Elizabeth Segran published an interesting article in Fast Company a few days ago, about hotel patriarch Marriott's concern over becoming antiquated.
According to Segran, Marriott's high-quality product ensured that guests had a "perfectly predictable experience anywhere in the world." That approach worked like a charm with baby boomers. But Millennials are looking for a more "meaningful" experience. They gravitate towards hostels, Airbnb, and non-name boutique hotels, which offer a more authentic taste of local culture-and a more exciting story to tell.
Wolfgang Lindlbauer, chief discipline leader of global operations at Marriott International, had this to say:
"The trademark of the boomer was that they wanted familiarity, safety, and comfort. As an international hotel company, Marriott has leveraged its scale as a competitive advantage for many years, but what we're finding is that the next-generation consumer wants the exact opposite of what we're delivering."
OK, let's slow down here for a minute. Does anyone see what's wrong with this picture?
Yes, I believe Millennials want a rich and meaningful travel experience. Add to that the fact that Airbnb can produce a significant cost savings over the Marriott, attracting the young and budget-minded.
But what everyone seems to be forgetting is:
Millennials, like boomers and Gen-Xers before them, will change.
Will "authentic" be as important when Millennials are in their 40s, with children? Or will they then turn to comfortable, convenient, and familiar-like the rest of us did once we got older?
As a young Gen-Xer, I made the most of my 20s. I traveled often. I took a month to drive across the country, from California to New York. I visited numerous countries in Europe and Asia. I was all about rich, meaningful, and authentic.
But nowadays, I have two small children. I drive a minivan. It takes my wife and me weeks to plan and pack for a trip.
If we're going to stay in a hotel, do you know what I look for?
Familiar. Safe. Comfortable.
I still want culture-we've enjoyed some great trips throughout Europe as a family. But "meaningful and authentic" aren't the highest priorities for my bedroom. After a long day of walking, lifting, carrying small children, collapsing and rebuilding our stroller, and picking up my son's Lightning McQueen ("because I can't reach, daddy") for what feels like the 17th time...familiar, safe, and comfortable are the only things that matter.
It's true, I'm not a Millennial. But the research supports my hypothesis. Skift, a global platform that analyzes current trends in the tourism industry, recently published results from their survey examining the travel habits of Gen-Y.
A few interesting facts:
- Older Millennials (25-34) are staying at hotels a lot more than younger ones (18-24)
- Younger Millennials (18-24) prefer hostels at more than twice the rate of older ones
- Hotel accommodations are more popular with Millennials who have a yearly income of $75K and above
- Over 38 percent of Millennials stayed in a hotel during their last personal leisure trip, versus just under 4 percent who chose Airbnb
To be fair, the results also indicated that older Millennials prefer Airbnb at twice the rate of younger...but this number is still much lower than those who choose to stay in hotels.
One more thing to think about:
Baby boomers weren't always age 50 to 70. Where do you think those 65-year-olds stayed in their 20s and 30s? At the Marriott and the Hilton?
No way. More likely in a converted VW Bus.
So here's the takeaway for business owners:
Youth is great. But everyone gets old. As circumstances change, so do our preferences. Identify whom your target customers are, and work for them.
But remember: They're going to change, too.
Whoever can predict those changes accurately, and remain flexible and nimble enough to respond, will succeed.
Now, if you'll excuse me, we're leaving for vacation in a few weeks.
Time to start packing.