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How to woo Gen Z travelers to your hotel in 2019

by John Wheeler
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    One of the perks of being a college student is having enough time to travel the world — and Gen Z isn’t an exception. But interestingly, Generation Z appears to have a very different take on travel than Millennials do. Just to name one (major) example: A recent global study from UNiDAYS and Ad Age found that Gen Z students overwhelmingly prefer staying at hotels than booking rooms at Airbnb. That’s a reverse trend that’s good news for hotel chains across the world.

    The hospitality industry has been handed a giant, Gen Z-sized opportunity. With an estimated $143 billion in spending power at their beck and call, Gen Z students are willing to put serious money on the table when it comes to vacationing. But in order to capitalize, hotels must learn how to cater to this generation of younger travelers.  

    Here are three strategies that hotels can use to court Gen Z travelers in 2019.

    Help Gen Zs vacation like a local

    It wasn’t so long ago when travelers welcomed predictability in hotels. After all, predictability meant certain quality standards were met. It didn’t matter whether you booked your hotel in Bermuda or Boston; you’d find pretty much the same king-size bed, the same flat-screen TV, the same in-room coffee maker and a mini-fridge jammed with the same, familiar snack foods.

    But Gen Z travelers aren’t into things that are streamlined and predictable. They take their traveling cues from Snapchat, Instagram or YouTube posts from friends, family and trusted social influencers. When it comes to picking a hotel, there isn’t any gold standard they adhere to.

    Gen Zers want all the flavors and colors a location can provide. If it’s Boston they’re traveling to (and if they’re willing to splurge for a night), they’re looking for the hotel that was built from the shell of an 1851 Charles Street jail. Or maybe it’s Sweden they’re visiting, in which case they’re scoping out IKEA’s very own signature hotel in Almhult, featuring rooms and recreation spaces stocked entirely with IKEA-brand furniture.

    Major hotel brands can emulate the success of location-specific hotels like these. Turn your hotel into the focal point for whatever city, suburb or pristine wilderness that surrounds it. Live art installations, local charity events and local-flavored cuisine are all ways of earning Gen Z’s approval.

    Give them their own personal space — all via personalization

    If it’s Gen Z you’re looking to attract, it’s important you provide them with Gen Z-friendly personalization. According to the UNiDAYS/Ad Age travel study, it turns out the most-diverse generation in history wants to do a little bit of everything when they travel: Eating out, going to museums, strolling around and taking in the sights, going on tours and excursions, getting wild for a night and partying, or simply unwinding with a book or mobile phone at a cafe — to name just a few options. All the same, it’s still your Gen Z hotel’s job to cater to any — and all — those personalized needs.

    Don’t worry; it can be done. Take a page from Marriott’s Moxy line of hotels and provide Gen Zers with spaces that juxtapose as wildly as their personal tastes; that feel, in Moxy’s own words, “like living rooms with a bartender.” Or check out Tru by Hilton’s take on a Z-friendly hotel, with its 24/7 in-hotel market and its seamless blend of quiet corners to relax as well as tables to socialize at (all in one large common room).

    The message couldn’t be more clear: No Gen Zer is like any other. As a hotel brand, you need to give Gen Zers the space (and amenities) they need to make it feel like it's their own space.

    Offer them Instagram-esque, tech-friendly interiors

    Given Gen Zers’ love of social media, it only makes sense to create a hotel with a singular look that’s share-worthy on Instagram. 88 percent of Gen Zers post on social media during their vacation time — and 72 percent tag their friends at the locations they visit.

    But in order for your hotel to be Instagram-ready, you need more than just a cool interior design. You need to cater to Gen Z’s technology in the same way you need to cater to Gen Z travelers themselves. By providing Gen Z travelers with enough fast-running Wifi and mobile charging outlets to power the devices they use to post on Instagram or Snapchat, you not only give them a reason to post on Instagram, but the means as well.

    To sum it all up

    Gen Zers are particular about where they stay, but there are ways of standing out in a crowd. In order to appeal to Gen Z travelers, it’s important you transform their hospitality experience into something that’s equally picturesque and engaging in both the “real” and “digital” spaces — from the moment they first discover your website to the moment they return their keycards upon check-out.

      Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19


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