Move Over Millennials, Hotels are Shifting Focus to Generation Z

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In the last several years we’ve heard about how hotels now cater to Millennials, who are those born between 1980 and the late 1990’s.

To me, a lot of Millennial-focused hotel features seem to be excuses for hotels to cut cost, but some Millennials have written to me or left comments explaining that they do actually prefer some of the changes aimed at them. 29 year-old Reader Nathan left a particularly insightful comment –

Smaller hotel rooms are great – big rooms are often furnished poorly and make me feel awkward. I appreciate clever uses of space.

I absolutely agree with him, and was thrilled to read about the new capsule hotel in Hong Kong that is focused on quality rather than size.

Larger lobby areas where Millennials can work independently yet in a comfortable social setting are now common in hotels, and my favorite part of the focus on Millennial needs in a hotel is finally getting some attention – fast and free wifi!

So what’s all this about Gen-Z then?

If you were born in January 1999, you’d have just celebrated your 18th birthday.

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Those born in 1996 may be already enmeshed in the workforce, and those born in 2000 will be turning 18 in less than a year. June is fast approaching, which means more high school graduations and new jobs. It also means potentially more travel, whether for work or via a gap year experience, or simply the ability to spend free time seeing the world.

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Hotels are starting to gear up for this brand-new group of highly-coveted guests. Naturally the differences between Millennials and Gen Z will appear small for now, but here’s what hoteliers think Gen Z members want, and how it will influence hotels.

Finance

Those in Gen Z are willing to plunk down more money than previous generations, but have a strong sense of values and appreciate experiences over material goods. Generator Hostels has found that food, music and travel are prioritized much higher than tchotchkes and cars. In the year 2020, Gen Z will have over $60 billion collectively in spending power, so hotels are listening intently to what they want.

The twist is that Gen Z members are not easily fooled. Authentic is a word being used to describe what Gen Z members want, meaning that something should feel high quality without it being pretentious.

Communal Space

Generation Z members reportedly experience high levels of FOMO, which translates to the big Fear of Missing Out. If all of your friends are doing something, you don’t want to be left out. If a really fun event suddenly develops, when you are in a shared or communal area with others you’ll be in the know. You also get to share your experiences with others, leaning over to get a selfie or Snapchat to show a friend where you are.

This works great for hotels already catering to Millennials, as the large lobbies and communal spaces give Generation Z reassurance.

In fact, Gen Z as a whole doesn’t find the idea of being alone or by themselves for too long appealing at all. In a huge hotel room with no company? Where’s the fun in that, plus of course there’s the dreaded FOMO.

Hilton’s SVP and global head of loyalty and partnerships, Mark Weinstein, says that Tru by Hilton brand is aimed at travelers specifically of the young Gen Z mindset. It is

Designed around the desire for human connection, personalization and environments that foster experiences.

Many Gen Z’s can focus on their own tasks while sitting in a room filled with other people, and even if they don’t actually interact with anyone else in the room they don’t have a problem with others sharing the space.

Technology

Thankfully for all travelers, speedy and efficient technology is a must for Gen Z. Not just adding a random new digital toy, but actually being able to connect how they want. They grew up with the internet and technology all around them and are the true first generation 0f digital natives. Used to having their pulse on everything online utilizing several devices simultaneously, any sort of blip in the internet connection is enough to have them seething. Staying constantly connected is an expectation. Hotels with shoddy internet signal that offer the weak “we’ll reset the router” excuse will have to work on upping their game if they want to attract Gen Z.

Social Media

Since Gen Z is so adept at using technology, social media comes along with that. Using hashtags, Youtube, Snapchat, and Periscope videos to connect is second-nature to them when researching a vacation spot or things to do on the weekend, rather than using clunky traditional websites. In fact, Gen Z is so in-tune with social media already that many are also social media creators/influencers. They can immediately spot brands trying to act hip when they aren’t, and gravitate towards better alternatives such as MeWe or Musical.ly for their own use and entertainment.

Environment

Gen Z members are conscious of the environment and expect others to do their part. This is a natural extension of how Millennials and older generations are leaning, and minimizing or reducing waste is very important to them as well as protecting animals and nature.

Food and Drink

Gen Z has diverse tastes in the way of food and beverage, enjoying Quesadillas with rooster sauce for lunch, sushi for a snack, and Indian takeaway for dinner. Since they’ve been exposed to a wider selection of cultural offerings growing up, they also expect more food variations and choices. They’re also likely to expect companies to make responsible choices like Starwood has with cage free eggs, or shark fin soup.

Interestingly, when I wrote on a HotelREZ Infographic about Millennials, everything points to them (and Gen Z) spending a lot of money on meals when traveling.

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So why are some hotels paring down their menus and hours or getting rid of 24 hour room service altogether? Travelers want better food and more choices, so it seems to me that this is one area really being overlooked. What am I missing here?

Summary

How the needs of Gen Z combined with Millennials will help shape the hotel landscape in the next 20 years remains to be seen. One thing is for sure though. Other than communal areas, I love the direction in which this could be headed.

Authenticity (which I think of as luxury combined with quality), albeit in smaller spaces. Less in-your-face marketing, way better wireless connectivity (and not just for a maximum of 3 devices per hotel room), broader food choices, and careful attention to sustainability.

I’m curious how Gen Z members feel about hotels like Moxy, the budget-minded Marriott brand set to take Europe by storm in the next five years. Does it feel authentic, or fall short like it is trying too hard?

Did I miss or get any points wrong about Generation Z?

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