Please remember ‘millennials’ are individuals
Please remember ‘millennials’ are individuals
01 SEPTEMBER 2017 7:17 AM

The hotel industry has a habit of talking about people based on generational cohorts as if they’re stuck in time. But keep in mind there’s vast variation within those groups.

We talk a lot about generational differences here at Hotel News Now. More than anything, that’s probably a function of the fact that the hotel industry itself seems to continually have generations on the mind.

Obviously, discussion about millennials—their needs, wants, habits and desires—seems to dominate. As a reaction to that, there seems to be a lot of “hey, don’t forget baby boomers are still where the money’s at” commentary. Generation X just seems to be stuck somewhere in between, floating in the ether, and Generation Z or post-millennials or whatever you’d like to call them are still percolating, so there isn’t much to say about them other than “they’re kind of like millennials in most ways, but in some ways they’re not.”

I apologize if that all sounds a bit dismissive of the practice. I truly understand why it’s useful and helpful for hoteliers to have a working grasp of what these large cohorts of people want, on average. But I think there are a couple of things that get glossed over or just ignored in this entire exercise.

The first is that any of these groups have an incredible amount of variation within them. As an older millennial myself, I see a lot of backlash among people my age or a little younger who bristle at being described in these lowest-common-denominator terms based on the aggregate likes and dislikes of people of various backgrounds who happen to have been born within a few years of them. In some cases, it seems to catalyze as them deciding they loathe their own generation, or at least the view of that generation that has generally been accepted as truth.

I feel like this is important to understand because for this group of people, who I think would likely add up to a significant number, any overt or crass outreach to the generally accepted idea of “millennials” is probably going to backfire. There are plenty of millennials who hate being marketed to as millennials. Maybe this falls in line with the greater understanding that millennials crave personalization in all things, though.

The second thing to keep in mind, and possibly the more important of the two, is the current understanding of a millennial is simply a snapshot in time. It is not what will define their needs and desires going forward. You can see this in action with baby boomers. As much as everyone loves a nostalgia trip in the right place and time, try treating all of your older guests and customers like it’s 1975, and see how they all react to it.

Millennials both as a generation and as individuals are constantly aging, evolving and growing as people. I see this in my own life, vividly, because I’ve gone in a year’s time from being a young professional with all the spare time and money associated with that to a father of a 10-month-old son who has all the demands and responsibilities inherent with that.

That version of me that exists today has significantly different needs in all things, including my travel experience, than the me of early 2016, and even greater differences with the me of the late 2000s or earlier.

I suppose this is reflected in some of the talk you hear about wanting to target a “millennial mindset” over the actual generational cohort, but at some point, I feel like that makes the entire exercise lose all meaning. Now we’re not talking about generations, but instead about how people like booking on mobile or hate Applebee’s or something.

What do you think? Let me know via email or on Twitter.

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