How hotels can challenge Airbnb for millennials' hearts
Millennials travel differently than previous generations -- both for leisure and for business -- and hotels have been slow to adapt their offerings in ways that appeal to millennials.
Teresa Lee, an analyst -- and self-described millennial -- at hospitality researcher HVS took at swipe at the industry in a 2014 report by asking this simple question about the industry's attempts to modernize: "Is this 2009?"
It's no surprise.Hotels are trying to appeal to the under-35 set, but they're going at it in the wrong way. While brands like Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt have begun embracing technology, modernization isn't solely about technology. It's not just about allowing guests to check in via phones, equipping staff with tablets, or inventing robot butlers. It's not even about having a great ad campaign.
It's about rethinking the experiences. Millennials aren't simply a "technology" generation that salivates over technology for its own sake. When millennials talk about Airbnb, do they talk about the booking process? No, they talk about the unique accommodations. When they talk about Uber, do they talk about the app experience? No, they talk about how great it is to not have to physically call or wave down a cab. Both brands rely on technology, sure, but technology is not the story. Technology is simply the enabler of new experiences.
That's why it's not enough to simply throw technology at millennials' travel problems. Offering today's technology simply meets today's standards. For hotels to really connect with millennials, they must create truly modern experiences. Here are three ways:
1. Redefine customer service through modern means.
If Airbnb is the king of unique accommodations, then hotels have to become the king of customer service. Traditionally, that's meant investment in great staff. Today, that means investment in data and analysis. Millennials have uncovered an interesting tech-enabled paradox: Services feel more personal when people are removed from the equation.
Just think about the Uber experience or how Amazon is even better than your friends at giving product recommendations for things you'd like. Now, imagine a guest having a personal profile that's fine-tuned for their preferences. The more they stay at the hotel, the more the hotel adapts to them. Imagine having the previous night's episode of SportsCenter already saved to your TV before you've checked in, or room service knowing you'll have "the usual" for breakfast based on your previous orders.