Even With Food and Beverages, Millennials Crave Experiences

By Jonathan Wilson VP Product Innovation & Brand Services, Hilton Worldwide | August 12, 2018

Millennial travelers are a sought-after demographic on the hotel marketer's wish list, and for good reason. Unlike other groups, Millennials are the only generation that plans to spend more this year than previously on travel, according to the travel marketing firm MMGY. Given the impact this generation is expected to have on the industry, Resonance Consultancy's recent survey on "The Future of U.S. Millennial Travel" might as well have been called "the future of travel is Millennials."

Hotels will lose important revenue if they fail to adapt, or if their efforts fall short of accommodating Millennials' needs. In the MMGY study, Millennials said they plan to travel 36 percent more than last year and spend 19 percent more than in the prior year. While it's certainly good news that Millennials still prefer full-service hotels or resorts over home-sharing services, according to Resonance Consultancy, more than half do admit to using those services from time to time.

Most likely, it's the unique experiences that draw Millennials to those services – for example, the opportunity to stay in a treehouse, on a boat or in a castle, or to dine in a space that feels like home and offers the option of grabbing a nutritious snack to take away. Research shows Millennials value experiences first and foremost, so that insight should guide hotels' evolving strategic priorities. In fact, three out of four Millennials would prefer to dedicate their hard-earned money toward experiences rather than buying something, according to Eventbrite.

With that in mind, hotel executives need to filter the concept of "experience" throughout their brands, even in the less obvious ways, such as food and beverage offerings. The details matter, and thinking about how millennial travelers view their experiences from a social media lens can be particularly helpful.

The Business Challenge

In the quest to infuse photo-worthy experiences into the food and beverage category, it's not enough to simply create a few new locally inspired cocktails or add seasonal dishes to a restaurant menu. Those types of changes can be easily rotated, may not require a ton of staff time to create and are valuable in their own right, but the Millennial thirst for experience likely won't be quenched with these upgrades alone.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.