What are the hotel preferences of the Millennial traveler? We thought it would be wise to ask a group of Millennial-aged travel advisors who were featured in Travel Agent magazine’s 30Under30 feature this summer.
First off, it’s important not to put all Millennials in one basket. They’re as varied as your Gen X and Baby Boomer clients. Or, as Mark Dorenfast of Altour in Los Angeles puts it: “Being under 30 is different for everyone. You can be single and focusing on a career or you can be newly married and starting a family. Young business travelers want to be points savvy and like staying at the accessible Starwood brand hotels.”
What are the common preferences? Dorenfast says a hotel for Millennials must have free Wi-Fi, a 24-hour fitness center and it has to recognize loyalty.
“My goal is to guide people towards smaller, more unique properties they may not have thought of or never even knew existed,” Dorenfast tells us. “Everyone loves One&Only Palmilla. It’s a sure thing.”
Unique is the word when it comes to Millennial travelers, whether it’s that secret gem in a far-flung destination or something that’s simply different from what all their friends are posting about on Instagram. In some cases, it just has to be different from the standard, traditional choices.
“I find that my peers who call me for travel plans prefer not to use hotels that their grandparents used, such as Hilton and Sheraton,” says Bryan Pollard of Ambassador Tours in San Francisco. “They prefer a more ‘preppy’ style hotel that appears to be more modern in its features and benefits (mainly Wi-Fi) and anything that can really let them show off their current vacation. Sometimes they choose style over location, which can be more costly in some countries. The biggest trend I see, is that more of the boutique/smaller hotels that can really let the client get immersed in the culture.”
“In the world of Instagram, clients want vacation photos that are different from their peers,” says Laura Hanaford of The Trip Trotter, Tzell Travel in New York. “My clients are looking for more and more boutique luxury properties, like the Crosby Street Hotel in New York, where each room is decorated differently. They are open to staying in locations other than the city center and appreciate historical buildings, like the Parador [in Costa Rica].”
Aside from Wi-Fi, what’s another “got-to-have amenity?”
“When traveling to exotic tropical locations, an infinity pool is a must!” says Hanaford.
Veering away from the big chains is certainly a habit of Millennials, but they definitely don’t want to sacrifice convenience or comfort (there’s that free Wi-Fi again). “My Millennial clients are most interested in very central hotels, but not in big chain hotels,” says Julia Jakkaraju of Journeys by Julia - Cruise Planners, San Jose, CA. “They like smaller, independent European hotels. Clients love hotels where younger travelers from all over the world stay and where they can meet at the bar or breakfast and exchange experiences and make connections for their next trip.”
Design and a sense of place are vital to most Millennials.
“I think the Andaz brand does a great job with this and Design Hotels as well,” reports Erin Green of McCabe World Travel in McLean, VA. “It’s great to see the Design Hotels brand in Scandinavia where they were desperate for a choice in hotel product. The Thief in Oslo is a great example.”
Eric Grayson of Discover 7/Valerie Wilson Travel in New York says clients in his age range love chic boutique hotels in major cities. He cites good examples as being the Ham Yard Hotel in London, the new Line Hotel in Los Angeles, and The NoMad Hotel in New York.
“Clients in my age range value strong food and beverage and a bar/lounge scene at the property,” says Grayson. “These hotels have executed that to perfection.”
Hotels with big names and powerful branding (think W and SLS) are still quite popular with Millennials, but that creep toward the lesser-known hip boutique hotels is true for Natalia Chelnokova of FROSCH Private Client Services in New York as well. “For example, the Crosby Street Hotel in New York is highly praised for its movie nights and honesty bar; both are unique features nowadays,” she tells us. “Another great example is Petit Ermitage, a boutique hotel in West Hollywood, CA, which wows its guest with curated iPod playlists in each room juxtaposed by a functioning gramophone in the lobby. The Bohemian eclectic French-Moroccan décor gives this hotel an artsy feel and lots of character,” reports Chelnokova.
Authenticity is another necessary characteristic, and for this reason Karina Martinez of First in Service Travel in New York says her Millennial clients prefer a “more rustic, understated elegance,” requesting hotels like Amangiri, Utah; 1 Hotel South Beach, Miami; Imanta, Punta de Mita; COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali; and Castello di Casole in Tuscany.
“I find that clients my age still want that five-star service, but they also want a hotel with a sense of place,” says Martinez.
Elizabeth Loftus of Luxury Trips in Winter Park, FL, says most of her clients are in the 40-60 range, and are showing a preference for Spain of late. “I frequently book at Hotel Villa Magna, Hotel Casa Fuster and Silken Gran Domine. Eden Rock in St. Barts has also been a frequent hotel choice,” she says.
However, Loftus’ friends and colleagues in her age range have a clear liking for unique, boutique-style accommodations that reflect the destination country and culture.
“Staying in a castle in Ireland, a riad in Morocco, bed and breakfasts, and more upscale hostels are recurring accommodation selections for them,” she reports.
For romance, clients are willing to be a bit more extravagant than the standard beach vacation, says Alexis Lee of Avenues of the World Travel in Flagstaff, AZ.
“The overwater bungalows at the Hilton Bora Bora Nui and the Intercontinental Moorea have always been very popular. If the property offers more activity options, like jet skis or scuba diving, they are far more likely to enjoy their time at that property,” says Lee.
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