Why Hospitality Marketing Strategies Should be Cognizant about How to Engage Young Travelers as well as Other Customer Personas
Undoubtedly the younger populace has been the first to return back to travel since the pandemic. Millennials and Gen Z in particular because of their youth and perspective they have regarding their freedom, autonomy, and excitement to travel both domestically and internationally. While many hoteliers may see this as indicative of a larger trend and an audience they should pivot future marketing dollars towards, our recommendation is to not solely pigeonhole and focus all marketing efforts at this younger demographic for many reasons.
There’s no doubt Gen Z (born 1997-2012) and Millenials (born 1981-1996) have much value to add with their huge influence on social media and for hotels and destinations in general. Although in the coming years we will see these groups become an increasingly important demographic to focus marketing towards, there are some considerations regarding this traveler that hotels should be cognizant of before allocating their marketing budget, time and energy. It’s critical to look at the other ideal customer personas that have an opportunity to be even more profitable and also reflective of the audience that the hotel is looking to curate to. In this article, we look at some important considerations and insights to better educate hoteliers for marketing to Gen X and Millennials from the positive, negative and neutral perspectives.
Gen Z aka. “Millennials” –
Starting on a positive note, Gen Z is a group of individuals that is undoubtedly the most social media conscious and savvy. Having grown up with content at their fingertips from a young age, whether it be on their parent’s cell phones or their own tablets, they are incredibly intuitive with technology in general and with the use of social media across platforms. Due to their innate technological abilities, they have been able to easily create content without the fear and trepidation that Gen X and baby boomers have about personal image and ego. Their adoption of social media makes exposure and broad awareness of their content more impactful than their predecessors. Thus, the influence that they can create, positive or negative, is unrivaled when considering the vast connections and reach that is accessible across platforms. Gen Z uses up to five different social channels each day and 44 percent of the generation says they check social media at least every hour. Part of this can be seen as an advantage as these individuals enter the workforce, in that they’re able to be advocates and a conduit to share a brand’s message. However, because of this ability to have social media at their fingertips for the last decade or more, they also have been accustomed to being far more exposed to the world, information and media than any other generation. Surveys have found that 43 percent of Gen Z most frequently get their news from social media. Because they’ve been so acute and accustomed to seeing the world through photos and videos, they have a strong desire to travel the globe and to personally experience all it has to offer.
Entering the workforce, Gen Z has higher expectations and are demanding a more flexible work environment. Even in a hybrid environment where they are able to work from home or the destination of their choice far more easily, they still want to experience the culture, to feel valued, and to be seen as a contributing member of the workforce and their community. Whether at a company or at a hotel, consider what can be done to curate that sense of value and community for them. By encouraging them to share on social media through hashtags, art, or promotions, you can reward and play into this mechanism for them. While there is a sense that they want to travel, it’s not nearly as accessible for those just entering the workforce as they don’t have the resources or the bandwidth to be able to do so. While they want to see themselves making a difference in the world, and proportionally in comparison to their parents, they’re making less money.
Millennials are also giving back more philanthropically, not only in time but in resources as well. As they begin to travel the world they’re going to be seeking places that reinforce their value system. Gen Z is more likely to trust brands or companies that demonstrate social responsibility. They’re looking for certified eco-tourism spaces that are sustainably designed, LEED-certified and that support local impacts and charities. All of these are things that will help Gen Z feel better about making smart choices with their travels and will help reduce their carbon footprint while making a personal impact in the communities that they intentionally surround themselves in. Through this travel, they’ll receive some clarity on what type of impact they’re looking to create. Gen Z has a passion for giving back philanthropically and is more inclined to make career sacrifices in order to live the life they desire while continuing to decide what long-term impact they wish to create- and travel is a wonderful opportunity to do so. Providing some education locally around the hotel destination to continue to help facilitate that process is a great way to be that catalyst and influence for these individuals’ lives. This will help provide the experience they need to settle on their own values and contributions they’re seeking to create.
Neutral but Important to Consider:
Gen Z and millennials are openly pursuing this lifestyle over their career but with new technology, they have the ability to play the balancing act and work more effectively, remotely. In 2015 over 70,000 people applied for remote working, before video conferencing and WFH was easily accessible. The flexibility to work from anywhere is highly desired and has really sparked the creation of remote working. Balancing work and life is a top priority for Gen Z and they’re finding very innovative ways to be able to live this lifestyle. Because Gen X and Baby Boomer generations are staying in the workforce longer as a result of longer life expectancies, economic downturns, and now Covid, it has become much more difficult for today’s youth entering the workforce to be able to step into those entry-level jobs. The room for promotion and getting into director and C suite positions has been elongated and newer generations are struggling to advance in their careers as quickly, causing them to earn less than they would have in previous decades.
As these younger generations are making less, they don’t have the expendable income to travel extensively or to enjoy the luxurious lifestyles that they desire. While there is certainly still career mobility, it’s important to recognize when marketing to this younger generation that those in their 20s typically are having fewer kids, are spending less money, and are instead waiting for these opportunities as their careers progress. It’s important to reflect on your hotel and the most profitable customer persona available. If you’re a luxury resort with a price point of $300 or beyond, it’s more practical to aim for an audience that is a bit further ahead in their careers like older millennials and Gen X. Those in their early 20s have to be more frugal and will often seek out promotions and deals for their trips. Looking at where the hotel can provide all-inclusive experiences or packages will attract this younger generation as they’re trying to conserve money and will create brand advocacy for repeat guests and referrals. These guests can become lifelong customers depending on the experience you curate for them.
If marketing to Gen Z, it’s going to be crucial to ensure that you have an extremely genuine and authentic approach to your messaging and your call-to-actions. Because this generation has grown up with so much information/media and they’ve been so immersed in it, they have an innate gift of sensing fear-based selling. They instead desire brands that align with their values and that have the philanthropic giveback that they’re seeking. Using any sort of negative or fear-based marketing is not going to land or resonate well with them as they will be able to see right through it. Instead, show this audience what this quality of life looks like by creating transparency and visibility through photos, videos, and social media. Putting it all out on the table is far better received than trying to manipulate and contrive a marketing message that plays into the fear and negative emotions.
Perceived as Negative:
Because this group doesn’t have an immense amount of buying power yet, it’s important to not just completely cut them out of your marketing strategy but to amend and adjust your tactics to this demographic appropriately. Create different customer personas and marketing messages to Gen Z, Millennials, baby boomers, empty nesters, and now even the remote workforce, particularly females. While you might not exclusively be marketing and wanting your entire hotel to be filled with baby boomers, you also probably don’t want it filled with all Gen Z. If catering to both demographics, it’s important to recognize there might be some contention and to ensure the hotel is prepared to accommodate both audiences.
Because of their age and life experience, Gen Z and younger Millennials don’t have as much understanding of other cultures and history despite visibility through YouTube and social media. They simply lack the life experience and knowledge to understand how to navigate certain cultural trends, responses and engagements with other individuals on property or in and around the destination itself. These generations may fail to recognize the kind of local habits that might offend others (being too loud, using offensive language, etc.) It’s important to consider how you can educate this younger demographic to help them be more emotionally sensitive and savvy about their experience, enabling the best reflection of your property and of the locals at large as well. Look at what can be included in the trip resources and emails to inform guests of what they should be wearing, what currency they should be using, tips on local slang, and anything else that could be easily misconstrued. This could be done through Youtube videos before arrival or that can be easily watched on transportation to and from the resort.
Despite the emerging growth of Gen Z as one of the next largest groups entering the workforce behind millennials, our encouragement to hoteliers developing their marketing strategy is to not look at Gen Z or even Millennials in a silo, but as a segment within their larger customer persona. Engaging the customer persona that is most profitable to your hotel will ensure each audience will resonate with the hotel’s message. It’s important to engage and attract them to the property while still not ostracizing others from the rest of the target profile that you’re looking to create. Consider how various customer personas interact once they’re on property together and build a strategy that appropriately reflects it. With emerging personas such as the remote worker, the empty nester, and the feminine within the hospitality industry, SoCap is here to help you navigate your marketing strategy with additional articles and resources. Gen Z is undoubtedly a growing demographic that is important to be able to speak to; however, focusing on them alone will limit your ability to market to the most profitable customers.