32 – Marketing Your Hotel To Generation Z

by | September 3, 2019

In this episode of Suite Spot, we discuss a research study recently conducted by Booking.com regarding Generation Z and travel. Host Ryan Embree is joined by Director of Marketing, Anne Sandoval, to explore the different traits of this maturing generation and their travel preferences.

Ryan and Anne breakdown the data by identifying six distinct travel trends concerning Generation Z’s travel habits. Next, they share ideas on how to use digital marketing to attract and gain more share of Generation Z travelers. They also discuss social media influencers, adventure travel, and more ways to inspire this young generation to travel.

To get more information about reaching Generation Z online or to submit a question for future episodes, call or text 407-984-7455.

Resources: https://destinationgenz.com/

Episode Transcript
Our podcast is produced as an audio resource. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human editing and may contain errors. Before republishing quotes, we ask that you reference the audio.

Ryan Embree: Welcome to Suite Spot where hoteliers check in and we check out what’s trending in hotel marketing. I’m your host, Ryan Embree. Hello and welcome to another episode of the Suite Spot, I am your host Ryan Embree, and if you’re a frequent listener of the Suite Spot, you’ll know that the first ever episode that we did here was about reaching millennials on Social Media. Now today we’re going to take this a step further and talk about another demographic and that’s Generation Z. Now, Booking.com recently released a comprehensive research study called Gen Z Unpacked where they surveyed Generation Z , which they consider between the ages of 16 and 24. They asked them about what was important to them when they travel and were able to get some really cool analytics about this up and coming generation. If you’re looking for the study itself, you can reference the link in our show notes. I’m joined by Anne Sandoval, our Director of Marketing, and we are going to be discussing six trends and traits that we’ve found in these statistics. We’re going to break those down and then we’re going to talk from a digital marketing standpoint, how you can leverage these statistics to make sure you are prepared to market and advertise your hotel to Generation Z as they mature and as they start traveling more and more. So without further ado, I’ll go ahead and welcome Anne to another episode of the Suite Spot. It’s great to have you on again Anne.

Anne Sandoval: Thanks for having me again, Ryan. I’m happy to be here.

Ryan Embree: So let’s go ahead and get started with the first trend that we uncovered in these statistics, which is Generation Z’s relationship with solo travel. One of the statistics that Booking.com revealed to us was that 34% of Generation Z planned to travel on their own at least once within the next decade. So a huge difference from, you know, maybe the other generations and hotels are really going to have to start accommodating for solo travelers. So Anne, how can hotels maybe just some tips and best practices on how they can do that.

Anne Sandoval: Well, the first thing that comes to mind for me with solo travel is safety. You already have some great features at your property that are intended to help travelers feel like they and their belongings are safe and secure. So you can share with travelers amenities that you have, including an in-room safe. You can highlight other features like your well lit hallways, indoor corridors, and digital key cards to imply that you have traveler’s safety as a priority. The other really interesting stat that Booking shared is that 33% of Gen Z travelers prefer to be on their own in general when they travel. So this really implies that they’re not necessarily looking for a lot of human interaction, which is a little counterintuitive sometimes in hospitality. So you may want to consider incorporating technology that reduces that need for interaction. This could be something like an in-room voice assistant or a concierge text messaging system. So those are kind of the first ideas that come to mind. What do you think, Ryan?

Ryan Embree: So when we talk about the digital marketing aspect of maybe how to attract or market to solo travelers, social media is a great way, obviously to reach travelers and to market your hotel. But when we’re talking about a solo traveler, they’re obviously looking for a completely different experience than maybe a family or even a business traveler would look for. So I think social media imaging and posts, they should appeal to solo travelers with almost a third of Gen Z saying that they are willing to travel alone within the next decade. You know, you can post about best tips and practices on solo travel and maybe gear your images a little bit more towards a solo traveler than the historical families or business person. So, and you had some really interesting ideas of some potential activities to advertise to solo travelers that come to your hotel.

Anne Sandoval: Absolutely. So rather than sharing things like theme parks or family friendly activities with solo travelers, you want to have some ideas of activities that would really appeal to them. Ways that they can go out and interact while still feeling free to explore on their own. So walking tours I think are great suggestion to share with your solo travelers and to feature on your social media as well as area bar crawls or open mic nights or any kind of live music event that’s happening nearby.

Ryan Embree: I love that idea and that really speaks to one of the other statistics that they talked about in this, which was 46% of Generation Z feel that traveling with family requires them to moderate their behavior more than when traveling solo. So they might indulge in some of those activities like walking tour bar crawl or something like that more than they would when traveling with their families.

Anne Sandoval: Absolutely. I think what it comes down to is that Gen Z wants to travel solo because they’re seeking a little bit of freedom and so that’s really what you want to capture in your social media marketing.

Ryan Embree: I agree. And I think that will be kind of a theme to follow us through the rest of the traits, which leads us to our next trait, which is investing in travel. So this should be really good news for hoteliers and that was Generation Z ranks travel and seeing the world as most important when thinking about the way they spend their money, that is more than such things as investing in higher education, saving for retirement, and even saving for a down payment on a house. So they cherish traveling and they really value that a lot. I would almost say that they look at it as more as an investment than an expense. Anne, can you talk about a little bit about Generation Z’s mindset when it comes to travel? Like this is incredible.

Anne Sandoval: Yeah, absolutely. It’s clear that although Gen Z, in this younger demographic, is going to have less expendable income, they’re going to prioritize spending that money on travel. So they are on a budget, but they’re willing to spend money for things that matter to them. So that means that they’re going to be focused on value above all else. So when you’re appealing to them, it’s not just about creating a budget price point. It can also be building up the value and what they can expect to experience when they stay at your property and if you make that really compelling, then they’re willing to spend,

Ryan Embree: I totally agree with that, and you hit the nail on the head. I mean they are putting a lot of their money towards travel, but they see it as so important to make sure that that money goes as far as they can and they’re getting the bang for their buck, so to speak. You know, maybe those other generations were just looking for the lowest price and this is where we’re going to stay. Whereas Generation Z, wants the best experience, because again, they’re investing in their stay at your hotel. So with that being said, when we talk about a digital marketing strategy, so when they perceive that value that you’re talking about Anne they are looking at places like TripAdvisor, they’re looking at Google reviews because they value their peers feedback and really mix that into what the price is. So I think with Generation Z reputation management is going to be huge, when we talk about, investing, how they invest in travel,

Anne Sandoval: I completely agree with you. It’s clear that this is a generation who was raised looking at online reviews and trusting what other travelers are saying. So, so important. The other thing that I think that you can do is related to another stat from Booking.com which is 70% of Gen Z travelers would prioritize spending money on experiences when away. So you know that they’re not just investing in where they stay, in their lodging investment, but they’re looking to do more than just stay at your hotel. Because of that, you want to create meaningful experiences for your guests, whether that’s additional amenities on property or learning what’s available and compelling nearby that you can share with your guests on social media and you can train your front desk staff to help almost act like a concierge to help these Gen Z travelers get the most out of experiencing your destination.

Ryan Embree: I think these generations, both Millennials and Generation Z, they’re really challenging the status quo of hospitality really. You know, I think older generations saw hotels and motels as a place with a clean room and, and a roof over their heads where now Generation Z and Millennials are looking at hotels as an experience. They’re not just looking at it as a room and a bed anymore. So it’s really gonna challenge hoteliers to take their marketing and the way they train their staff, the way they advertise and reach out to these, to this younger audience. This is so much more than just a place to sleep. It’s what actually we’re going to talk about next. It’s an adventure, right? An experience. So that was the next common trend that we found. Adventure travel and the way that a Generation Z sees that travel is more of an adventure. So to put it in perspective, one of the stats on adventure travel in Generation Z is that 56% want an adventure experience from their travels such as paragliding or bungee jumping. So I think the days again of advertising your hotel as a place of rest and relaxation, that certainly is going to reach an audience, but Generation Z might not be looking for that relaxing vacation or relaxing stay, instead they’re looking for some adventure. So it’s your job again, you know, as hoteliers to seek out what adventures are in your local area. You know, what we suggest to our hoteliers is to find those local attractions that might represent “adventures” and start to promote them through a referral program. Any tips from your end Anne on how to leverage this adventurous lifestyle that Generation Z is living.

Anne Sandoval: Even if you’re not located in what might be considered a textbook adventure destination, you can still do what Ryan suggest and research what these travelers can do in the area that constitutes an adventure. And of course, adventure probably means a different thing to every person. There have to be state and national parks that are nearby, other activities like canoeing or a ropes course, or even less traditional adventures like indoor activities such as laser tag or an escape room that may appeal to those adventurous travelers. So those are some great activities to partner up with and also, of course, to post about on your social media. And your social media doesn’t just have to feature those activities, you can also appeal to those adventure seekers in a more subtle way. You may have seen online travelers and businesses posting inspirational images with quotes on them, “like adventure awaits” and we would recommend doing that on your Pinterest and your Instagram to appeal to this audience and really get them in that wanderlust type of mindset.

Ryan Embree: I agree, and to kind of piggyback on your thoughts about, you know, if you’re listening to this podcast and your hotel is not really in that adventurous area, perhaps you’re on route to an adventure area. There are a lot of places where, you know, Generation Z might be traveling and you’re just one stop on the way to an adventure. So again, it’s your opportunity to go in there as hoteliers, use your hospitality and customer service skills to, communicate with them and what brings them to the area where they’re headed, because what you can do is then leverage them and take advantage of those local adventures or even adventures they’re going to be on and to have them share on their social media profiles and tag the hotel. So they can share it to social media, review sites, and then from there you can respond to the review and advertise, you know, for future travelers that might be reading that review, to do the same. So I think there’s a lot of creative ways to advertise and market these “adventures” and it’s what you said, “the word adventure might be anything from just taking a nature walk to, you know, some of these other examples like bungee jumping or paragliding.” You know, talking to your customers, talking to this younger generation because another statistic that they have on here is that 67% are excited for all the places that they’ll travel to in the future. So they’re going to be willing to talk to you about their story and it’s your job to find that story and market it. So that leads us to our next theme and trait and that’s called bucket list travel. Now even though this Generation Z is very, very young, they are actually creating bucket lists right now, as far as where they want to travel. In fact, 69% of Generation Z have a travel bucket list of things to do or see before they die with this figure rising to 74% across Gen Z females versus 64% among men.

Anne Sandoval: You know Ryan, I can really relate to this trait probably more than any other among Gen Z and that’s because my husband and I actually have a travel bucket list to see all of the US national parks. And one of the things that we do in particular is use social media to get inspiration for that bucket list and the best platform for doing that is on Pinterest. So this is a platform that hoteliers should absolutely be on when it comes to capturing those Gen Z travelers early on, when they’re planning years or even decades in advance for what their future travel is going to look like. So the great thing about Pinterest is that you can post pins that feature, tips, suggestions, photos of your property, things to do in your destination and travelers can share those to their travel planning pin boards. And this is a great way to capture what could be a really longterm advanced booking almost. So when it comes to bucket list travel, you should really think about the area attractions and landmarks that could make it onto a worthy bucket list, but if you’re in a smaller town, you can still come up with ideas like a bucket list to visit every state and then share what’s special about your destination.

Ryan Embree: I think this is super interesting with the bucket list because I think it goes hand in hand with investment travel, right? I think you can’t have one without the other. If they’re creating – if this generation is creating a whole bucket list of places they want to travel, that’s obviously going to translate to a huge investment. So with a longterm mindset like Generation Z has, that is making the consistency of your reputation and your online reviews so important. So no longer is the case with these last minute travelers that might take one look at your TripAdvisor, see that five star and go ahead and say, “Alright” and make their booking decision right then and there. No, with a bucket list, Generation Z might be visiting your review sites four or five times before making a purchasing decision like we talked about in the investment travel. So that is the importance of having consistent five star reviews on your TripAdvisor and recency of those reviews so that that can move them forward in the planning process to be booking with your hotel.

Anne Sandoval: Ryan, one more thing before we move on from this bucket list travel. I think there may be a tendency to think about these bucket lists or dream travel lists as kind of an idea that people might never fulfill, but the Booking.com research shows that 32% of Gen Z travelers plan to have checked off at least five epic trips off their bucket list in the next 10 years. So these aren’t bucket lists that are going to sit on there, want to do or dream wishlist for their whole lifetime. These travelers are committed, like you said, to investing in the travel and really making it happen. So it’s worthwhile to market your hotel to these type of travelers.

Ryan Embree: That’s a great point. You can start to sense a common theme with this generation. And the next trend that we’re going to look at is healthy and environmental travel. Obviously we knew this is a huge hot topic right now when it comes to travel going green, the whole initiative. In fact, we have a Suite Spot episode dedicated to the little thing, cost-effective things that you can do at your hotel for going green. So if you haven’t listened to that, check that out. But the good news about the social media generation growing up is yes, they’d like to go green, but they also like to share that they go green. So this is a great opportunity for you to talk to your guests about wanting them to promote the green initiatives that your hotel is participating in, which obviously will get a lot of feedback from other people with Generation Z because the statistic that Booking.com found said that 56 so more than half, 56% of Generation Z would want to stay in a green or ecofriendly accommodation. So if you get your guests to do your influencing for you, through social media and reviews, you’re gonna be better at, you know, reaching those other Generation Z to stay at your property. Anne, you had some tips on just like the little cost-effective things to go green at your hotel, cause sometimes it doesn’t have to be such a big cost at a hotel.

Anne Sandoval: Absolutely, so there’s things that you can do at your hotel that you probably already have in place and you could just add a little emphasis to. So in terms of healthy options, sharing your gym equipment and talking about the local opportunities for your guests to go and be active nearby the property. Also highlighting your healthy breakfast options, if there’s one thing I know it’s that people love to post pictures of what they eat on vacation, on their social media. And some kind of other bigger options that I think could be great, would be starting a recycling program at your property, offering bike rentals for your guests so that they can not only go out and explore but be healthy while doing it, and maybe implementing a water refill station so that these travelers who are so eco-conscious can fill up their reusable water bottles that they travel with.

Ryan Embree: And do some research on, you know, green accreditations that you can get or you know, maybe some eco-friendly awards that your hotel might be eligible for in doing some of these green initiatives. Make sure you promote them on your website, on your social media. Maybe even, you know, depending on your hotel create and market eco-friendly packages, which you know, don’t include daily housekeeping, which is one of the green initiatives that you can do with, you know, the towels and everything like that. So this can help save both the hotel time and money, but also be super beneficial to your traveler. And finally, our last traveler, Generation Z traveler trend has to do with influencer travel. Now Gen Z, as we know, is highly influenced and inspired by visuals, so you want to make sure your social media marketing strategy appeals to that. In fact, 67% of 18 to 29 year olds, US adults, so right in there with Generation Z, are Instagram users, so almost 70%. So you want to leverage Instagram the best way that you can. Anne, you have a lot of creative ideas on how hotels can do this very cost effectively.

Anne Sandoval: Yes, so I actually have three overall tips for how you can use Instagram to help with that influencer marketing. So the first thing is to create what we call instagramable moments at the property and the best place to do this is probably your lobby. So you can incorporate a feature in your lobby that entices this Gen Z traveler to take selfies or group photos in front of it. So some examples are a mural or a plant wall or even I’ve heard of some hotels implementing a Hologram for travelers to take photos with. Those are the type of things that travelers are going to immediately want to take a photo with and share it on social media. So the next tip is to really add some special touches that might entice travelers to talk about on social media or in their reviews. One idea would be to provide a little higher end then normal bath amenity or offer afternoon cookies and coffee in your lobby or something that Gen Z has probably never actually seen except in the movies, the traditional chocolate on their pillowcase. Finally, just some tips for posting on Instagram, in general, you should always tag your location on Instagram and that’s because travelers can tap that location tag and then they’ll see all of the posts that have been tagged at that location, so it’s going to get you some additional exposure. And you should incorporate hashtags into your captions, just another way for travelers to find you on Instagram.

Ryan Embree: And this survey of Booking.com really speaks to the power and magnitude of Instagram when it comes to inspiration and travel. In fact, 40% of Gen Z find Instagram the top source of inspiration when deciding where to travel to. So those tips are super, super helpful. And if you don’t think that you create this instagrammable wall or you know, do these things and travelers aren’t going to be taking pictures, think again, because 25% of Gen Z take over 50 pictures a day on vacation and 42% always upload pictures from their trips on social media. So they are going to be constantly taking photos and uploading. So you want to make sure you’re leveraging that as much as you can. Instagram ad spend also has really, really great conversion. So if you haven’t researched into to how you can leverage ad spend on Instagram, I highly suggest you do so. And then we talk about Instagram influencers, a great statistic that Booking.com found was 45% of Generation Z trust the recommendations of those they don’t know in person such as influencers and celebrities. So maybe connecting with a local Instagram influencer can really help you expand your reach. When you think about that word recommendations, really that’s just another form of reviews. So positive reviews from that influencer can also go a long way in influencing Generation Z. So that is why at Travel Media Group, we really take a lot of time and effort with our hotel partners in optimizing Instagram, we put ad spend behind that. So you know, if you are looking to get more audience reach with this Generation Z or just want to prepare yourself for the future because we know they’re willing to invest in travel and they’re looking for places to go. We’ve uncovered a couple of ways through these statistics on how to reach them through digital marketing. So if you need help, Travel Media Group is always open. You can reach out to us,(407) 984-7455 I want to thank Anne for taking the time to join me again today with all your great tips and helpful hints to the hoteliers. So thank you, Anne.

Anne Sandoval: You’re welcome, Ryan. It was so exciting to talk about this new generation who’s investing in travel because it’s great news for all of us who work in hospitality.

Ryan Embree: Absolutely, and they’re right there on the horizon, so thank you so much for listening to this episode and we’ll catch you next time on the Suite Spot. To join our loyalty program, be sure to subscribe and give us a five star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group, our editor is Anne Sandoval with cover art by Bary Gordon, and content support by Priscilla Osorio. I’m your host, Ryan Embree and we hope you enjoyed your stay.


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