A panel of sales-and-marketing experts at the 2017 Hotel Data Conference offered some best practices when it comes to discovering and meeting the needs of different generations of travelers.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee—Every generation of travelers wants something different from their hotel stays, so hoteliers need to be in tune with what they need and be able to follow through to give them the guest experience they seek.
Panelists during the “Generating demand from different generations” session of the 2017 Hotel Data Conference shared their experiences and advice for how to appease guests, from baby boomers to millennials and onward.
Generational behavior and demands
Millennials are booking more through online travel agencies, said Martha Lomanno Glose, director of market and hotel insight at Choice Hotels International, but her company is seeing more property-direct and brand.com bookings than OTA reservations overall. The company’s newer guests are mostly millennials, she said, and the reason they use OTAs is the perception that the third-party sites are cheaper. Choice’s direct-booking campaign is yielding positive results, however, she said.
Phocuswright research shows that 51% of hotel reservations were booked through OTAs in 2016, said Chris Johnson, VP of sales and marketing at Fillmore Hospitality, so thinking OTAs will go away or the situation will change is illogical. The next generation and the one after that love information, he said. They can search for 10 hotels at once and go to multiple sites to find the right location at the right price.
“The younger travelers, they like deals,” he said. “They want the deal of the day. … They’re booking for that travel value. It’s interesting. The younger generations, 86% of the travelers are looking for new cultural experiences; 77% are looking for local food options. They want to eat like locals, stay like locals. Welcome to Airbnb. So that mindset and that philosophy is something we have to get in front of.”
Millennials are bringing their pets with them, said Andy Grinsfelder, VP of sales and marketing at Delaware North, defying the notion that senior citizens were his company’s bread and butter for pets. It’s like the millennial couples are practicing to have kids with their pets, he said.
For packaging, Gen X guests are more susceptible to marketing than millennials, he said, and are looking at offers to book early and save.
Johnson said properties that are looking at offering drink packages should consult local distilleries and breweries to add options at the hotel bar.
“Try to do some things to separate yourself a bit,” he said. “Tie yourself to attractions in your markets.”
Know what doesn’t work
There is a wide spectrum of millennials, Glose said, and those who are at the older end of the generation are not the same as the younger millennials. For example, as a millennial herself, Glose said she doesn’t follow social media as much as other others in her generation do.
“Assuming we’re all the same and we’re all going down those channels is a bit misguided,” she said.
Many in the hotel industry have said millennials aren’t brand loyal, Glose said, but maybe hotels haven’t gotten there yet.
“There’s one question I ask millennials to show we can be loyal: Apple or Android?” she said. “I’ve never met one millennial who will say, ‘Eh, either one.’ Everybody has a preference. We can be loyal. We just need to get there with hotels.”
One of Delaware North’s properties is in a national park with the largest trees in the world, Grinsfelder said. One of its marketing partners ran a campaign targeted at Gen Xers that implored them to “Come feel insignificant,” by measuring themselves against the sequoias, he said. Gen X is possibly the worst generation to target with this message, he acknowledged, noting that marketing sometimes is a game of trial and error.
Sources of inspiration
Following the continually growing popularity of couponing, Glose said, now there’s more interest from consumers in subscription services. People can buy $10 boxes of razors or sets of clothing and have it delivered to them once a month, she said.
“It’s interesting to see if there’s any way hotel companies can introduce that sort of mentality,” she said.
Nike offers another example of marketing that the hotel industry could emulate, Grinsfelder said. When he was a kid, he said, Nike was just a shoe company, but now it has everything to do with sports. At the end of the day, a hotel is still a commodity, he said, but the location is the experience. Hotels must become an integral part of that experience, much like Nike is part of the attraction to sports.
“We’ve got to move away from just being a hotel and be part of the experience,” he said.