It's inevitable that millennials -- or Generation Y -- are going to play a huge role in shaping the hospitality industry over the next decade. Currently, one-third of all travelers are millennials -- a percentage that will only increase. By 2020, it's projected that half of the money spent in the travel sector will come out of the pockets of millennials.
2015, more so than years past, appears to be the year of the millennial traveler arriving on the market: the average millennial plans to take nine trips (includes short and long trips) this year, and 50% say they plan to spend more on travel in 2015. Such statistics makes it hard for hotels to ignore this fact: millennials are currently shaping the travel market.
Millennials prefer lifestyle hotels
This can be seen in the rise of lifestyle and boutique hotels, as millennials value a unique experience when traveling. In 2014, revenue for such lodgings increased by 8.8% -- outpacing traditional chain hotels. This is why major hotel brands, like InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), are beginning to merge with boutique hotel chains. IHG recently acquired Kimpton, a highly regarded boutique hotel chain, in an effort to better capture a changing customer base that prefers personalization instead of standardization.
Technology from booking to check-out
Millennials' appreciation and satisfaction with a hotel services and amenities differ from previous generations. First and foremost, millennials place high importance on the availability of technology; 70.9% have expressed that the availability of free Wi-Fi plays a role in their hotel choice. Additionally, easy-to-reach outlets in the rooms and a lounge or lobby area conducive to working are crucial.
In terms of booking, checking-in, and checking-out, millennials want flexibility and exceptional customer service. Since 52% use mobile devices to book hotels and many books within 24 hours of arrival, a seamless process is critical. When checking in and out, 83% prefer self-service rather than interaction with staff. Hilton has recently responded to this trend with the implementation of digital check-in and check-out via smartphones.
Millennials are a group that reviews 10.2 sources before booking (peer reviews, travel sites, and other authentic sources). They know what they want from a hotel, and will first check to see if the amenities and services they want are provided. Perhaps most of all, the new plugged-in generation doesn't want a cookie-cutter experience. Many hotels have already begun responding to this trend by actively shedding the cookie-cutter image. Citizen M, a luxury boutique hotel with lodgings in New York, the Netherlands, and Britain, loudly proclaims on their website that there will be no stupid pillow chocolates, bellboys, and trouser presses. Even though Citizen M is technically a chain, it's doing what the millennials want: rebelling against the traditional idea of the hotel chain.
Create unique and unforgettable experiences around local culture
Hence, what's vital for millennials is a unique experience. More specifically, 70% say they want an immersive experience while traveling and 78% say they wish to learn something new. After all, travel is about greeting the new and unfamiliar, and having an unforgettable experience. Hotels can and should be a part of that experience. Localization is very important for hotels because millennials want to dive into the local culture. Hence, hotels' design, artwork, amenities, and services must embrace and reflect the location in which they operate.
What about generation Z?
The rise of lifestyle and boutique hotels shows that major hotel brands are preparing for Generation Y right now. It may seem too early to think about Generation Z, but the oldest of this generation will soon be working and have money to travel. Even more than the millennials, this is the most connected generation - they have earned the nickname of digital natives - that have a lifelong use of technology and social media; so gearing a hotel with technology and media for Millennials may seem like a long-term, reasonable investment towards the generations to come.