Marc Sandfort, Area Manager of the The Ascott Limited UK, explains why brands should listen
According to market research institute Gfk, Britain’s millennials are treating travel as a higher financial priority over the next five years than buying a home, paying off debt or investing in a car. More now than ever, millennials are choosing travel and life experience over material possessions and it’s important that hospitality brands take note of the generation that on average is spending upwards of $200 billion (£144 billion) annually, as of last year.
With the ever-evolving world of social media, in particular Instagram, this generation has the world at its fingertips with the click of a hashtag or an old friend’s destination check-in, meaning travel envy is rife and the competition is on for brands to stand out and get noticed. Everything from the latest technology when booking to when you arrive in your room or having stand-out central locations to communal areas for guests to socialise and interact can make the difference.
The millennial generation is demanding greater autonomy over their trip, often favouring a sharing economy provider or an apart’hotel model which offer more flexibility than your standard hotel room. By offering kitchens to help save money on eating out and a living space to fully relax and unwind after a day of exploring the city, as well as flexible check-ins and a choice over services such as housekeeping, guests can live and travel on their terms and personalise their stay to suit their needs.
Millennials are looking to squeeze every ounce of experience and culture out of their trip as possible. A city central location close to the action is key, giving travellers more time to fully immerse themselves in the best food, bars and cultural activities on offer, whether they are exploring the sites of Tokyo or having a staycation in London.
Streamlined technology plays a massive part in attracting millennials’ interest, whether that be how they book their stay or what’s on offer within the hotel. Small things like the ability to relax and remain connected during your downtime, whether this be streaming your favourite TV show in bed, working remotely from your hotel room or being able to communicate with staff fully via mobile for any questions or concerns can really help to make a property stand out. This also fits in with the millennial preference of responsiveness and an “always on” mentality with the ability to switch off.
Technology is also continuing to overhaul the booking process, with sharing economy apps rising in popularity year on year, along with booking sites being now the preferred way to book a stay over using traditional travel agents. Some companies are even turning to blockchain as a way to tailor their offerings to different users, and offering personalised or ‘gamified’ loyalty programmes to incentivise travellers to stay again, increasing retention rates. Artificial intelligence will further allow individualisation, improve communication and take the hassle out of daily chores whilst staying in an unfamiliar environment. Operators are trialling various options in this field, from chatbots and translation software to smart kitchen appliances.
There are great examples of hospitality companies adapting their business models to suit evolving industries and new customer bases, and it’s exciting to think how things may continue to evolve over the next five to 10 years and into the next generation. For instance, The Ascott Limited’s millennial-targeted lyf brand, which will offer co-living accommodation with social spaces such as co-working areas and social kitchens, and weekly community events, caters to the millennials’ preferences for social experiences and fun and quirky elements.
Whether it’s extending a work trip to enjoy a “bleisure” style vacation, or choosing a location based on the authenticity, culture or price point, millennials have changed and are continuing to change the travel scene both domestically and internationally. Listening to the needs and preferences of a generation who are set to have more spending power than Baby Boomers for the first time ever this year is a worthwhile practice for hospitality brands, now more than ever before.