If you haven’t noticed, Millennials are all the rage in travel today. This audience of 18-34 year olds born between 1980 and 2000 is soon going to supplant the Baby Boomer generation in travel spending. A Boston Consulting Group study has Millennials growing to 54% of the market by 2025 and travel brands are scrambling to find ways to effectively position themselves to this burgeoning market.
In the hotel space alone, the major chains are quickly rolling out new brands designed to appeal specifically to this audience. Night Hotels from Wyndham. Moxy and AC from Marriott. Red from Radisson. No doubt many more are on the way.
As they attempt to appeal to this Millennial traveler, these brands all riff off of consistent themes: A sense of community and place, with an emphasis on connecting to everything “local.” A greater focus on design and decor. The use of technology to deliver a more personal and customized experience. A recognition that all things are social and shared.
Words like modern, loft-like, art gallery-like, coffee house-like, local attitudes, inclusive, instant gratification and authentic litter the press releases and proclamations as this targeted product takes shape.
Make no mistake, Millennials are a distinct generation with a unique perspective. Born into a fully wired and highly portable world, reared by helicopter parents and showered with “everybody gets a trophy” treatment, Millennials have been cited as the most self-involved generation of all time. Whereas Boomers most value duty, integrity, family, practicality and justice, Millennials virtually flip that around, and embrace values like happiness, passion, diversity, sharing and discovery.
However, as I look at the psyche of the Millennial and how it manifests itself in the travel product that is being created, what I see being formed is something that transcends Millennials and ultimately speaks to the “modern” traveler across all generations.
When hotels turn their lobbies into coffee house-like, community-focused environments, taking their cue from Starbucks and Panera, I don’t see that as purely a Millennial desire. In fact, look around at those brands and you’ll see people of every generation publicly embracing the mobility of technology, doing things we once could only do from the confines of our own home, office or guest room.
When you look at the rush to better design, you merely need reference Apple stores and products, and Target’s use of name designers, to see that making design a cornerstone of your story has broad appeal that speaks to more than Millennials.
When you think about delivering more personal and unique experiences and a greater connection to the local surroundings, I don’t know many true travelers who aren’t increasingly seeking that out. Collecting experiences rather than things has been a trend for years, and the fact that Millennials have a desire and passion for discovery and interesting experiences certainly doesn’t make it exclusive to them.
You don’t have to be a Millennial to have succumbed to the power of social media. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and others haven’t grown to their enormity because they are merely the online playgrounds of Millennials. Social media has quickly become how all of us share our stories, claim our bragging rights and stay connected to our personal and passion-fueled networks.
Similarly, the ability of technology to transform the travel experience—from checking in on your phone, to loading an app that serves as your portable concierge, to using data to power ever more individualized and personal experiences—these are all tools and benefits that every modern traveler is now looking for and benefitting from. It’s the reason WiFi is becoming as essential to a guest as electricity and running water (and why guests resent paying extra for it).
Yes, Millennials may value these things more universally as a generation (after all, many of these things are all they’ve ever known), but increasingly these features and services are being sought out by all travelers.
As if to underscore the idea that Millennial is as much a mindset as it is a demographic, the Pew Research Center has created a very quick and fun online survey to help you answer the question, “How Millennial Are You?”
While more and more hotel brands may be focused on appealing to Millennials, the reality is that they are promising to deliver the very kind of hotel and destination experience that today’s (and tomorrow’s) travelers of all ages are not only seeking, but will be expecting if you want their business.
Keeping your eye on the Millennial audience is more than a demographic exercise. It’s a reflection on the mindset of where travel is headed for everyone.