Millennials are the largest living generation in the United States, and their purchasing power is substantial. It makes sense that hoteliers would want to court this enormous potential customer base, especially given their love for travel, but millennial customers are a double-edged sword.
The Pros and Cons of Millennial Customers
The good news is that millennials are in a sweet spot when it comes to the type of consumer you should be courting. Aged somewhere between their mid-20s and late 30s, they’re old enough to have careers and disposable incomes, but young enough that they can still travel. Only half of the households headed by millennials have kids — a substantially lower number than their parents’ generation at their age — so they’re more likely to travel often.
The downside is that millennials are famous for not displaying the same brand loyalty that previous generations have shown. Just because they had a great time at your hotel the last time they stayed doesn’t mean they’ll automatically think of you first when they want to book again — especially if you don’t find a way to stand out.
As a result, many hotel owners are trying to find a way to generate loyalty and repeat business among a group that has more options for travel and lodging (not to mention more ability to compare those options) than any generation has before.
Convenience is King
It goes without saying that millennials are a digital generation. Every touchpoint that you have with your Generation Y customers has to be as convenient and high-tech as the rest of the world they’re used to.
A VoIP (voice over internet protocol) PBX system can go a long way to bringing your hotel’s systems into the 21st century. High-speed internet phones make for impeccable call quality, but the benefits go well beyond simply improving the hotel’s room phones. Hotels with digital PBX systems can offer:
- State of the art conference centers with voice and video conferencing capabilities
- Remote and online check-in and checkout
- Better customer service, thanks to call forwarding and third-party answering services
- Real-time updates for housekeeping and maintenance, allowing for faster turnaround and better service
It’ll also be crucial for you to keep your hotel’s website up to date. Quick loading times, especially on mobile, comprehensive lists of features, detailed photo galleries, and the means to book online will all be vital features to keep tech-savvy millennials coming back.
Loyalty Programs for a New Generation
If you do offer a rewards program to keep millennials coming back to your business, it has to be just as high-tech as everything else. Your users should be able to access it both online and on a mobile site or app.
You should also consider branching out from the traditional rewards model. Millennials are indicating that they don’t like the restrictions and limitations that generally come along with rewards programs — using hotel stays to earn more hotel stays isn’t enough to keep them coming back, which is why 54 percent of travel loyalty program memberships are ignored and inactive.
Instead, hotels like Marriott are partnering with third parties, allowing members to redeem their points for experiences like festivals, concerts, and other events rather than simply another night’s stay. If you can’t afford to run your own loyalty program, there are third-party providers like HOOCH and Rocketmiles that allow loyalty points to be spent on a huge array of services. If you partner with these programs, you might bring in business that wouldn’t otherwise have considered you.
Stand Out of the Crowd
If you want to bring millennials into your hotel, you’ll have to offer something a little more special than just a bed and a continental breakfast. Think about what makes your hotel unique — location, features, technology, amenities, convenience, pet-friendliness, or whatever it might be — and lean into that. Just don’t let misconceptions about millennials cloud your judgment. The spending power is there. You just have to earn it.