The First Group Management team discusses what they’re doing to engage the Millennial market at their properties:

Because of their love for travel, millennials represent the largest consumer demographic in tourism and travel. As a result, key features like design and décor, mobile technology, perceived value and meaningful experiences have become imperative for attracting these tech-savvy travellers.

Which raises the question: should hospitality properties be thinking of making substantial changes to their offering to cater for this generation?

First Group, who are the managing agents for 30 luxury properties locally and internationally, believe that the shift from the baby boomer cohort to the increasingly influential millennials will have a big impact on the success of their properties in the years to come

“We need to be winning over the hearts of the sons and daughters of our loyal clientele through innovation and modernisation that’s driven by unique experiences. This means changing the tone of our marketing, rethinking how we approach this generation and how we facilitate their journey with us,” said Shaun Lamont, First Group’s Managing Director.

A good example is the evolution of lobby design to facilitate more common social spaces. To meet this demand, First Group’s Riviera Suites is currently under refurbishment that will see a major overhaul of the ground floor to make it more of a neighbourhood hangout than a traditional hotel lobby. Guests will be able to enjoy the relaxing and social ambience of an open-plan coffee shop throughout the day.

“But before you go about a refurbishment overhaul to appeal to this group, it is worth paying close attention to their penchant for memorable travel experiences as well” Lamont points out, adding that inspiration from the unique culture of the surrounding location will create an immersive experience that is loved by millennials.

For this reason, Riviera Suites is also adopting a room décor style that captures the rich Cape cultural heritage and local contemporary scene with themed photography to emphasize the beauty of the Cape vacation experience. Similarly, the Midlands Saddle and Trout Resort refurbishment has embraced the much-loved rustic appeal of the Berg through its décor to ensure a harmonious blend with the natural surroundings.

Lamont further believes that connecting millennials with the local culture and helping them discover the ‘hidden gems’ of the local’s eat; drink and shopping spots will meet the longed-for, meaningful experiences that bring guests back time and again.

To achieve this, Magalies Park in the Hartbeespoort area has made the surrounding African crafters part of the resort experience by selling their arts and crafts in the curio shop and by using their art in the décor and as promotional gifts for guests. The local community is also supported by an opportunity to access the resort twice a week with a “Local is Lekker” table where they are given a platform to interact and sell their crafts to guests.

But let’s face it, even though millennials look for these additional features, they are still price sensitive, wanting more for less, and the future of hospitality needs to embrace value-add perks and the unbundling of amenities.

“Millennials are driven by instant gratification, so look for opportunities to offer more than the typical all-inclusive package by including various additional perks for a comprehensive experience package deal,” emphasizes Lamont while adding not to overlook solo travellers in this equation.

Unlike previous generations, stats indicate that a large portion of millennials are interested in travelling alone, reportedly up to 37%. Taking into consideration the fast emerging Bleisure trend – people who work while travelling – and that freelancers are expected to rise to around 50% of the global workforce by 2030, the need to reach the solo travel market through individual guest packages is prudent.

“With the rapid growth of smart technology, we are increasingly seeing that patience is no longer a virtue and that speed and convenience have become all important to today’s travellers. It’s time to optimise online booking channels with millennials in mind, which means quick access to pricing, booking enquiries, information about amenities and room services, and travel questions – especially on mobile devices where 46% of travel is booked,” he says.

Social media platforms are the playground of millennials, so it is critical to not only make a good first impression, but to actively invest in and cultivate strong relationships with them in this arena.

“Getting to know your guests through frequent conversations during their stay, drives up positive reviews when millennials share their stories on Instagram and the like. Don’t wait behind the reception desk for them to come to you, go out and meet them in the lounge or breakfast room and create a bond. Show them you care and are interested in their personal stories, and they will pay back the love,” concludes Lamont.

While it is evident that the ‘millennial footprint’ is certainly redefining the hospitality industry and necessitates a more intricate business model, the rewards for successfully executing a millennial-driven approach to amenities and services are exponential to ensuring the future success of hospitality properties.