As the travel industry emerges out of the whirlwind of the past year and a half, a large section of the market remains overlooked. According to Epsilon’s report on cross-generational marketing, Next-Gen’s buying power is over $600 billion and counting. Combined with this demographic’s affinity for travel and the new norm of remote work, reaching this group and gaining their trust is many hoteliers' dream.
Who is the Next-Gen Traveller?
The term ‘Millennial’ typically refers to those born between 1980 and 1996, while ‘Generation Z’ or ‘Gen Z’ were born after 1996. And while the Millennial generation still remembers having to make a choice between making a phone call and using the internet, Gen Z has never known a world without digitalisation and connectivity. The two generations aren’t so different in behaviour and values, though. They are both quite socially and environmentally conscious, are accustomed to a mobile-first digital approach, and won’t settle for any experience that may seem inauthentic. Combined, they make up the ‘Next-Gen’ demographic; a consumer group that will be vital in the travel industry’s rebound from this pandemic.
While COVID-19 severely affected travellers across generations and on a global scale, many Next-Gen Travellers saw it as an opportunity. They adjusted quickly to the new normal and took advantage of working remotely by taking the time to explore more local areas and booking long-term travel to destinations they previously would not have been able to afford.
This does not at all mean that they jump at every travel ad and discount offer they come across. This group definitely has a budget and is very discerning about where and with who they intend to spend it.
Attracting bookings from Next-Gen Travellers
When it comes to attracting Next-Gen Travellers in a post-pandemic world, most hotel marketers are still trying to find a strategy that works for them. Even brands with larger budgets, like Ritz Carlton, have struggled with their Next-Gen targeted messaging. For others, this is very good news. In fact, it’s an opportunity for hoteliers with more limited resources to compete on an even playing field.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to reach Next-Gen Travellers:
1. Be Social
It’s crucial to understand how Next-Gen Travellers behave online because that is where you will find them. They utilise social media in a different way than every generation before. Instagram has become an inspiration board for destination research and Tiktok is where to go for current events and unfiltered customer reviews. And though Facebook offers a robust suite of marketing tools, you’re not likely to make a true connection with them there. A study by Expedia found that 84% of Gen Z travellers believe social media is influential in their decision-making when it comes to travel. Reviews from online media, bloggers and past guests can strongly affect a potential booking. And if you’re really looking to reach this audience in a strategic way, it might be time to invest some of that marketing budget in an influencer who is trusted by their generational peers.
2. Be Honest
More than anything, Next-Gen demands authenticity and meaningful experiences. They will be especially attracted to hotels that can offer both. They want to know what makes staying at your hotel not only special but suited to their personal needs. It’s also important to tell your story truthfully; whether your message centres around your unique activity offerings, the personality of your team, or the history of the building. Next-Gen Travellers will see through anything that seems too curated and crafted. Millennials and Gen Z have grown up in the age of misinformation and data overload. And with their passion for doing online research at lightning speed, it’s not wise to try and pull the wool over their eyes.
3. Be Digital
While a good SEO strategy and strong online presence is crucial to attracting and converting most guests, Next-Gen Travellers require a bit more effort. As a standard, they expect a fast, mobile website, a seamless booking experience, fast and easy check-in, and additional services, like strong Wi-Fi on-site. In regards to customer service, they prefer to have the ability to message companies with questions or concerns versus calling or speaking in person. Utilising chat services like messaging on social media and access to a chatbox on your website tells them that you value their time as well as their feedback. Establishing this direct line of communication will earn you their trust.
4. Be Flexible
The hospitality industry has become much more open to change due to COVID-19. With transferable points, free cancellations, and optional amenities, these adjustments are an appropriate shift to the needs of the Next-Gen Traveller. All-inclusive offers and room upgrades don’t appeal to them like they did the generations before. As an extremely individualistic generation, they prefer to be able to pick and choose from a full menu instead of being limited to “prix fixe”. For example, they would rather opt out of having water bottles in their room not only to save a small bit of change but to do their part in helping the environment. Offering these choices also sends the message that you understand that not every guest has the same needs and their individual needs are a priority.
5. Be Sustainable
Sustainability is a popular post-pandemic buzzword, but not something that the Next-Gen Traveller takes lightly. In a survey by Booking.com, over 50% noted that the environmental impact travel has on a destination is a major factor in selecting one. They are less interested in the perks they can obtain when they arrive at a destination than the effect they have on it while they are there and after they leave. Sustainability is a high priority to this generation, who knows they will be the ones suffering from the effects of climate change. And according to Skift, 48% of Millennials and 54% of Gen Zers say they would pay a higher price to book with a company that is environmentally responsible.
6. Be Diverse
Sustainability doesn’t stop at environmental causes. Cultural sustainability and social impact are important in everyday decision-making; particularly when it comes to purchases and bookings. The Next-Gen Traveller wholeheartedly believes in their power to affect change and this influences most if not all financial decisions. More than 70% of Gen Z travellers value diversity and inclusion in race, gender, religion, etc. Small changes to the way that your business operates, whether prioritising inclusivity in your hiring methods or ensuring diverse representation in your marketing collateral, will speak loudly to this generation and is sure to set you apart from the crowd.
A Fresh Start
Next-Gen Travellers could very well be the key in bringing the travel industry back to its glory days, but not without drastic shifts in company behaviour. 63% of Gen Z and Millennials surveyed by Contiki want to travel in 2021, while 58% stated they would travel right now even if it required paying for quarantine upon return. Post-lockdown, the average spending per night is estimated to be around $225 with Gen Z and Millennials spending on the higher end of the spectrum.
If hoteliers make an effort to create an authentic relationship with this audience, they will be rewarded not only with extremely loyal customers but genuine brand ambassadors as well.