The Increasing Influence Millennials Have on the Hotel Industry

If you have read any English-speaking periodical in the past year, you’ve surely caught mention of millennials and how they are changing the way we do business. We had a thing or two to say on the matter ourselves. Beyond the implications for the world of insurance, however, we continue to be intrigued by the way millennials are reshaping the hospitality industry—and it looks like we’re in good company.

The New York Times published an article earlier this month about how major hotel chains are changing their marketing campaigns, investing in technological upgrades, and launching offshoot brands to cater specifically to the 18- to 34-year-old crowd. (USA Today offered a nice overview of the latter trend earlier this year.) Some highlights:

  • Aloft, Starwood’s millennial-branded hotel, offers an emoji-based room service menu that includes a hangover kit of Vitaminwater, Advil and bananas for $10; a phone charger for $25; a Surprise Me package of what the menu calls “fun swag and cool stuff” for $25, and more.
  • Marriott monitors the company’s 19 social media brand campaigns at its Maryland headquarters, using a screen that tracks pop culture events and allows staff members to create real-time marketing opportunities, like 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 guest room suite, along with tickets to the game.
  • Hotel chains are retooling their loyalty programs to appeal to the young adult traveler. Hilton offers Hilton@PLAY’s concerts, hosting musical guests like Neon Trees and Of Monsters and Men for exclusive performances for guests.

As a prime tourist destination and an axis for innovation, New York City often serves as a testing ground for new concepts. One of the most recent examples of this is Renaissance Hotel’s new “fearlessly chic” Midtown flagship, which is piloting the use of ambient intelligence, a cool if somewhat creepy concept. Skift explains:

Ambient intelligence leverages the growing sophistication in today’s camera technology, face recognition software, and artificial intelligence to interact with humans — without accessing a person’s device via traditional beacon sensor technology.

Upon entering the Renaissance, which opened Monday as the brand’s new flagship hotel, guests walk past the lobby through a long corridor with 22 camera sensors and 20 speakers. As you walk, the sensors track your XYZ position in 3D space, and then the wall creates sounds and graphics around you in a kind of sensory soundtrack bubble.

For general guests, as the system works now, the experience is mostly atmospheric. For corporate and social groups, however, the content can be customized to a particular company’s strategy or group’s identity that engages people as they traverse the hall.

Potentially down the road, each individual guest could be identified using face recognition technology and the ambient ecosystem pulling contact information from faces stored in a general opt-in database, like a Marriott loyalty program, for example.

Needless to say, those of us headquartered in New York will be stopping by to check this out soon and keeping our eye on the fascinating changes taking place in the hotel industry. Because they’re millennial-inspired, sure, but the evolving hospitality industry means more interesting, meaningful hotel stays for all of us.