The first hotel online booking engines are twenty years old now, and they are slowly evolving to give users more features and more control over their stay. So why has there has been so little effort made in the evolution of web bookings for small groups. Most hotels are still expecting small groups, which, by the way, are 30% of hotel business, to fill out a form or make a call before they can get rates or make reservations. While this may have been marginally sustainable up until now, there is little hope that Millennials are going to continue to give hotels their business this way.
Millennials are not just a future prospect anymore. The Pew Research Center defines adult Millennials as 18 to 33 year olds, born 1981 to 1996. Millennials are not unemployed college students; they are today's (and tomorrow's) group travelers. This group is growing into a record purchasing power, with different needs and wants than their Boomer parents. Millennials grew up in the age of the internet, and are active, connected consumers, spending an average 25 hours per week online, so they demand businesses be online.
When it comes to groups, Millennials are today's organizers. Millenials are:
The Brides | The average age of brides today makes them Millennials. They spend countless hours planning and preparing their wedding days via smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Up to 75% of traffic to our wedding partner websites comes from mobile devices.
The Office Assistants | Studies indicate that 85% of meetings are unmanaged. Millennial assistants are doing the planning.
The Sports Teams | The athletes, parents, and coaches are all potentially Millennials.
Your Hotel Staff | Many hotel sales managers are Millennials. Are they really willing to fill out forms to get rates?
Millennials prefer to communicate through their devices and their level of attachment to these devices cannot be overstated. For the travel industry, this impacts the way Millennials travel and should be considered in hotel strategies at every touch point. We see this taking shape with mobile check-in and social lobbies. So why have hotels been slow to overhaul online group bookings? Millennials are going to demand more, so here are some important considerations for hotels who wants to appeal to this important demographic.
1) Millennials sense of self is tied to their media influence, and tech devices are viewed as an extension of their person, according the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda. It is essential to their lives, and they expect to be able to socialize, conduct business, and make plans via mobile device (as well as to share their experiences). However, they prefer not to email, and they definitely don't want to call. Let's face it, this is the new standard. Get on the boat or sink, because Millennials are the fastest growing travel segment, and they have proven they love to travel.
2) They like to travel together. 58% of Millennials prefer to travel with friends, and that is 20% more than older generations (HVS). Social trends will result in more group travel for Millennials: 33% of guests are from out of town at weddings now, sports travel is a $7B industry, and family reunions and family vacations are on the rise as generations don't live in the same cities anymore. Group business will boom as this generation brings more dollars to the travel table.
3) The Now Generation. Millennials demand real-time everything. However, the hotel industry is not offering the tools this uber-connected generation needs for group travel. They have expressed preferences for mobile check-in and mobile concierge, but we still expect them to call to get a group room rate? To book via email, which they consider a "work" tool (Tnooz)?
Here are some important statistics about how Millennials do their travel business:
61% of them go to the hotel web site
81% of organizers desire real-time inventory and pricing
83% want self service
If they cannot find your group rates, chances are Millennials are not going to email or pick up the phone to find our more, and you've lost the business.
4) Millennials have a shorter booking window of less than 75 days compared with 93 days for older travelers, and they are more likely to make snap travel decisions in real time (HVS). Just because they are organizing a group, does not make this propensity any less relevant. They touch their mobile devices over 43 times each day; they can arrange a group trip in a matter of hours (Rezdy). Hotels offering real-time rates and online group bookings will get this business, plain and simple.
5) Self-Service 24/7 always wins. In addition to planning and booking online, millennials expect to be able to invite guests with the click of a button and have the guests self-manage their details across many different devices. This calls for web responsive designs that will adapt to any device, and a system that allows the organizer to give responsibilities to the individual guests/attendees.
6) Hook the Millennial groups and you have a powerful word of mouth potential. 97% of Millennials post on social media when they are traveling, and their connectedness has created an epidemic "fear of missing out" (Entrepreneur). This means they want to be where the action is all the time. Give them the tools to book and manage their groups, and your hotel becomes part of a Millennial trend.
The long and short of it is this: Millennials are a significant generation; they have plenty of spending potential; they are connected all day every day, and they like to travel with each other. They will be the primary source of growth and group business revenue in the coming years. Hotels have every reason to redesign their offerings to meet Millennial needs. Offering online group bookings and self-management for organizers should move the top of the priority list for any hotels that want to attract and capitalize on this powerful (and profitable) consumer base.
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