By Mike Murray, Founder of Vir.al, the new inspiration/hotel booking app/website
Today, Millennials are a widely overlooked audience for hotels; whether it’s because there is a general perception that they are entitled and hard-to-please, or because they are assumed to have no money to spend on traveling but ignoring Millennials is a huge mistake for hoteliers’ bottom lines. Millennials are one of the fastest growing travel demographics, who are “expected to be taking 320 million international trips each year (by 2020) .” Contrary to popular belief, not all Millennials are choosing to stay at Airbnb (or other alternative accommodation properties); in fact, Millennials “make up 70 percent of all hotel guests. ”
Surprised? If you’re like most hoteliers, I’d guess that your answer is yes. If you haven’t figured out how to make your property more attractive to Millennials, I’m here to help.
The answer is simple: focus less on selling a room and a bed, and more on selling a complete, unique, share-worthy travel experience.
FutureCast’s Millennial Brief on Travel & Lodging called Millennials “Experience Pioneers,” which is one of the most apt descriptions that I’ve read for this demographic, as “[a] great experience is 3X more popular [with Millennials] than getting a bargain price ” and “72% of Millennials choose to prioritize experiences over luxury and material goods. This is the basis of the Experience Economy, in which “businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product. ”
For most Millennials, their travel experiences are an integral part of their development as a person. This, combined with Millennials’ obsession with social media engagement (receiving many likes, shares and comments on their posts), makes the experiences had while traveling of much greater importance than it was for previous generations. Millennials experience FOMO (“fear of missing out”) more poignantly than any other generation, fueled primarily by social media, which again re-emphasizes the importance of having every element of their trip, be unique, beautiful and highly experiential (in nature) – and that includes their accommodation.
Like other industries who have had to make significant changes to suit the Millennial market, the hotel industry needs to get onboard with the Experience Economy or they risk losing out on many bookings. Hotel marketers must completely revamp their strategies to emphasize the experience that their guests will have during their stay, rather than on their amenities, luxury or brand name (as would appeal to older generations) if they want to boost bookings with Millennial travelers.
Some of the best ways to communicate the experiences that your property has to offer (rather than just your amenities) are:
• Use videos that share experiences available at your property, rather than just showing your rooms and common areas. For example, if your hotel hosts amazing pool parties or is the location for local events, share videos of the events on social media, as it is more likely to inspire Millennials to book than a static photo of your pool. This can be a highly effective tactic, as a recent Phocuswright survey showed that Millennials are highly motivated (when making travel decisions) by YouTube videos.
• Share past guests’ posts to communicate the experiences that they found most rewarding while staying at your property. Across all social media channels, engage with past guests who have posted at or about your property (by liking or commenting on their post) and then re-share it to your followers. This strategy can yield a large increase in bookings with Millennials as “86% of Millennial travelers were inspired to book a trip based on content they viewed online.”
• Share non-salesy, informational content about your destination with potential guests. By sharing content about your destination (not sales information about your property) online, you make your property a valuable resource. When it comes time for travelers coming to your destination to book a hotel, they are more likely to book with your property because they are already familiar with and trust your brand because you have given them valuable information that will help to shape and improve their overall travel experience.
• Use the booking channels that target Millennials’ specific needs and communicate with them in a way that they will respond positively to (like Vir.al does!). Most Millennials are booking online (either through OTAs or via mobile apps) so your property should have a presence on all the channels that are most frequently used by the travelers that you are targeting.
Currently, Millennials spend over “$200 billion on travel each year” and this number is only expected to increase, as most have yet to reach their peak earning – and spending – potential. Now is the time to update your marketing materials and OTA listings to make your property more appealing to Millennials; you’ll have nothing to lose and everything – including increased occupancy and RevPAR – to gain!
Vir.al is a new inspirational hotel booking app and website that capitalizes on today’s social media phenomenon to bring hotels and the valuable Millennial travel demographic together. Using curated, experience-based, destination-specific content, Vir.al enables users to create unique travel experiences, not just book a hotel room in which to sleep, and incentivizes them to increase their social media score in exchange for perks, promotions and status. Hoteliers can use the app’s back-end, which identifies socially active potential guests who are planning a trip to their destination, enables hoteliers to offer incentives to book and, as a result, boost their brand’s online visibility with and appeal to Millennials. Currently, Vir.al is available on iOS and can be used to plan travel experiences in eight popular destinations in the United States – New York, Boston, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Austin and New Orleans – but more domestic and international destinations will be added on a regular basis.
To find out more, please visit http://vir.al/ or download the iOS app at http://vir.al/ios/. The Android app will be available for download and the website’s full booking capabilities will be live during the spring of 2017.
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