Millennials seem like a hotel marketer’s dream. They’re tech savvy, they’re business-minded, they have disposable income, they’re not shy about giving their personal info and they frequently travel for business and pleasure. However, a study done by Software Advice earlier this year shows that only 14 percent of millennials ages 18-34 belong to hotel loyalty programs.
“In the next five to 10 years, as millennials enter their peak earning years, this generation will provide the majority of spending for travel and leisure,” says Mary Miller, vice president of marketing for Stash Hotel Rewards.
With this demographic with proven propensity for travel about to explode, how can hoteliers bring them into the fold?
More than half (51 percent) of millennials surveyed said they’d participate in hotel loyalty programs if doing so gave them the potential for free or discounted rooms. Millennials are notorious for doing their research and selecting the best deals on rooms rather than making their decisions based on hotel brand.
“It’s not a disloyalty,” says Jeff Fromm, president of FutureCast, “They’re willing to do a little more homework and they’re more savvy.” Offering them an “exclusive” discount or tips this balance in favor of loyalty programs.
Among those that had already joined a hotel loyalty program, 41 percent said they did so because rewards were easy to earn. Offering rewards—be they discounts or other incentives–early and often has the potential to get more millennials on board.
Millennials also tend to enjoy the “surprise and delight” factor. This mostly amounts to small gifts, such as a free glass of wine on arrival or a package of chocolates or cookies—anything that has the effect of making them feel like a special and valuable guest. The study points out an example of a guest of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel who tweeted the hotel about the Sharper Image clock radios they have in their rooms. Next time the guest stayed there, the hotel gifted her with one of the clock radios, along with a handwritten note. The guest blogged about it and the hotel got a lot of good press—and a few more loyal customers.
Millennials love their gadgets and mobile apps. Of those surveyed, 58 percent said they would find a mobile app for loyalty programs “very” of “moderately valuable.” Promoting the app at guest touchpoints and having rewards—and how gusts can use them—clearly outlined on an apps home screen could have an impact on whether millennials download the apps and join the loyalty programs.