Technology and the Millennial generation have reshaped travel culture, propelling the industry to deliver unique hospitality experiences like never before. As hoteliers, the radical shift we’ve seen in guest expectations favors agility and requires a constant evolution of our offerings to keep up with – and shape – the experiences guests are seeking.
An important KPI used in the hospitality industry, Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR), measures the effectiveness of these new initiatives. RevPAR gives a snapshot of how successfully a hotel can fill their guestroom inventory and the rate at which they can price rooms. It is arguably the most important metric used in the hospitality industry.
Except for super-markets like New York City where the market is adding supply faster than demand, the hotel industry nationwide is seeing growth in RevPAR. The continued strength of this key metric is primarily a function of rate growth, sustained by a slow but steady increase in demand for our product. This increasing demand is largely fueled by Millennials and the value they place on travel and experiences.
The Millennial generation is 92 million young adults strong, comprises more than 25 percent of the nation’s population, and is now larger than the Baby Boomer generation. According to a 2017 AARP travel report, Millennials travel 6.5 times per year on average. This figure comes in above the average number of annual trips taken by adults in the Gen X and Baby Boomer categories.
By nature, Millennials are inquisitive. Many of their insights into cultures other than their own are garnered through their travels. To satisfy their curiosity, this younger generation of travelers is inclined to take last-minute trips, a decision that’s oftentimes influenced – and aided by – technology.
It’s no secret that Millennials are more interested in spending their money on experiences rather than retail, and this trend is only magnified by their social media habits and activity on photo- and video-sharing apps like Instagram and Snapchat. These platforms allow Millennial adventurers to document and share their travel experiences with friends and followers, inspiring others to jump on the hottest new travels trends and destinations.
In addition to including their social media audiences in their immersion into local cultures, most Millennials feel that it’s their duty to post travel reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor to help steer their peers toward the best destinations, hotels and dining experiences. With an increasing number of Millennial travelers consulting their fellow consumers through review platforms and lifestyle blogs while they research their travel plans, hospitality companies have begun leveraging these channels for consumer insights to fine-tune their offerings.
In fact, TripAdvisor was responsible for influencing $478 billion in revenue across the travel industry in 2014. Hotels that leverage TripAdvisor’s benefits, including the ability to engage directly with guests, have seen stronger pricing power and an increase in the number of rooms booked compared to those without a presence on the platform.
Once bitten by the travel bug, Millennial travelers turn to technology to plan their trips, compare and book flights, make restaurant reservations, and find savings on activities throughout their trips. With the majority of Millennials booking their travel online, hotels are focusing on providing more than just a bed to sleep in to get a leg up on their competition.
To capture their fair share of the Millennial traveler market, hotels are increasingly positioning themselves as gateways to the local culture and adventures that Millennials seek to experience. Lifestyle brands like Aloft Hotels showcase the local flavor of their cities through brand programs like Live at Aloft – a live music program that features local talent in an intimate venue. Curated experiences are also in demand for millennial travels who value the exclusivity of experiences that are tailored to their preferences.
During the 18th-annual Coachella music festival in Indio, Calif., Marriott International and Starwood Hotels and Resorts (now jointly Marriott International) outfitted safari tents to mirror the feel of the guestrooms found in several of their lifestyle brand hotels. The hospitality giant offered music enthusiasts the opportunity to use their SPG or Marriott Rewards points to bid on an exclusive, curated Coachella experience, complete with access to all the amenities you’d expect to find in one of their guestrooms.
In order for the upward trend in demand to continue, and for hoteliers to continue seeing increasing RevPAR, we must find new ways to attract Millennials while continuing to position ourselves as the gateway to the exclusive, sharable experiences this new generation of travelers are after.
Just as communication has evolved through the generations – from the typewriter to email to the current popularity of Snapchat as the principal messaging platform for younger generations – travel trends will evolve in response to new technology. As technology advances, it’s vital that hotels rely upon insights from new generations of travelers to identify the trends that will help us shape and enhance guest experiences.