Hotels cater to Gen Y

Traditional hotel chains use social media to attract young adults who have never known a world without the Internet

NEW YORK • Hotels are concluding that millennial travellers want three things: customised 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 (US$3,217 or S$4,380) than older travellers (US$3,381), they do travel more on the fly. Almost a quarter of Gen Y travellers booked their last trip less than one week before departure, said Phocuswright.

"We see millennial travellers more as explorers than tourists," said Mr Brian McGuinness, global brand leader, Starwood's Specialty Select Brands. "Our Aloft hotels are 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 programme 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 such as a hangover kit of Vitaminwater, Advil and bananas for US$10; and a phone charger for US$25.

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

Marriott Content Studio has created shows such as Navigator Live, which gave guests in Renaissance Hotels a look at a city through the eyes of touring musicians.

Information on the company's 19 social media brand campaigns is monitored at its headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, using a screen that tracks pop culture events and allows staff members to create real- time marketing opportunities, such as 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 guestroom suite, along with tickets to the game.

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

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 such as the Hilton Suggests Twitter handle (@Hilton Suggests) 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 Ms Mary Beth Parks, senior vice-president for global marketing for Hilton Worldwide.

Exploring the world is a goal for Mr Chris Tung, 25, coordinator for the original film division of Netflix in Beverly Hills, who is researching for a trip to Japan next year.

He 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," he said. "Plus, you don't have to clean up after yourself. All you have to do is enjoy the area you're visiting."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 17, 2016, with the headline 'Hotels cater to Gen Y'. Print Edition | Subscribe