The millennial generation is blazing a distinctive path into adulthood. We are in the throes of a demographic overhaul that is affecting nearly every industry, including hospitality and travel.

As the next generation of travelers, Millennials will soon become the hospitality industry’s core customer. Within four years, 79 million Millennials will begin to enter the highest earning, spending, and traveling years of their careers. By 2020, this demographic will make up a full half of all business travel.

Millennials have the potential to be the most engaged and loyal guests. They come equipped with their own social audience over which they have influence. From the perspective of the Millennial, a brand endorsement means brand loyalty. The challenge lies in the fact that pleasing the guest of this generation varies from those of other generations. With a travel style drastically different from that of their parents’, Millennials are redefining the travel experience.

With traditional opportunities for guest/staff interaction waning, and in some cases being eliminated altogether, brands are forced to define new ways to create a connection with the Millennial guest. Developing new guest touch-points through branded guest amenities is one opportunity to make a relevant brand/guest connection.

With the correct combination of style, brand and function, unique guest touch-points can be crafted to deliver a novel, personalized experience that resonates with the Millennial guest.

“Coupling a stylized amenity with a meaningful delivery is the new dynamic style of customer service Millennials are after. Amenities and gifting are tangible means to enhance the tech + travel lifestyles of Millennials—during and post-stay.”
– Kelly O’Dwyer, A S Hospitality, Director of Business Development


Shifting Touch-Points

Millennials have the potential to be the most engaged and loyal guests. They come equipped with their own social audience over which they have influence. From the perspective of the Millennial, a brand endorsement means brand loyalty. The challenge lies in the fact that pleasing the guest of this generation varies from those of other generations. With a travel style drastically different from that of their parents’, Millennials are redefining the travel experience.

Check-In
While tradition dictates a friendly welcome from front desk staff at check-in, many Millennials prefer a more self-serve approach. According to this HVS report, over one third of Millennials prefer automated check-in without staff interaction.
Opportunity: In-room welcome gift such as branded ear-buds or a stylish water bottle featuring the brand pattern.

In-room Dining
As reported in this New York Times article, some properties are eliminating room service due to the increasing practice of ordering in from local restaurants. This results in reduced costs, and provides the guest a unique, local experience. More on local to come…
Opportunity: Local bar and restaurant guide highlighting unique and well-recommended establishments.

Turn-down
Turn-down service is not something Millennials are looking for every night. However, it is an opportunity to make their last night’s stay special and memorable. As many travelers prefer to check-out on their mobile devices, turn-down service will likely become the last interaction they have with the hotel before departing.
Opportunity: Branded mini-travel kit or branded luggage tag made of recycled materials paired with a note wishing them well on future adventures.


Give Them Something To Talk About

Also referred to as the Now Generation, Millennials demand and share information as it happens. This demographic desires to share the individualistic aspect of their travels with friends and followers in the moment. While members of previous generations may call a few friends to let them know about a great hotel stay, Millennials will post a picture or review that can easily reach thousands of people at once.

Unexpected branded guest amenities and gifts create these sharable moments. Do a quick search for “hotel gift” on Twitter or Instagram, and you will find posts by guests sharing their delight over an unexpected gift left to them by their hotel.

According to research by Bridge.over, Millennials see advocacy as a true component of loyalty. In other words, they believe that one can be loyal to a brand without necessarily making a purchase.

“Whatever a Millennial’s opinion is, it’ll be shared through social media faster than it takes to call the concierge.”
– Susan Piperato, 10 Trends Transforming the Hotel Sector, May 2014

Millennials assess their traveling experiences from a particularly critical view point, always poised to share their opinions about these experiences on social networks. When these travelers have a complaint, they are far more likely to share their opinions on Facebook than with the hotel manager. As a result, social networks and review sites are the go-to for travel guidance. According to JWT Intelligence, close to 6 in 10 internet users aged 18 to 34 are motivated to purchase travel by their friends’ and followers’ recommendations.


Authentic and Unique Experiences

Millennial travelers view the hotel as their home base during their stay at a destination. They want to immerse themselves in local culture and explore the cities they visit.

Although more relevant for leisure travelers, the Millennial’s search for local authenticity. According to this 2011 national survey by PGAV Destinations, 70% of Millennials expect to have immersive experiences at their destinations that will allow them to integrate into the local culture.

With this in mind, brands have the opportunity to have ownership of the trip experience by facilitating the Millennial guest in having great experiences outside of the hotel.

Local Sources of Inspiration
  • Activity-based: Select products that enhance activities popular in the local area. An example would include a branded bluetooth headband with built-in earbuds, paired with a map of local running trails.
  • Design: Offer items consistent with design trends of the area or sourced from local designers and artists. Examples might include branded accessories like scarves or bandannas created by a local designer or a small stationery set featuring work by a local artist.
  • Food and beverage: Offer snacks from local establishments packaged with your branding. This could include a cupcake from a local bakery as a welcome gift or local potato chips and beer in the mini bar.
  • Climate: Develop logowear and accessories suitable for the climate. Examples include umbrellas or ponchos for areas with high precipitation. History: Create a history guide of the area including a map of unique and must-visit historical locations.

Style, Functionality and Brand

No matter your target guest demographic, the most successful branded amenities incorporate a combination of style, functionality and brand. This involves selecting innovative items that reach beyond typical promotional products, and are consistent with guest style preference and brand identity.

As you begin your search for just the right amenity or gift, here are a few suggestions to get you off to a good start:
  • Style: Style and brand really go hand-in-hand, but specifically consider the style preferences of your guest. Pay attention to the lines of the design, materials, weight, quality, and packaging.
  • Function: An item with an unexpected and useful function truly adds value to the amenity and to the perception of your brand. Additionally, finding innovative, functional products increases the likelihood it will get used on a regular basis.
  • On Brand: Think beyond the color of the product, and find items that have a design and materials consistent with your brand identity. Specifically pay attention to the imprint area and method. A large imprint area will provide more freedom of design and can allow you to incorporate your brand pattern.