[with] us all the time,” Boda said, “whereas 87 percent of our travelers only fly [with] us once a year. We need both, but we have to start honoring the smaller, more loyal group that is really paying the bills. Many loyalty programs across the industry are following this trend.”
Other panelists aimed to redefine the millennial generation altogether.
“First of all, I think the term ‘millennials’ is broader than just a demographic connotation; it is really a psychographic categorization,” said Janet Brashear, managing director and head of the Hospitality and Travel Practice at Accenture Strategy. “The term ‘millennials’ is often shorthand for digital lifestyle. In travel, people [simply] want what they have seen in other industries and know is possible, such as the simplicity and intuitiveness around interactions that saves time and leads to great experiences, whether it is using a smartphone to check in and open the room door or to find a past receipt.”
And some sectors of the industry are more inclined to succeed with this new demographic, as Elizabeth Blau, MS ’14—founder and CEO of Blau & Associates, and one of the industry monoliths who helped develop Las Vegas’s food-and-beverage sector—pointed out about her niche.
“The restaurant sector of the hospitality industry is so high-touch to begin with, so I think we’re making a great impact on the millennial, tech-savvy group. It used to be the reservationist who answered the phone, but now no one wants to do that. They want to reserve on OpenTable, and have a place within ten seconds, without having to interact with people. The whole financial transaction is done at the table. They hand you a computer.”
Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales and trade support and service at Royal Caribbean International, described a study her company conducted, investigating what it was that millennials insisted upon.
“Ease,” she said. “Easy was critical. So we began to develop a series of brand-relevant apps for this group to use while on board. They don’t like carrying paper around. So we looked at things they needed to make their experience easy. Wi-Fi was it, so we invested heavily in it and now have the fastest Wi-Fi at sea.”
Helping define brand loyalty for the luxury segment, Lisa Holladay, vice president of global brand marketing at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, noted there really isn’t a generational gap among her audiences.
“Regardless of your age, when you’re spending that much money, you want to do it the way you want to do it,” Holladay said. “Whether that’s checking in with a concierge in person, or checking in on your phone. So we have to consider all possible needs and options. I think a bigger challenge with millennials is having a product that is more expensive than a younger person can afford. So, we’re learning how to drive brand loyalty with an audience that might not be able to buy the product just yet.”
The panelists all agreed that there are still many moving parts behind captivating the millennial audiences and that it’s likely to change faster than many companies can keep up with.
The Cornell Hospitality Thought Leadership Series—sponsored by Questex Hospitality Group, Hilton Worldwide, USA Today, InterContinental Hotels Group, and Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces—will hold its next event this coming September in San Francisco, focusing on the topic of the shared economy.
Registration opens in July, so be sure to check the website for details later this summer, after you’ve gotten a few vacations under your belt.