Bridging the generational gap: How to attract millennials

Anne Davis


Every generation has unique requirements when it comes to travel or vacation accommodations. While the golden rule in hospitality is about superior customer service to all patrons of any age, it’s also good business to consider the trending demands of a specific demographic.

Savvy hoteliers can bridge the generational gap by paying closer attention to the expectations of certain age groups such as Generation Y. Known as millennials, this generation encompasses people born between 1981 and 1996.

Millennials in the traveling population represent a remarkable potential for increased bookings and higher profit margins for hotels. According to travel statistics, millennials spent approximately $200 billion on travel before the pandemic. With travel restrictions starting to lift, we can expect that figure to increase significantly, which means considerable earning potential for the hotel and hospitality industry.


Armed with awareness about behavior, spending habits, and trends while millennials are traveling can open up broad opportunities for capturing a lucrative demographic. In addition, implementing a few relatively simple practices aimed at attracting millennials can be highly effective at booking more reservations, invigorating word-of-mouth marketing, and crushing the competition in the hotel industry. With that said, here are a few actionable tips for appealing to this younger generation and tapping into a wealth of potential.


Putting Social Strategies in Place

Everybody has opinions, but millennials are unique in that they relish sharing their views on social media. Over 90% of millennials share their travel experiences on social networks, posting three or more times per day during travel. The practice of leveraging social media to attract millennial patronage is powerful and multi-faceted, so it’s essential to understand how this demographic uses social platforms. While it’s true this age group is known for posting pics of plush hotel rooms or a drool-worthy dish of food; research indicates they are using social media for far more than sharing eye-popping pictures of poolside cocktails.


For example, SproutSocial research shows 60% of millennials use social media platforms to communicate with hotel customer service. Generation Y prefers to solve problems and gather information about a hotel independently instead of calling directly or waiting for a customer service representative to respond to an email inquiry. Furthermore, when this age group researches travel accommodations, they favor transparency, vibrant content, and empowering ways to connect through social media. For hotel owners, this means offering dynamic material via multiple social outlets and providing mixed options for millennials to effortlessly connect with both the hotel and its customer service agents. These outlets should also offer personalized experiences so that millennials can “get on board” or gain a relationship with the hotel and its characteristics.


Many millennials want to feel connected to a business instead of just paying for a service and moving on. This requires building stories and engaging in dialogue. Using social media platforms to share a hotel’s story and personality creates strong brand awareness. Furthermore, making social media available on many different platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and providing a hotel mobile app has proven to stimulate millennial interest. Leveraging social media is about presenting opportunities to millennials so they can easily engage in a hotel’s purpose, find answers for themselves, and feel like an integral part of the hotel experience.


Offer Immersive Experiences

As mentioned, many millennials enjoy being part of a narrative and weaving themselves into the tapestry of the location in which they’re traveling. According to travel statistics, 60% of millennials want an immersive travel experience and involve themselves in the cultural diversity of their destination. Furthermore, 78% of members from this age group anticipate educational benefits on their travel adventures. These expectations from millennials are essentially why sites like Airbnb have become wildly popular, because the accommodations tend to be immersive, featuring charm while centering the traveler in colorful local flair and flavors.


As a response to Airbnb’s disruptive competition, hotels might consider avoiding sterile or generic amenities by offering more personalized educational opportunities and culturally enriching experiences during millennial hotel stays. The idea of immersive travel is about sidestepping the tourist scene while encouraging exposure to historical, cultural, and geographical treasures germane to the region.


More and more, hotels cater to the traveling millennial’s need for narratives by incorporating cultural experiences. For example, a hotel in the heart of Miami might feature traditional Cuban tapas or hors d’oeuvres from historically-themed menu items. Hotels may also rethink typical tourist activities in ways that might be more culturally connected or engaging. For instance, a San Diego spa resort may highlight ritual or ceremonial aspects of its therapeutic spa treatments. This tactic is transformative, submerging a millennial in a meaningful, ritual experience instead of attaining a mere indulgence. The key here is about involving guests and providing them with deeply connective and participatory engagements.


Hotels also form collaborations with local artists and musical talent, which advances the feeling of being a part of the area’s authenticity and culture. Displaying local paintings and artwork or inviting music venues within the hotel gives guests a chance to connect with the community’s grassroots while learning more about the area’s vibe. Additionally, visionary hoteliers take optimal advantage of patrons’ immersive experiences by purposefully staging aesthetically pleasing “photo opp” areas throughout the hotel. This appeals to the millennial penchant for social sharing and brings awareness to local artists and cultural appreciation.


Making a Statement with a Mission

It should be clear that traveling millennials want to be fully integrated while vacationing and visiting unique destinations. Hoteliers can enhance this sense of inclusion by nailing down a clear and admirable mission. Many hotels promote worthwhile causes while conducting business, such as implementing fair trade practices, operating sustainably, and committing to eco-friendly endeavors. While these globally conscious missions are commendable, they also tend to magnetize mindful millennials who may have a genuine interest in noble causes.


Making a mission statement to guests such as going green or devotion to social equality should be a part of every hotel’s branding strategy. When patrons realize a hotel conducts business according to a meritorious mission, it is far more attractive to millennial travelers. Guests can easily support hotels that donate proceeds to a worthy purpose or champion a respectable cause. Informing potential patrons about a hotel’s laudable missions garners a sense of community, which 52% of millennials consider when traveling, according to Statista.com.


These and a mounting array of travel statistics prove that millennials are a highly influential and disruptive age group resulting in a positive impact on the hotel-hospitality industry. While every hotelier aims to provide excellence to every guest regardless of age, there are measurable advantages to placating specific age groups. Because of their eagerness to share, immerse, and align themselves with a common cause, hoteliers owe it to their business to accommodate this remarkable demographic. In summary, cultivating age-specific amenities and accommodations to millennials can be advantageous for increased bookings, superior guest experiences, and enhancing hotel reputation.

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