New Options for Managing Hotel Public Relations

The Millennial Mindset Gives Power to Instagram

By Leora Halpern Lanz President, LHL Communications | April 29, 2018

Co-authored by Gina Hock, Graduate, Boston University School of Hospitality Administration

Move over Google, because Instagram could be the next best search engine. With 2018 came the ever-growing popularity of the photo-sharing application, and the rise of influential marketers who now have the weight to impact the travel and tourism industry in significant ways.

The social site is no longer only for the millennial generation – those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. As the digital world continues to develop, the platform serves as a social site for everyone, any age. Users may not fall into the millennial generation criteria regarding birth year, however, they can still possess the attributes, desires, and needs of said generation. We call these users "millennial-minded." They form relationships with groups who have common interests, they enjoy personalized experiences, they want to keep up and stay relevant with trends while also posting photos of their experiences on social media sites. With an ever increasing audience, Instagram only grows more powerful. A research study conducted by HubSpot found that the platform features more than 700 million active monthly users, over 95 million shared photos, and is branding itself as a global vehicle for personal and business use. 

Thus, Instagram has shifted from an exchange site to share photos with friends, to a trusted source for the search of goods and services, vacation ideas, and lifestyle trends. Roger Drake, Emmy Award Winning Video Content Producer and Marketing Strategist of Drake PR & Marketing shares his insight. "The visual nature [of Instagram] lends itself so well to especially restaurants to showcase the beauty of their food and presentation. It's a great way to connect with your social users and encourage customers to post their photos and positively influence behavior. When done well, it results in an increase in guest traffic."

According to a 2018 Forbes article, consumers see Instagram travel suggestions as "more genuine" than commercial travel promotions.  With Instagram's "location search" feature, consumers are moving away from Safari and choosing Instagram to search for restaurants, hotels, and destinations. The function compiles the photos taken in that particular location with that specific geotag, giving the user a real-life, nearly real-time perspective on any kind of experience. It serves as a tool for the consumer decision process in the hospitality sector, prompting users to eliminate certain options and fixate on the hotels that meet their needs. If a user wants to book a vacation in Palm Springs, he can simply search "The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage" or "Ace Hotel & Swim Club" to view guest photos, and learn from user generated content how it may be to grab a drink by the pool or enjoy a Sunday brunch, and ultimately decide where to stay.

Such a shift in use is prompting hotels and public relations agencies to quickly react and implement this model as a modern day public relations tool. Once reliant upon sit-down lunches with journalists, phone calls with travel writers, and consultations with third party media experts, the travel PR industry is shifting to a more digital, integrated space, dominated by Instagram users with thousands of followers. The significant following gives these users an established credibility – so they're named "influencers."

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.