Hotels.

Offering A Better Value

Whereas millennials typically tend to prefer mid-range to budget hotel options, they are willing to shell out if the experience is truly worth it. But their incomes don't always match those of older generations, so you'll notice that many of the concepts hotels are rolling out geared to this group are more economical than usual. Many hotels also offer reasonably priced room service or quick to-go food choices that won't break budgets while remaining trendy and desirable. Virgin Hotels, for example, make a point of keeping their mini-bar items affordable — you can grab a Coca-Cola from the mini-bar at the Virgin Chicago for just $1. Hyatt Centric offers DryBar Buttercup salon-quality blow dryers, Keurig coffee machines and BeKind bath products (cruelty-free, of course).

Being Fitness Forward

Millennials travel often and don't like to be without their fitness routines while on the go. IHG's Even hotels offer amenities like in-room workout zones complete with exercise ball and yoga mats, plus healthy options like stand-up desks or outdoor work spaces, as well as healthy meals and snacks for those who are gluten-free, vegetarian or diabetic.

Kimpton Hotels put an emphasis on being fitness-friendly, with their Roll-Out service — upon request, you can have your room prepared with a yoga mat, extra towels, flavored water and healthy snacks, and the TV set to Kimpton's on-demand complimentary yoga or pilates channel. Many Kimpton properties also offer complimentary use of bikes, as well as group exercise classes and runs through town.

Fitness is important to traveling millennials. Photo courtesy of the Kimpton Facebook page.
Fitness is important to traveling millennials. Image courtesy of the Kimpton Facebook page.

Millennials can soon enjoy a line of new hotels coming from the fitness club Equinox, where each property will feature its own Equinox fitness facility. The New York City location is launching in 2018, with others coming to Los Angeles, London and Miami.

Working With Last-Minute Hotel Booking Apps

This generation is known for constantly taking spur-of-the-moment trips, and therefore needing hotel and flight websites to book their last-minute travel. Since millennials are also likely to book via mobile device, apps like Hotel Tonight, which offers last-minute hotel stays at a discount — first-time users can get $25 off by using promo code BKELLY99 — or Stayful, an app for finding last-minute boutique and one-of-a-kind properties, can be particularly useful.

Last-minute booking apps like Hotel Tonight cater to millennials' spur-of-the-moment travel style. Image courtesy of Hotel Tonight.

Bottom Line

The hotel industry is rapidly changing to reflect the travel trends of this hip, youthful generation. Whether you consider yourself a millennial or not, embrace it. Give the Aloft or Even hotels a try, or perhaps live a little and book a last-minute stay via Hotel Tonight.