Young Adults: The New Hotel Demographic

The hotel industry has discovered a new group of travelers that is crucial to its economic growth—those in their mid-20s to mid-30s who are addicted to technology, social media and design.

With a 20% increase in travel spending (in 2010) by this younger generation, many hotels owners and operators are remodeling existing hotels and introducing new ones that offer free hotel-wide Wi-Fi connections; large lobbies with comfortable, plush furnishings; state-of-the-art fitness areas; in-room power consoles to plug in electronic devices; and stylish bars that spill into the lobby.

About a decade ago, hotels were concentrating a majority of their efforts on the baby boom generation. Hotels highlighted their quality beds, brighter lighting and bigger work spaces to lure those in the 50s to 60s age bracket. But that was ten years ago. Today, Generation Y seems to be seeking the exact opposite—they want innovative and off-the-wall. Multiple bars and lounges are being installed to keep guests in the hotel, and lobbies are now becoming adorned with comfortable sofas and Art Deco furnishings.

Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University, said, “If Millennials are wearing shorts and a T-shirt…a lobby that has mahogany paneling, English hunting scenes and Oriental rugs doesn’t connect as well.”

Because of their love for technology, it’s a given that almost every Generation Y’er has a cell phone, laptop, iPad or tablet in front of them at all times. Hotels are now installing power consoles in both rooms and public areas so charging all of these electronic devices is easier and more accessible. The Plaza Hotel in New York City even provides an iPad for each room! Here, guests can use the iPad to control lighting, air conditioning, order room service and even read the morning paper.

Hanson said that free and constant access to WiFi service is not only demanded, but it’s expected. “High-speed internet is almost like air to Millennials,” he said.

One of the most important efforts among hotel executives to attract the younger travelers? Social networking. If a younger traveler is unsatisfied with their hotel, they are more likely to rant about it through a medium like Twitter, rather than vocally complaining to a hotel manager. In response to this, Starwood Hotels and Resorts set up a team of 20 people to monitor and respond to online complaints and comments.

So don’t be surprised if your favorite hotel transitions from classic to “different”: lobbies start looking more like coffee shops, people in the lobby are constantly staring at a cell phone/laptop screen and ordering room service is through your in-room iPad. Generation Y is taking over the world of travel, and hotels want to benefit from that.

To find out more about hotels’ upgrades to attract the younger traveler, check out this article from The New York Times.

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