What to Expect With Gen Z as Hospitality’s Next Big Demographic

Remember back in the day when booking a hotel was either calling them up or going online to use one of the rudimentary hotel sites or maybe getting lucky with Expedia? (I think they were the first platform to check multiple hotels at once, anyhow.) There were no “curated” experiences, there was no Airbnb, and if there was a tiny pool for a late-night swim, it was about the best thing ever. 

Fast forward to 2020: everything is different. And we mean everything. Instead of one platform to book a hotel room, consumers have the pick of the litter. Brands fight to distinguish themselves amongst the new smaller players popping up. Everything we thought we knew about the hotel experience is up for grabs. Marketing to boomers was one thing, and while millennials are the core drivers of the current business model, Generation Z is looming in the foreground to become the most significant market segment yet. 

According to Statista, “Generation Z, or those born after 1997, made up the largest generation in the United States as of 2017, with about 90.55 million individuals. The Baby Boomer generation, or those born between 1946 and 1964, made up the second-largest generation, with 72.56 million individuals.” 

That’s a ton of people. And what’s relevant to all these people? Travel. Between Millennials and Generation Z, they’re setting aside time and money for experiences – taking between two and three trips a year, to the tune of around $5,000 annually. 

The hospitality industry has to understand this new demographic. Otherwise, these hotels risk going the way of the 8-track: forgotten in time. Don’t get it twisted, this isn’t just about keeping a bunch of kids happy, but instead, it’s about embracing an evolving culture. There are a lot of options for travelers. It’s critical to make sure your property stands head and shoulders above the rest. 

Social media is just a part of the landscape 

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, all of these platforms are a part of the social fabric. They’re not fringe elements, these platforms are a part of culture, they’re not going anywhere. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about Boomers, Millennials, or Gen Z – everyone is on some connected platform. Because we spend so much time scrolling statues or looking at photos of faraway places, these platforms carry weight and influence where people are spending their vacations.

Hotels should engage across social media by posting photos, highlighting events, show off their new cafes, or the dishes people rave about on travel review sites. All of these things draw attention to the experiences a guest could have when they stay at your properties.

This also works for bad reviews, too. If a guest posts something less than satisfactory, it’s essential to address the issue. People snap photos, they catch the stuff that goes wrong. A hotel has to remain sharp to the guest’s needs because a hotel is different than a restaurant getting a bad review. A burger comes out wrong, lousy service, all immediately fixable, and usually can be pinpointed to a person. A hotel is a different animal because it’s a place where people sleep, they shower, they’re supposed to feel at ease. If the beds are dirty or the pool is broken, that trust is compromised. 

Use social media to your advantage. Show people why your staff is the best in town, why the location is fun, even if something goes wrong. You have the camera, so get the edge. 

They don’t want more “stuff”

Have you ever gone to a conference? When you leave, you’re carrying armloads of crap you don’t need and didn’t want. Precious dollars were spent to lure you toward a product, when most of the time, a branded pen just wasn’t necessary. Hotels need to think along the same lines: younger people are willing to spend extra on specialized experiences rather than hit the Vegas strip again. They don’t want the object, it’s the journey to get there.

Eventbrite cited that Millennials want experiences, not more stuff: “More than 3 in 4 Millennials would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable.”

Amenities are essential, but focusing on experience and community are also massive parts of why people choose to stay where they do. People want local, they want the food, the places the people who live in the community go, rather than hitting the local Chili’s. If there are nearby attractions, keep a note of where they are, how quick it is to get to them. 

Some hotels partner up with local attractions to offer packages and discounts. Everything doesn’t have to rely on a corporate mega-structure if you’re not a chain. Some hotels offer live  local music, others showcase local art in the rooms, which also provides an experience instead of another bland stock photography photo to adorn the walls of a hotel room they’ve seen a thousand times. Help people discover why they came to your town in the first place, give them something to remember, not another branded pen.

Tech drives everything 

We can get anything we need from our smartphones. Booking travel shouldn’t be any harder. If your hotel isn’t online with a simple to use platform, that’s leaving money on the table. Like Amazon, people have their credit cards linked to their phones and swipe to book a vacation in minutes. 

There’s software dedicated to helping make sure rooms are cleaned faster by using an iPad, which means guests check in faster and can relax. Everything is being made to work faster and smarter. Even staffing. 

One thing that’s definitely gauche is making guests pay for a primary Internet connection. Everyone is connected in today’s market, being seen as cheap and not willing to provide internet access isn’t a smart move. If you’d like some site traffic in return, that’s fine. When someone logs onto the Internet, you could direct users with a pop-up box featuring local events, attractions, or a curated blog. 

Use technology to keep tabs on your past guests. By using your email list, you can create brand loyalty, offer perks for rebooking all while getting data that shows your what guests like as well as what they don’t. Loyalty programs aren’t new, but they keep people in your ecosystem. People love saving money in the long run, and if you create customers for life by offering excellent service, it’s a win/win.

There are plenty of ways to corner the market and to get ahead in the hospitality industry. Don’t get left behind, it’s a new decade and people are traveling more than ever, as those Gen Z kids say, “shoot your shot.”

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