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Millennials vs. The Millennial Mindset

The industry has it wrong. It’s not younger people forcing industry change, all of us still want the same thing. Here’s what we all crave.

Thursday, January 07, 2016
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Your customer is changing and it’s all technology’s fault. And looking out into the distant and not so distant future, tomorrow’s technology is morphing the way we need to think about tomorrow’s hotel business today. But not in the way you think.

It’s more than just the changing nature of technology, there’s a massive societal shift occurring where people interact with technology in wholly different ways. And it’s confusing people and causing folks to go astray when thinking about the future of hospitality.

Remember the thinking behind the birth and explosion of so-called lifestyle hotels? The entire movement was based on psychographics, the idea people have a specific perception of themselves and desire specific things and experiences based on an emotional point of view. As a business we realized pigeonholing someone into a specific set of needs based on sex, age or race was folly. It worked.

The notion of appealing to someone’s desires and personality characteristics is absolutely the right way to approach the future. However, people are forgetting this rational approach to hospitality and are going gaga over the millennial generation in a way we’ve never seen before with previous age groups.

Yes, this demographic is important to hospitality. Yes, this group will one day make up the majority of trips taken. But that is not today. Focusing all efforts on wooing a group of young people and thinking they are all the same while simultaneously pushing older generations to the side is a dangerous move distracting lodging executives from the ultimate truth we should all be considering; there’s a massive change in the way ALL people want to interact with the world.

Call it the Millennial Mindset, a better way to filter ideas for your hotel. Technology is changing all of us, it’s just younger people, with their millennial aged spongy brains, soak up learning easier. That makes them adapt newer technologies quicker even as they continue to have the same inherent needs as everyone else.

That’s why younger folks are called ‘digital natives’, they grew up in a world where the internet was omnipresent. So naturally they relate to technology in a way older ‘digital immigrants’ do not. Folks born before the internet had to learn how to use it rather than it just being the norm.

When I was a kid the same phenomenon was at play. My grandparents could not fathom how to use the latest in technology, those bulky desktop computers with monochrome screen. But I figured it all out easily. That’s because I was a new person ready to absorb all I could, and my grandparents, well, I think everyone gets to a point in life where they just don’t want to take the time to learn a new technology.

Now that doesn’t mean they possessed a different set of human characteristics than me when it came to their desires for a hotel experience. We all wanted rooms with the latest technology – Color TV! Air cooled rooms! HBO! -- and today’s hotel guest is the same way; no matter what the age.

Here’s what we ALL want. A clean, comfortable hotel experience that caters to our innate desires to be recognized as individuals while we connect with others. Technology enables those things to happen more easily, but to think Millennials are a totally alien species to the rest of us belies the obvious truth and sets us up to ignore those Gen Xers and Baby Boomers that are responsible for nearly all the industry’s profits. Plus when Millennials settle down and have kids and mortgage they’ll be a lot more like us then they realize.

That’s why focusing on the Millennial Mindset is the right approach. In 2015 we all want internet access, to be social in the lobby, and have great experiences too we can share with our friends – either online or in person. Americans have an incredible fascination with youth culture and it’s obfuscating the truth. Just because the media is constantly haranguing us with the impact of millennials, it doesn’t make it true. Remember how the hotel lobby used to be the epicenter of community experience back in the mid-20th century?

Guess what, the people filling those hotel bars and restaurants weren’t Millennials. They were people just like you and me genetically programmed to be social beings. The only real difference is today’s grandma and grandpa want to be social and talk to the person they’re seated next to, while millennials appear to be social using that smartphone.

But guess what? Both those types of people want to buy your food, drink your cocktails and sleep in a comfy bed.

So let’s keep on keeping on with designing new brands and creating exciting jaw dropping hotel elements. But it should be done through the lens of psychographics and not demographics. To fully maximize your hotel’s profit potential we mustn’t get distracted by the notion this emerging generation is anything new and special.

To ignore everyone for the sake of solely capturing the millennial dollar is a dangerous move that could leave your hotel unoccupied. Well, except maybe for those two broke kids in the lobby’s corner posting to social media about your empty hotel.

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