The other day my daughter got married. She is a millennial; her younger sister is a millennial; her older two sisters are Gen X’rs. I, personally, am a Boomer, as is my lovely wife. Given those facts, I am qualified to 1) comment on living with five women the better part of my life, and 2) share some insight on firsthand knowledge of Millennials mindset and how that is causing my beloved hotel industry to lose their collective minds.

You see, sales and marketing is not just about setting and meeting cold call quotas, defining room night and RevPAR goals, working on rate parities and exacting revenue management strategies. None of those will work if you don’t understand your customer.

When it comes to marketing to millennial hotel guests, first we need to review some data, that frankly, may be surprising, even to those who have parsed it with a hospitality fine tooth comb:

From The Brookings Institution:

  • Millennials are the most educated generation in history.
  • 33% of Millennial men are college educated, 39% of women are…
  • Largest % Millennial cities in the U.S., Boston, Madison, San Jose, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Harford, New York, Raleigh, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Denver.
  • Minneapolis –St. Paul and Denver have larger shares of Millennials than Seattle and Austin.
  • And a comment from the study about just where Millennials live: “They also appear to be attracted to metros with more vibrant arts and culture scenes…and employed in areas where a large share of the workforce is employed in music, arts, writing, design, media, high tech and entertainment occupations.”


From the L.A. Times, some insight on millennial travelers:

  • “Some surprising insights from their survey of millennials, when the specter of Airbnb looms…” for all trips:
    • 35% prefer ‘upscale and luxury hotels’
    • 33% prefer camping
    • 23% short-term rentals or condo’s
    • 70% prefer booking on a travel website, of those,
    • 47% Book direct with a hotel or airline
    • 23% book with a “real life” agent.
  • The less human interaction, the better. (We text, we don’t talk…)
  • When I am checking in, a kiosk is fine, or better yet, let me open the room door with my phone. “I am sure all your hotel front desk people are nice, but I know my mission, and who I want to talk to.”

 And, from Malcolm Harris’ book: “Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials”:

  • ‘Most educated generation, with very little payoff…’ Millennials carry the most burden of the nation’s $1.4 trillion, (with a T), student loan debt.
  • Millennials unemployment rate is double the national average.
  • Millennials earn 20% less than Generation X.
  • Millennials face a higher level of diagnosed depression than any other generation.

Oh yeah, and the historic backdrop behind your smug derision of my peculiar social media focus was; Columbine, 9/11, AIDS, the largest divorce rate in history, and the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

So, get off my back, I need to Snap a happy-dog-faced-selfie-for-my-sanity.

OK, well, here is my highly unscientific research. Millennials are really smart. Millennials are more focused on what matters in life. Millennials will pay a lot of money for real, meaningful experience. Millennials plan like crazy for things that matter. Typically, millennials will do everything in life, later than we did, like:  buy a home, get married, financially plan, have a baby—until those things are “just so” and lined up logically with an engaged life, milestones can wait.

Millennials work their xxx off when inspired, when something matters, when they are engaged and not derided. They are quirky. They have tattoos. And nose rings, and stuff like that. They are sweet and sentimental when you dive below the surface. They are anxious about the planet. Half my daughter’s closest High School friends joined the Peace Corps. They don’t get racism. They are spiritual, but don’t go to church. They do Yoga. They have class.

So, what about the knee-jerk, data-driven, hyper-focus of the lodging industry? You mean the Moxy-Tru-TRYP-Aloft-EMC2-Red-Virgin-Canopy-Centric-Boutique-Lifestyle-Authentic juggernaut?

Yeah, that.

To the hotel industry; a couple of anecdotes; When I told my daughters that Marriott was taking the desks out of Full-Service hotel rooms, (since corrected), they said, “What do they think we do, sit on the bed and text all day?! We need a place to work!” And when presented with an unnamed new “brand” of hotel with them in mind, a Millennial said; “Look, if I wanted to live in a dorm room, I’d go back to college, and frankly, I don’t just sidle up to anybody in a giant romper room with garish colors and a lot of electrical outlets…”

And, finally back to the wedding. We held our social events in my new favorite hotel in Detroit, “The Foundation”; 100-year-old firehouse, 100 rooms, dramatic F&B open kitchen space, another mind-blowing Aparium conversion. These Millennials paid north of $200 dollars a night and loved it. The staff was authentic, friendly, down to earth, with perfection in cocktails, food, and service. They also had pride, and tattoos, and nose rings and gorgeous hair.

As a hotel sales and marketing consultant, I ask, “What defines a great hotel for any generation?” Genuine humility in service, impeccable cleanliness, creative thoughtful design, authentic knowledge of your neighborhood, and the guest, who is the purpose of our enterprise, our livelihood, and why we love hotels.