60 – Marketing Your Hotel To Gen Z Post-COVID-19

by | October 21, 2020

In this episode of the Suite Spot, host Ryan Embree is joined by Travel Media Group’s Marketing Coordinator, Marissa Kinzel, to discuss marketing your hotel to Generation Z post-COVID-19.

Ryan and Marissa break down key characteristics and traits of Generation Z and explore how hoteliers can appeal to them by using online communication channels like websites and social media. Marissa shares her thoughts on how Gen Z will adapt to the “new normal” in regards to the hotel experience, and how they will shape the industry in the next 5-10 years. As more members of this young generation start traveling again, this episode serves as a great guide to help attract and capture more of their business. To get more information about reaching Generation Z online or submit a question for future episodes, call or text 407-984-7455.

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 everyone, this is Ryan Embree, your host of the Suite Spot. Thank you all for listening. We’ve got a great episode, episode number 60. Can’t believe I’m actually saying that. It’s been a heck of a ride, but happy and hope you are enjoying it out there. We are having a lot of fun on our end producing these. So with me today, even though we’ve had 60 episodes, this is actually her first time joining us today, that is Travel Media Group’s Marketing Coordinator, Marissa Kinzel. Marissa, thank you so much for joining me on the Suite Spot today.

Marissa Kinzel:
Of course, I’m glad to be here.

Ryan Embree:
So we’ve got some very important topics to discuss, over the past couple several episodes we’ve been talking about post-pandemic recovery, but today what we’re going to do is actually hone in on Generation Z and how we can market our hotel to Generation Z in this post-COVID era. So I wanted to start today’s episode Marissa, just by defining Generation Z and sharing some of their characteristics and traits.

Marissa Kinzel:
Sure thing, as someone who is on the line between younger millennial and Gen Z myself, I think this definition is a really important one to make since businesses will often conflate millennials and Gen Z into one like conglomerate entity. So for Gen Z, we’re looking at a group of people who were born as early as 1995, Pew research will say 1997 and as late as 2012 or 2014, depending on where you look. So for the most part, Gen Z refers to those who are currently around 14 to 25 years old and surprisingly, they make up 40% of the consumer population. One of their most significant characteristics is that they’re considered digital natives. This is a term that means most Gen Zer’s will have had either the internet, a computer, or a smartphone for the majority of their living memory. These individuals also value truth and honesty, and they have an incredible capacity for filtering information shown to them as they grew up in the information age.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, that’s very true. Like you said, they’ve had those smartphones, computers ,and internet all at the palm of their hands. So they’ve had so much information given to them, that they are better than maybe other Generations and deciphering and filtering that information like you said. So when we’re marketing to them, it’s really, really important that we’re strategic with our marketing and advertising for them. You know, what we’re talking about is kind of, again, how COVID-19 will impact the way they use technology in their everyday lives. Can you kind of talk to that a little bit?

Marissa Kinzel:
Sure. Gen Z is already really used to integrating technology into their daily lives and I think that COVID-19 just pushed a lot of them even further into that corner. Now, I think there’s like a new flood of users and with the new flood of users comes more information than ever before for Gen Zer’s to filter through, to find the information they need and the content they want to consume. Technology for Gen Z serves as a means of communication among friends and family, a way to learn skills, to keep up with the news, and it’s a source of entertainment. So now we see people doing more zoom calls or using other robust messaging platforms to keep in touch with their loved ones from a distance. And Gen Zer’s are also great at finding and integrating new services into their lives like grocery delivery and other such platforms like that. That’s one benefit of growing up with the internet, I think it gives you a really keen ability adapt to change very quickly.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, this is a Generation that’s very versatile and are used to fast changing technology out there. So implementing something, for example, like electronic room keys, this Generation is going to be more than willing to go ahead and use that in their everyday life, then let’s say maybe the older Generation that didn’t grow up with that or might be confused by some of these new technologies and how you would use it and become frustrated, which in turn would obviously make their experience bad. I wanted to hone in on one point that you made about that, and that’s the communication piece. We’ve talked about this with COVID-19, communicating with our guests and consumers was absolutely vital. And for a lot of these hotels, the best form of communication was through their websites and social media. So Generation Z is definitely looking for information there, so that marketing and advertising, those are great channels to target that Generation. They might not be as willing to maybe pick up the phone and call the front desk to ask a question. They may feel more comfortable behind their screens that they’ve grown up with and go ahead and message you at the property, asking questions about availability or features or what’s really your hotel experience going to be like. And that’s what I’m going to kind of shift to next is, there’s going to be so many new parts of this “new normal” hotel experience. I’m wondering with Generation Z kind of growing up with this technology, is there any other pieces that they’ll appreciate and be able to adapt to quickly?

Marissa Kinzel:
Yeah, I think that Gen Z will love the high tech approach that hotels are moving towards from the hotels that can pull it off. Our phones are already so integral to our daily lives, that it only makes sense to be able to use it to check into a hotel or you can scan a QR code to have everything that you need for a visit. Paper products aren’t really attractive to Gen Zer’ s because we can see the lack of sustainability behind their production, but really it’s also about the convenience of having all the travel information that you need in one place, which is the same place that you use for everything else, your phone. And it’s just a benefit too great, not to get at least a little excited about and also there’s a certain ease that comes with not having to interact directly with hotel staff too, which can mitigate anxiety that some Gen Zer’s may have, especially as we’re still experiencing the pandemic here in the States.

Ryan Embree:
You mentioned, you know, Generation Z, that age range is anywhere from around 14 to 25. So anyone traveling maybe from 18 to 25, imagine trying to explain to that person that the only way that they’re going to be able to order their breakfast is by filling out a card and putting it on the outside of their door. That might seem very, very foreign and inefficient to someone who could just say, “Hey, listen, I’m very used to Ubereats, I can just go ahead and do all of this through my phone.” So I do think adopting these new technology practices within the hotel experience are going to be caught on very, very quickly. And we’ve talked about it before, COVID-19 just going to speed up that learning curve. So I want to talk about marketing your property to Generation Z, what aspects of that travel experience can you really advertise and put out there to really target specifically Generation Z?

Marissa Kinzel:
I think one great area for hotels to market specifically to Gen Z would be any and all of these high tech approaches we’re talking about, that they’re taking to innovate their hotel stay experience, things like contactless, check in, mobile room keys, partner delivery with nearby restaurants. They’re all really great places to start. And honestly, in a post-COVID space, any aspect of the travel experience that correlates with guest safety is ideal because you can take it and spin it into a story that will engage Gen Z. Another method to sort of capture and retain the attention of Gen Z is through building a community. A recent statistic I heard was that Gen Z is actually 10% more lonely than older Generations and as a result they’re always searching for additional ways to connect in digital spaces. Hotels can help facilitate some of that connection, especially since so much of the travel experience is about connecting with others and truly having a really fulfilling experience.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, it’s so interesting. Prior to the pandemic, we did a couple episodes on Generation Z and we heard a lot about going on solo trips and really experiencing what the area has to offer and really looking for adventure. The hot craze before was some of these new brands that were coming out, we’re building kind of communal areas for travelers to congregate. Check in at a bar, so you get your room key and a beer while you’re doing it in really communal spaces. So it will be very interesting, because this is a Generation that’s constantly looking for relationships. You think about social media: likes, shares. They want to have an experience. They want to create a story that they can share with their friends and family. So it will be interesting to see how hotels adapt because they were going from a physical property standpoint to a more communal build. How do you balance that now where we’re in a time where we’re told to social distance? So it will be super, super interesting. So let’s talk about social media because we brought it up a couple of times, especially when we talk about Generation Z, and I’d like you to maybe describe an example of a social post that would be more likely to attract and engage a Gen Z traveler more than maybe an older Generation.

Marissa Kinzel:
Yeah, so the type of posts that’s most likely to engage a Gen Z audience is something that’s bold or something that you might consider even a little unusual. Gen Z really highly values, honesty and above that too embracing personality, and engaging in an authentic two way conversation. This can be tricky for a hotelier to accomplish, if they’re making a post that’s just like a pure advertisement, since that’s harder for a Gen Z audience to read as like truly authentic or bold, but posts that are a little more tongue in cheek or ones that pose a question or that share a weird fact about the property or the area that the hotel is located in. Any of those types of posts would do really well to attract attention from a Gen Z audience. I think older generations sometimes feel that Gen Z is only interested in sharing things like memes, because that’s what they see go viral, but that’s not necessarily going to be the best move for your hotel. Memes, as shocking as it may sound, have a lot of nuance to them that can actually be a huge miss for your property, unless you’ve already built up a voice for your hotel that’s more casual and playful. I think of Arby’s as the particular example that comes to mind with that voice, but an aesthetically pleasing image shared to Instagram with text and a caption that says, “What’s your favorite food to order in when you’re on the road,” can open up a conversation and earn that valuable engagement that helps clue into the social media algorithm that your post should be shown to more people. It may not be a direct advertisement for your hotel, but by engaging in a conversation you become memorable, which goes a long way for building long term relationships.

Ryan Embree:
It definitely does and I think more and more we’ve been hearing not only on our side, on the digital marketing side, but even brands start to really accept this new craze of finding a voice for your business. I think in the past, what travelers wanted was consistency. So no matter where you went across the nation, everything was going to be the same, it was going to be a comfort level in knowing that – and I still think that there’s a place for that with Generation Z – but I also think that they want some, like you mentioned authenticity, they want to see a personality. They worked so hard to individualize themselves, they want to be able to engage with a business and see just more than four walls and a bed, which maybe older generations were just looking for a marketing and advertising campaign that just had a price and it was simple. Where Generation Z might be putting a lot of other factors. We’ve see that there’s a lot more, that’s important to them, social issues, we hear of green travel and sustainability, which I’m sure we’ll touch on a little bit later, but there are so many things that are important to this generation that as hoteliers and as someone marketing your property and your business, you need to be aware of because if not, they are known to call you out. Sometimes if you’re being too bland and you’ll see that kind of impact occupancy. So I want to talk about things that Travel Media Group – obviously we handle every single day: review responses, social media, direct messages. Why is that important for Gen Z travelers?

Marissa Kinzel:
So Gen Z travelers are highly likely to investigate all areas of a brand or a hotel, which means every single post and review response counts. Brand trust is second only to price when it comes to Gen Z values, so if they go into your hotel’s page on a review site like TripAdvisor and to see that you never respond to your reviews, positive or negative, that sends a message. And if they try to go to find you on social media and you don’t have a profile set up, that sends a message and both can be really frustrating, because a Gen Zer might think, can I really trust this hotel to say what they say it has? Or how am I supposed to reach out if I don’t know whether or not they’ll reply. So having a really strong online presence becomes imperative, especially in a post-COVID world where travelers are so hesitant to make the move to book because of concerns for their safety.

Ryan Embree:
You know, it’s interesting when I talk to hoteliers that are so reluctant to put a voice out there or a personality to their business, because they’re nervous about what they’re putting out there. So they kind of take a step back and don’t do any of the things that we talked about. They don’t respond to reviews, maybe create that account. They think that’s going to be the best course of action, than rather just trying something and seeing if it works. And the problem with that, Marissa, is that when you don’t respond to reviews or you don’t have a social page that this generation can find you on, that is a personality. And that can have huge, huge implications when it comes to these travelers that are looking to determine whether they’re going to be booking with you or a competitor. So if you’re out there and you haven’t thought about this stuff before, especially now post COVID-19, it’s absolutely critical to your business and your brand to implement these types of personality traits because travelers are looking, as you mentioned, more closely now than ever. One thing that I think I associate with Generation Z is influencers. We knew right before the pandemic, we were at the height of influencers, that fire festival mentality, the power of them. We are as an industry now trying to partner with influencers to draw business to our property and to our local area. Do you think now post pandemic influencers are still going to have an impact like they did before?

Marissa Kinzel:
I think this is a really interesting question and the answer is kind of complicated. Personally, as a consumer, I don’t put very much stock in influencers unless I feel like I can trust them and I know quite a few of my friends that are also Gen Zer’s feel really similarly. Larry Milstein, the co founder of prism, put it really nicely in talk when he said, “That Gen Z wants to have more than a surface level engagement and that businesses should bring in voices that have influence rather than ones that are just influencers.” Like I said, Gen Z are really deep diggers when it comes to purchasing, so they hold brands accountable for the messaging and the marketing that they put out there. So I think there’s a chance that influencers will still have an impact, as long as hoteliers are able to make an authentic connection between the hotel and the influencer. It has to mean more than just having a big name, they have to be important to the hotel’s voice that you have created.

Ryan Embree:
You’re absolutely right, like we’ve said throughout this entire podcast, it’s not only about implementing these strategies, it’s implementing them strategically and pointed and targeted. So make sure if you are going to be partnering with an influencer, make sure it’s the ideal person for your business and it’s attracting your ideal customer. So I’m interested cause we’ve heard a lot more recently now with the news about social platforms like Tik Tok and Snapchat, I’m curious, will hotels still be able to reach Gen Z on platforms like Facebook or will they eventually have to tap into channels like your Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok.

Marissa Kinzel:
I think hotels need to use every platform available to them so they can reach as many people as possible, and that includes Gen Z. Some of them still use Facebook, but a lot of them do spend more of their time on Twitter, Instagram, or Tik Tok. Hotels will be able to reach Gen Z if they can master visual, digital storytelling on their platforms and if they’re able to cater each post to perform as well as possible per platform. For example, the same photo and caption won’t perform the same way on Twitter as it will on Instagram, since each site’s algorithms are different and influence the way those posts are shown to viewers differently. And all of that needs to be taken into consideration whenever you’re making a post. That’s why I personally really like our social media solution at TMG, because we offer a really robust scheduler and our social team covers assistance with four platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. It can really help take the stress away from a hotelier to put that level of intense marketing into the hands of experts who care so deeply about the hotel.

Ryan Embree:
That’s a great point. Every single one of those social platforms can be used differently. I use the example all the time of someone calling out a property on Twitter for being unclean and sending a picture of maybe like a dirty corner or a broken handle on a piece of furniture at the hotel. You wouldn’t see that picture on Instagram. So these platforms are used in completely different ways and it’s up to you, the hotelier, to leverage them. And at Travel Media Group, we understand that we can help you leverage the platforms in a way to reach the customer that you’re trying to draw in and market to. You know, we haven’t mentioned this yet on the episode, but I think it’s important to note that as we talk about COVID recovery, the reason that’s so important for us to reach Generation Z/Millennials right now is because they are younger. They are going to be the ones that are going to be more confident in coming out of the homes and start traveling first. So if you want to go ahead and start making up some of that occupancy that maybe was lost during the pandemic, look no further than Gen Z and millennials, that might be doing some traveling right now in this time. So let’s talk about the future. You know, I just touched a little bit on recovery, you know, I’m curious, Marissa, what’s your prediction for how Gen Z is going to shape the industry in the next 5 to 10 years?

Marissa Kinzel:
Yeah, what I would love to see over the next 5 or 10 years is a response to the way that Gen Z holds companies accountable. We touched on it a little bit before, but right now almost half of Gen Z population believes that brands should have and do have social responsibility. So I think it would be really interesting to see a shift in the way hotels market their businesses, as a result. Gen Z is always searching for transparency and pushing for diversity and sustainability and inclusion. So seeing hotels react to that in an honest way and working hard to be culturally competent and inclusive on every level of their business from their employees to their brand messaging, that would be really satisfying to me. There’s a chance for it since we read so often about how sustainability is such a big concern for everybody in the industry in a lot of ways. So hopefully more hoteliers can find ways to establish beliefs in their mission and sort of weave those beliefs into every level of their hotel’s entire persona.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, I love it. I think over tourism was a very, very hot word right before the pandemic, obviously right now we could use some of that tourism back. But I think it is initiatives like that, the going green initiative, there was a big push to get the mini plastic bottles that we’ve known in the industry for decades out of there because of sustainability issues. So I think this generation will carry the torch in kind of making these changes and calling for companies to make those changes. And they’re definitely not afraid to do so and they will back it up with how they’re spending their money and where picking to travel. So love this. This is a very important topic to talk about right now, because these are going to be the travelers that in five to 10 years, they’re going to be in their thirties. They’re going to be looking to make those trips. They’re going to have a lot more expendable income and they’re going to be making purchasing decisions that are going to be very, very impactful to our industry. So if you’re a hotel out there, you got to look out for this generation on the horizon because they’re here and they’re hoping to fill some of your rooms. So Marissa, great episode, as we always do, I’ll close it out with you. Any final thoughts?

Marissa Kinzel:
Yeah, actually I know there does tend to be a certain stigma surrounding Gen Z for being glued to their phones 24/7, but they really are a smart generation of people and may look like we’re just kind of mindlessly scrolling, but really what we’re doing is filtering and processing information constantly throughout our time online. Gen Z is exposed to over 10,000 marketing messages on any given day and Gen Zer’s are keen. So it’s important to really focus on your voice and your message, so you can create content that stands out to these consumers. We understand the power of our purchases and Gen Z would really rather businesses just keep it real because if you’re hiding skeletons in the closet, Gen Z will gladly drag them out.

Ryan Embree:
Very true. Well, Marissa, I want to thank you again. This is great information for our hoteliers, so thank you for being on the Suite Spot.

Marissa Kinzel:
Yeah, of course, anytime.

Ryan Embree:
And if you are interested in learning more, we’ve got tons of content on our website at travelmediagroup.com or you can, of course, reach out to us at (407) 984-7455 for some help with some of our social media solutions, review response, or reputation management, digital marketing solutions that we provide for hotels. I want to thank everyone, as always, for listening and we will talk to 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. I’m your host, Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.

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