As the summer travel season hits its peak, the $928 billion global travel industry is reaching out to a new key segment: millennials.
Hospitality chains are doing everything from changing up decor -- updating rooms with trendier furnishings and glitzing up lobbies with musical acts -- to adding services such as budget prices, 24-hour cafes, full-service bars and even yoga classes in pursuit of the millennial traveler. And in a nod to this digitally conscious generation, they are wooing them with social media, concierge apps, free Wi-Fi and smartphones used as room keys.
"This is a huge generation that will have a big impact, and we'll continue to meet them wherever they are," said Mary Beth Parks, senior VP-global marketing at Hilton Worldwide, which has more than 4,300 hotels in 93 countries.
The reason is clear: the demographic's sheer size. This month, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report saying millennials are now 83.1 million strong -- more than a fourth of the nation's population and bigger than baby boomers, who come in at 75.4 million.
And they do have wanderlust: a 2013 Expedia report finds that people under age 30 travel 4.7 times per year on business versus 3.6 times per year for 30 to 45-year-olds and 4.2 times per year for 46-to-65 year-olds. The same report found that millennials take 4.2 leisure trips a year, more than those age 31-to-35 (2.9 trips) and those 46-to-65 (3.2 trips).
According to a Boston Consulting Group survey, 75% of millennials are interested in traveling abroad as much as possible versus 52% of non-millennials.
To lure this tech-savvy generation, Hilton has introduced a digital check-in service for smartphones, which allows guests to select a room on a map, and all its hotel room doors will be smartphone-enabled by 2016. Hilton and Hyatt have concierge accounts on Twitter, and Marriott's Rewards app lets guests choose from a list of services and amenities or chat with a person for other requests. InterContinental's Concierge Insider Guides app offers video tours and recommendations on where to shop and eat, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts' app lets guests FaceTime with staff at any hour of the day.