By Brendon Granger, Technology 4 Hotels
Millennials - also known as Generation Y - are the generation of travellers born between 1980 and 1995. Millennials were the first generation to be born into the digital world; they’ve grown up in an age where technology is an everyday part of life and regular travel is very accessible. This has created a wave of so-called savvy travellers, who look for unique value in their travel destinations at an affordable price.
Millennials are your future guests, now!
It’s no secret that millennials are your future guests. As Gen X and Baby Boomers age, it is inevitable that many of your guests in the future will belong to the millennial generation.
According to research from Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, 50% of all travellers to the USA will be millennials by 2025. However this doesn’t mean that you should be waiting 10 years to implement new and relevant hotel technology. In fact, as of 2013, millennials outnumbered baby boomers 79M to 76M, and as the boomers continue to age, that gap will continue to widen.
International brands have already jumped onto the hotel technology bandwagon, with Starwood’s W brand embracing the millennial guest by incorporating technology and millennial-friendly design into their hotels early on.
And while it may seem like a big investment in technology just to cater to these seemingly fickle travellers, millennials guests also come with some serious benefits. A main benefit being their desire, and ability, to share their experiences with friends and family before, during and after their visit. You might say Word of mouth has become word of mouse.
What Millennials want
As a general rule, millennial travellers aren’t looking for the same ‘cookie-cutter’ experiences from their hotel stay. In fact the biggest reason millennials cite for travel is wanting to gain new and unique experiences. Many hotel brands have already developed a millennial-friendly image by responding to this trend and actively shying away from the standardised image. A prime example is the trendy boutique hotel group, Citizen M, which have properties in Amsterdam, Glasgow, London, New York, Paris and Rotterdam. Their brand denounces now-defunct amenities such as trouser presses, bellboys and, in their words, “stupid pillow chocolates”. Even as a chain, Citizen M works to give millennial travellers what they’re really looking for - a unique local experience.
A constant demand for hotel technology
In lieu of luxurious four-poster beds or decorative pillows and throws, millennials are demanding more and better technology in order for their hotel stay to be a good one. In fact, according to data from Statista, complimentary WiFi still tops the list of requirements from both business and leisure travellers.
The millennial traveller is keen to use technology to make their lives easier and their travel experience more seamless. This includes checking in at hotels, paying their restaurant and bar bills as well as looking up places to eat, shop and visit. Millennial guests are both self-sufficient and tech-savvy travellers who are comfortable using apps and mobile websites; making it all the more important for hotels to embrace these platforms in order to build better relationships with their millennial guests.
Without a doubt the main type of hotel technology that is being influenced by millennial travellers is mobile technology. Smartphones and tablets have long surpassed the superfluous status that they once held and are an integral part of most people’s lives - especially a millennial’s.
Mobile devices are the key
Since becoming inextricably linked to their mobile devices, millennials depend on them in order to handle almost every aspect of their lives - everything from office work to dating - including travel. Mobile devices play a significant role during each stage of the travel experience as millennial travellers use their smartphones and tablets to research hotels and book rooms online, navigate and explore new areas and post reviews and share their experiences online.
Extended customer service
For a millennial personalised service doesn’t actually have to involve a person. The access new hotel technology gives to millennials means that customer services begins long before your guests set foot in your hotel, and extends to long after they’ve checked out. This could be in the form of a mobile app that lets guest choose exactly what type of room they want to book, and allows them the option to check-in online and use their smartphones as their room key. It could also mean being able to answer questions about bookings in advance via email, Skype, Twitter or Facebook, or providing video tours of your hotel or resort on YouTube.
Since technology provides you with so many ways to connect with millennial guests before they even book a room, it has become vital to stay active on all the social media platforms 24 x 7 as in-house millennials may now communicate their immediate needs to the hotel they are staying at via such channels. By the same rights, guests will post photos, videos and reviews of their stay and - given the right incentive - use technology as a means of gaining extra value through loyalty programmes.
Whilst millennial guests have a reputation as being picky and frugal, their loyalty can easily be gained as long as you offer the right incentives. Millennial guests on the whole are less interested in accruing loyalty points over time, but instead are much more interested in loyalty benefits they can reap straightaway.
Technology such as online check-in and smartphone room keys are only available to those guests who sign up to the respective hotel loyalty programmes, thereby giving the millennial guest real value straightaway and the hotel receives valuable customer marketing information in return.
Millennials tend to have had a fair amount of experience with travel, and as such are looking for something unique in every trip they take. The ability to personalise trips is something that is very appealing to this ever-growing market, and hotel technology is one of the many ways to provide this.
It could be in the form of a 24-hour concierge like Hyatt’s E-Concierge, or a 24-hour Twitter presence that responds to inquiries at any time of the day in any time-zone. Hotel technology such as being able to personalise your room settings, in-room entertainment and even your hotel rewards schemes is likely to appeal to a millennial traveller.
Hotels need to create an experience that’s personal enough to make the guest feel special without appearing to try too hard. Striking that delicate balance between being personalised and attentive without restricting a millennial’s freedom is a sure-fire way to attract millennial guests.
What about generation Z?
After the hospitality industry is done adapting to millennials, you can be sure that trends will change again when the next generation of traveller comes of age. Generation Z will be even more technologically savvy - earning the nickname of digital natives - learning how to swipe open a smartphone before they can even walk. So getting a hotel prepared with technology would seem to be a sensible long-term investment towards the generations to come.