The common narrative in the business world is that millennials are broke. To some extent, that’s true; student loan debt is high and homeownership is low among people aged 24-39, and millennials are more focused on saving money and searching for the best deals than any previous generation.
But on the other hand, millennials are prioritizing experiences, not things. They’re spending their money on diet plans, fitness regimens, meditation apps, wine tastings, yoga retreats, and other luxuries that improve mental health, not just visible wealth.
And yes, that includes travel. 82 percent of millennials traveled last year, compared to just 75 percent of people from other generations. 69 percent travel on weekends, compared to just 13 percent of everyone else. And 72 percent of Generation Y said that they wanted to spend money on travel rather than physical possessions.
The millennial generation is larger and has more spending power than any generation to come before it, but they can be a bit picky — they have specific demands when they travel, and they don’t like to compromise. They also don’t have to. It’s easier than ever to find and compare options for destinations, flights, lodging, experiences, food, and every other aspect of their stay.
The bottom line is this: hoteliers can’t afford not to cater to travelers in their 20s and 30s. It’s vital that you keep your technology current and keep up with what millennials are looking for when it comes to their travel needs. Here’s how to do that.
Why Millennials Aren’t Staying in Hotels
It’s no secret that owner direct services are having a heyday. Airbnb now offers more than six million listings across the globe — more than the number of rooms offered by the six largest hotel chains combined. Some hotel chains are struggling to keep up with the convenience and high-tech offerings of modern alternatives. But that’s not the only reason millennials might choose not to come to your hotel:
- You’re not online — in this day and age, it’s unforgivable not to have a clean, modern, functional website. If your prospective guests can’t see photos of rooms, the amenities you offer, the location and contact info of your hotel, and other info in order to make a decision, they won’t book. Don’t make the mistake of thinking people will call you to ask questions — they won’t.
But it’s not just the front of your website that needs to work. If your guests can’t find you online, they won’t book. Put the effort into search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing so that when people look for hotels in your area, you show up in the results.
- Guests can’t book online — the cardinal sin of not having a website is followed closely by having a website that guests can’t use to book a room. If they have to go through a third party, lots of guests will simply find something else. If they have to use the phone to call, they’ll find an alternative. The bar for convenience has never been higher — if you’re not meeting it, you’re missing business.
- A bad mobile experience — three-quarters of millennials use their smartphones to research their travel experiences, and two-thirds of them will then use their phones to book. The bad news: fully 86 percent of them are disappointed by the experience. If your site doesn’t work on mobile, offers a sub-par booking experience, or redirects to a desktop site, you’ll drive guests away.
- Bad reviews (and bad reactions) — more than half of millennials look for reviews before booking a stay, and fully 84 percent of them are influenced by user-generated content: reviews, forums, and comments. Soliciting reviews from your happy guests, inviting them to tag you in photos, and posting the best reviews on your site is key to bringing in millennial guests.
Just as important is how you handle bad reviews. It’s inevitable that someone will say something negative online about your hotel, and you need to respond quickly, gracefully, and helpfully. Even if the guest is completely in the wrong, keep your cool — future visitors who see an angry response will assume the worst about your service.
- A poor check-in experience — if you can offer online or app-based check-in, you should absolutely do so. Most of your guests will love the convenience of going straight up to their room, and they don’t have any special needs that require talking to a person at the front desk. Failing that, lobby kiosks that allow guests to check-in themselves are a great alternative.
The last thing you want is for guests to arrive at your hotel and have to wait in line at the front desk just to grab a room key. Luckily, they don’t have to. Modern communications systems, like a digital PBX system from Phonesuite, can empower your staff to work much more efficiently, cutting down on wait times.
Attracting Millennials to Your Hotel
We’ve already touched on some of the things you can do to make your hotel more appealing to millennials, but there are a few other areas to focus your attention:
- Customer-facing technology should be up to date. The desktop website, mobile site, internal communications phone tree, front desk booking software, check-in kiosks, and anything else that enables guests to interact with your hotel needs to be in tip-top shape. If guests get frustrated trying to book, they’ll look elsewhere.
- Maximize your operational efficiency. It’s not just the front end of your technology that needs to be up to date — your guests will expect seamless operations behind the scenes as well. A digital PBX like Phonesuite can help you automate wake-up calls, better organize your housekeeping and maintenance staff, streamline check-in, and maximize your staff’s ability to help your guests face to face.
- Enable (and encourage) social interaction. Millennials love to share their positive experiences with their friends and family online, so do everything you can to encourage them to do so. Make sure guests can check in on Instagram and Facebook, engage with guests on your social platforms, and be quick to answer questions and thank people for positive reviews. You can even encourage people to share by creating incentives — for example, anyone who uses your hashtag on Instagram is entered to win a free night’s stay!
- Be open to collaborating with influencers. The web is filled with horror stories about influencers attempting to exploit their popularity to get free stuff, but that doesn’t mean they don’t offer value. Rather than giving away hotel stays in exchange for influence that’s hard to quantify, set up your partnership as follows:
- Any influencer that you partner with is given a unique code for 10% off a hotel stay or similar promotion.
- They can distribute that code via social media to their followers.
- If enough people redeem the code, you reimburse the cost of the influencer’s stay.
This way, you’re not giving away anything for free to influencers who may or may not be helpful to work with, and you can easily quantify how much extra traffic was brought in as a result of the partnership.
- Emphasize loyalty programs. 41 percent of millennials say that they joined a travel loyalty program thanks to its ease of use, and nearly two-thirds of them say that they’ll stick with a program if it offers the best rewards. If you put a loyalty program in place, it should be easy to use, clear in the terms and rewards it offers, and genuinely incentivizing for repeat customers.
The Hotel Industry Isn’t Going Anywhere
Much has been made of the rise of services like Airbnb and VRBO, but the fact is that the hotel industry (and travel in general) is thriving. But that doesn’t mean that business is guaranteed. You’ll need to keep up with customers’ needs, modern technology, and travel industry trends if you don’t want to be left behind.