Millennials know a lot about your brand or hotel, but hoteliers are still playing catch-up to understand the millennial consumer.
PHOENIX—There’s still a lot to learn when it comes to understanding millennials as guests and consumers.
Panelists at the “What do guests really want? It’s not what you think” session of The Lodging Conference discussed events and technologies that have shaped millennials as a generation. They then attempted to apply that to how millennials think as consumers in the hotel industry.
“(Millennials are) eternally optimistic; they are the primary force shaping our country today,” said Robert Rippee, hospitality lab director at the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ International Gaming Institute. “They look to solve societal challenges. They like to build institutions, not bring them down. They’re very civic-minded. How do I know that? Because I see how they solve problems.”
Rippee added that millennials have been shaped by technology and connection, and “they became the most connected generation that’s ever existed because there’s never been a connected generation before.”
Among hoteliers, he said, there is a basic misunderstanding of millennials.
“Most brands, and I can speak to this from experience because I was a chief marketing officer for one of the largest ones in Las Vegas, misunderstand them,” he said. “We assume they are younger versions of the other cohorts. They are not. They are very, very different.”
- Speakers on the “Revitalize your operations, decrease costs and drive revenue” panel at The Lodging Conference also had a lot to say about millennials and their behaviors. Click here to read more.
Analyzing and applying data
Millennials understand products because they research them, but hoteliers are still working to understand the millennial consumer, according to Layton Han, CEO of ADARA.
“Millennial travelers know everything about your product,” he said. “It’s not just your curated content you put out online, it is all of the feedback, the views and things like that that come out. So they have tremendous amounts of data that they build and perceive it. The companies, it has taken them a lot longer to know about consumers.”
Han said there is a lot of data out there on millennial consumer trends, but hoteliers need to find a way to analyze the data and apply it in a way that helps the industry.
“Over the past six, seven years, data collection has become really cheap. The issue around that is, collecting data is just one phase of it, what do you do with that data?” he said. “Can we turn data into information that actually helps the hospitality or the lodging business? … That’s the big question: can the industry close that knowledge gap?”
Hoteliers use own resources to identify guest wants
Bryan Guillot, co-managing partner and COO of Artistry Hotel Partners, said the biggest concern for all hoteliers is, “Are we in-tune with our guests?” The industry is getting better at that, he said, but there’s still a long way to go.
“As a hotel owner/operator, what guests really want has been … top of mind of every developer and hotel operator since the beginning of time, and it still goes on today,” he said. “So is it about more perks? Is it about technology? Is it about engagement? Is it about more luxury amenities? And when we’re not trying to figure that out … we’re trying to figure out ways to entice guests to come to our properties the first time, and then continue to come back and back time after time with more amenities.”
So are millennial guests different from any other generation?
“Does it differ if they’re looking at a luxury hotel or an economy or somewhere in between?” Guillot said. “And as a hotelier, does it really just boil down, is it always about price?”
There’s a lot of data that analyzes what the guest wants, but Guillot said “as a good hotelier, we go to our own resources” when trying to understand guests’ desires.
“Conrad Hilton was actually thinking about what we’re talking about today when he acquired his first hotel in 1919, and again when he formulated Hilton Hotel Corporation in 1946,” he said. “And Conrad’s overwhelming belief was, and I quote, ‘Each property should have its own style and not look like it’s part of the chain.’”
A lot has happened since Hilton said that, but Guillot said it was “a good start to the idea of taking care of a guest and actually connecting that guest to the location in which they’re in.”
“And every year, a new study comes out about guest expectations,” he said. “And every year, the bar of guest expectations … here’s a couple: coffee makers in-room, free Wi-Fi, daily breakfast, and of course, everybody knows about 500-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens.”