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The extended-stay guest is getting a lot younger, very fast.
While the typical guest is in their mid-40s, the target guest for Residence Inn is 33 years old, says Diane Mayer, VP and global brand manager, Residence Inn by Marriott.
“This guest hasn’t been traveling for 20 years, maybe they’ve been traveling for two years, he doesn’t understand the array of brands, and he comes with a different expectation about style and technology,” Mayer says.
This guest wants the hotel to be fast and transactional when they want it, and human and customized when they need it. “It is a very different definition of customer service,” Mayer says. “It’s keeping us on our toes, but it’s a really exciting time for product development.”
All hotels are now focused on the millennials — this demographic bolt that is coming, Skinner says. “You’re seeing the product designed more with that generation in mind and technology is going to play a big part in that. It’s also the communal spaces in lobbies, with lots of places where people can sit together in social settings. They are already being made like a Starbucks.”
Design in the mid-price and upscale is more modern than it used to be, he adds. Front desks are more open, which allows for interactive connection between staff and guests.
However, Hilton’s Kuhn says the millennial target is still on the horizon. “They are a very large cohort, but the thing is, the vast majority are not traveling yet,” he says.
Hilton Worldwide’s VP of franchise development for the Americas, Bill Fortier, echoes this sentiment.
“It’s misguided to try to develop a brand largely around just one generation of travelers, because the desires of those travelers change as they age,” he says. “The millennials will grow up over the next decade, and we’ve got a whole lot of boomers out there, like me, that don’t necessarily want to stay in a hotel designed for our kids. Our brand teams are constantly studying all of our customers and work with our owners to adjust our products to meet the needs of the travelers for each of our brands.”
For Homewood Suites’ part, the focus is on making sure the brands are reaching the 45-year-old travelers as they continue in their careers, Kuhn adds.
Another traveler trend is that more families with children are staying in extended-stay hotels.
“Many families will come and visit while the (business traveler) is on a project,” Bardenett says. “What happens is your business customer can become a leisure customer.”
This requires high chairs, crayons and coloring books in the lobby, but also quiet space for the business traveler—in the same hotel, he says.
The customer also expects ease of booking, Giblin says.
“The ease of booking has to evolve a bit, and understanding of our pricing is something customers need to understand,” he says. “Many times it’s individuals booking, with no meeting planner. We need to get that out to the market.”