Posted: April 9, 2015

Engaging millennials in hotel loyalty programs
Young millennials are traveling more often than previous generations before them.

With the new generation of millennials growing older and finally being able to travel the world by themselves, the way they're approaching booking vacations and planning for trips is becoming the forefront of focus for the travel industry. Booking for millennials goes beyond mere vacation preparation, as they also represent the next wave of business travelers in the next upcoming years. This means that companies are going to have to become more tech savvy to keep up with the growing trends that are currently alluring millennials on their smartphones and tablets, and they'll try to remain one step ahead of a generation that's prone to switching interests in an instant. The bombardment of media means hotel companies may have trouble establishing brand loyalty to this demographic, but recent trends indicate that older millennials are becoming more open to the idea of reward programs.

More millennials means more traveling

One of the main reasons the travel industry needs to begin adequately getting ready for millennials is their tendency, as well as willingness, to travel often. According to a recent study, professionals aged 18 to 30 take an average of five business travel trips per year, compared to only two work-related trips for employees over the age of 35. The report also indicated that millennials are more likely to prolong a business travel trip into their own personal vacation, and seem more eager to find loyalty programs that cater to their interests. Turning a millennial into a loyal customer is something that's a primary concern for hotel companies, as Skift reports that the average age of a U.S. hotel guest continues to get younger year after year, with travelers aged 24 to 36 now accounting for 33 percent of hotel guests.

Younger business professionals are taking more work-related trips every year than older employees. Younger business professionals are taking more work-related trips every year than older employees.

Proving loyalty

So how are companies trying to gain loyalty from younger travel consumers in such a competitive market? The trick is creating the right incentive. It's no secret that social media usage is making millennials such an appealing business demographic for companies, as one swipe of a smartphone can Tweet out to hundreds of followers that this particular person is staying at this specific hotel brand. In a report titled "Strategies for Increasing Millennial Participation in Hotel Loyalty Programs" compiled by hotel software research company Software Advice, surveys indicate that more than one-fourth of traveling millennials agreed they would "very likely" post on social media platforms that they're staying at a specific hotel brand, if it meant extra loyalty points accounting for free rooms, discounts, etc.

In addition, 86 percent of millennials surveyed stated that they are not currently enrolled in any hotel brand loyalty program. Previous indications of millennials have labeled the generation as being less likely to be loyal to particular brands, but that can easily change through aging and more financial responsibilities. The report showed that participation in hotel loyalty programs in millennials aged 25 through 34 was 10 percent higher than the 18 to 24 year old age group. Another interesting find was that millennials making the most income tended to be more prone to signing up for hotel loyalty programs.

"Outstanding customer service is certainly worth a Facebook status post."

Little things, big difference 

So what's the secret to getting millennials to trust a hotel brand? Variety of rewards is certainly an endearing factor. The Marriott Rewards program was labeled as the No. 1 best hotel reward program by U.S. News & World Report, primarily because its compensations ranged from free flights to luxury upgrades. But perhaps what hotels need to realize with millennials is that it's the smaller things that can make a huge difference. When younger hotel guests are treated with a towel shaped like a dove on their arrival, they're certainly more likely to Instagram it and use the hashtag of the hotel brand. Subtle gestures of kindness don't go unnoticed in Yelp reviews, and outstanding customer service is certainly worth a Facebook status post. If the future of converting millennials into loyal hotel customers relies heavily on social media usage, then companies may need to start embracing the little things that can turn a simple smartphone picture into a trending post with thousands of likes. 

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