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Apr 07

What Do Millennials Want? Hotels Have Some Ideas – The New York Times

 

Hotels are concluding that millennial travelers want three things: customized experiences, digital convenience and relevant information on social media.

Call it Canopy by Hilton, Moxy by Marriott or Element by Starwood, traditional hotel chains are catering to the tastes of young adults who have never known a world without the Internet. Even Best Western, known for its budget hotels, has announced plans for a new brand called GLo, which will offer lower-priced small rooms and free high-speed Internet.

According to Phocuswright research, seven in 10 18- to 34-year-olds took at least one leisure trip in 2014, and while millennials spend slightly less annually ($3,217) than older travelers ($3,381), they do travel more on the fly. Almost a quarter of Gen Y travelers booked their last trip less than one week before departure, says Phocuswright.

“We see millennial travelers more as explorers than tourists,” said Brian McGuinness, global brand leader, Starwood’s Specialty Select Brands. “Our Aloft hotels are specifically designed with them in mind.”

Aloft features free Wi-Fi, areas for working poolside or in the bar, and even a robotic bellhop that appeals to tech-savvy millennials, he said. Now, guests who are too busy to talk to a human can order from an emoji room-service menu by texting a string of emoji with their last name and room number to Aloft TiGi (which stands for Text it. Get it.).

The pilot program is available at Aloft Manhattan Downtown, Aloft Liverpool and Aloft London Excel, and will go to Aloft properties in Asia next.

On the menu are things like a hangover kit of Vitaminwater, Advil and bananas for $10; a phone charger for $25; a Surprise Me package of what the Aloft emoji room-service menu calls “fun swag and cool stuff” for $25, and more.

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“If I’m traveling for work, and it’s late, I want a hotel where the food is good, and the delivery is quick,” said Sherrelle Banks, 28, a communications analyst for Fidelity Investments in Westlake, Tex. “Clean, nonsmoking rooms are a must.”

When it comes to leisure travel, Ms. Banks said that she takes photos of everything in the hotels where she stays — the lobby, the view from the room, and the room itself — along with vacation shots of activities to share with friends and family.

“I post almost everything on social media,” Ms. Banks said. “People who saw pictures of my trip to Costa Rica on Facebook said they want to go with me next time.”

To grab the attention of millennials who regularly use social media, Marriott International has gone Hollywood by running its own studio to create short films, TV shows and webisodes that promote its various brands, said David Beebe, vice president for global creative and content marketing at Marriott International.

Marriott Content Studio has created shows like “Navigator Live,” which gave guests in Renaissance Hotels a look at a city through the eyes of touring musicians. The show also ran on the cable network AXS TV. Short films like the action comedy “Two Bellmen Two,” about two bellmen who save the day when a guest’s business presentation goes missing, was filmed at the J.W. Marriott Marquis Dubai and garnered 7.9 million YouTube views. The film, which will soon be featured on Emirates Airline, is also shown in a number of Marriott hotels.

The short films are created by Marriott Content Studio executives and Hollywood producers like Ian Sander and Kim Moses (whose credits include the television series “Ghost Whisperer” and “Profiler”) who produced “French Kiss,” a romantic tale set at the Paris Marriott Champs-Élysées. “French Kiss” has received 6.1 million YouTube views, and also has been seen on flights on JetBlue and American among other airlines, and in certain Marriott hotels.

Information on the company’s 19 social media brand campaigns is monitored at its headquarters in Bethesda, Md., using a screen that tracks pop culture events and allows staff members to create real-time marketing opportunities, like its recent Super Bowl “Suite Stadium Contest” that gave a winner and three guests an overnight stay at Levi’s Stadium the night before the Super Bowl in a converted guest room suite, along with tickets to the game.

“Marriott is trailblazing marketing infrastructure for major hospitality brands, using platforms such as Snapchat and context-specific video content to build brand awareness and encourage participation,” Andrew Alvarez, a hospitality industry analyst for IBISWorld, an industry research company based in New York, said in an email.

Marriott’s Renaissance Hotels have also introduced Evenings at Renaissance, a free event for guests featuring local craft beverages chosen by the hotel bartender and local drink experts. The program is part of the brand’s new It’s Business Unusual global campaign to appeal to young entrepreneurial business travelers.

Hotel chains are also trying to draw young adults to their brands with music-related loyalty program events, like Hilton@PLAY’s concerts.

In December, for example, Hilton presented Neon Trees at the Washington Hilton in the District of Columbia for an exclusive performance for guests. Hilton HHonors members can redeem points to attend such concerts, or can make a gift of the experiences to others.

Apps that allow hotel guests to select rooms, check in digitally or order a burger before arrival are becoming standard mobile features, while social media like Hilton Suggests Twitter handle (@HiltonSuggests) shares recommendations from contributors around the world for everything from where to eat to what to do and see.

“It’s the concierge for the social age,” said Mary Beth Parks, senior vice president for global marketing for Hilton Worldwide.

Because 44 percent of millennials prefer booking hotel services from a mobile phone, versus 26 percent of baby boomers, according to IHG’s 2015 Trends Report, it’s no surprise that IHG is using mobile for more personalized service with customers.

The company, with brands including InterContinental, Kimpton, EVEN, Indigo and Crowne Plaza, is running a pilot program in IHG hotels in China that places beacons in the lobbies and restaurants that recognize rewards club members using the IHG app nearby.

“These beacons then send information to the guest’s smartphone, including personalized notifications and offers,” said Heather Balsley, IHG senior vice president, Americas Brand Management.

Exploring the world is a goal for Chris Tung, 25, the coordinator for the original film division of Netflix in Beverly Hills, who is starting to do research for a vacation in Japan next year.

“I try to stay in places that are authentic to an area, where locals hang out,” Mr. Tung said. “Price is a big factor. I’m always searching multiple sites to figure out the best deals. I’d love access to online streaming services where I can put in my own account number to watch things, rather than pay a hotel charge.”

Free Wi-Fi, good restaurants and safe and convenient locations for seeing the sights are musts. Mr. Tung, who has also stayed at Airbnb homes, said he prefers hotel stays for trips lasting more than a couple of days.

“You know what to expect at a hotel, and the amenities are nice,” Mr. Tung said. “Plus, you don’t have to clean up after yourself. All you have to do is enjoy the area you’re visiting.”

Source: What Do Millennials Want? Hotels Have Some Ideas – The New York Times

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