Millennials are Changing the Context of the Hotel Industry
According to a recent Forbes article, there are 80 million Millennials in America and they represent about a quarter of the entire population. Most estimates project that Millennials wield $200 billion in annual buying power and these individuals are extremely brand loyal. The Forbes article states that 60% of Millennials believe they are often or always loyal to brands they purchase. This affinity for loyalty has the attention of brands that provide goods and services, including the hospitality segment.
Millennials have a desire to connect with their environment and be an integral part of an authentic destination when they travel. Hospitality designers are responding by creating unique, memorable hotel experiences that reflect the surrounding community. For Millennials, authenticity is more important than room size, finishes, and brick and mortar. They want to taste local food and beverages, walk to community landmarks, snap photos to share on Facebook and Instagram, and gather unique stories to share upon their return.
This shift has impacted the entire context of the hospitality segment as global hotel chains rethink their offerings and brand persona. This quote from Wolfgang Lindlbauer, the chief discipline leader global operations at Marriott International is telling: "As an international hotel company, Marriott has leveraged its scale as a competitive advantage for many years, but what we’re finding is that the next-generation consumer wants the exact opposite of what we’re delivering."
Lindlbauer’s quote is part of a Fast Company story about Marriott’s strategic plan to capture the Millennial market. This video shows the steps Marriott is taking to win the innovation race by literally getting down to the street level in an attempt to create authentic, local emotional experiences for Millennial travelers.
When it comes to the design process, I believe hospitality design teams must take a similar approach. We may need to dedicate more “boots-on-the-ground” time when designing in new urban areas to capture the essence and nuances of place at the local neighborhood level. This will entail a detailed local history lesson, experiencing the arts community, the nightlife, and understanding what collegiate team gear the local population proudly wears across their chests. And why.
Only by immersing ourselves in the sights, sounds, and smells of a local neighborhood we can then tailor the attributes of a new generation of boutique hotel brands to engage and then create irreplaceable experiences for Millennial travelers.