Debunking a Big Myth About Millennial Travel Preferences

Author: David McMillin       

Over the past three years, Airbnb has earned a stamp of approval from Warren Buffett, a Super Bowl rental by Beyoncé, and a bold forecast of one billion bookings per year by 2025. All this buzz has helped the most-recognizable name in home-sharing reach a $31 billion valuation. But the survey results from the 2018 Future of U.S. Millennial Travel from Resonance Consultancy — which includes more than 1,500 U.S.-based Millennial respondents — indicate that young travelers may not be as excited to stay in strangers’ beds as Queen B. When asked for their top choice for accommodations, full-service hotels and resorts ranked highest, and apartments and condo rentals — Airbnb’s specialty — placed ninth in the report. In fact, more Millennials said they would prefer camping and staying in cruise chips over the short-term rentals found on Airbnb.

The findings run counter to most expectations about what young travelers are looking for when they’re on the road. Aren’t they turned off by sterile lobby environment in hotels? Don’t they enjoy the chance to stay in up-and-coming neighborhoods untouched by big corporations? And doesn’t the affordability of Airbnb appeal to their wallets? All these assumptions may be accurate, but the report highlights that hotels have Airbnb beat on an important feature: the power to bring travelers together when they want some companionship. “If there’s one benefit hotels currently have that home-stays don’t,” the report states, “it’s the ability to fuel discovery by bringing people together — either on a rooftop happy hour for guests only or at a WiFi-and-free-coffee-enabled morning work session.”

Major hoteliers are leaning in to that benefit, too. Consider Marriott’s new Moxy brand. According to the company, “Moxy is all about creating cool, energetic, communal spaces with a ‘crew’ who helps guests have some fun.” Hilton is making a similar move with Tru, which replaces in-room desks with an invitation to “head down to the lobby and spread out in semi-private, sound-absorbing alcoves, or collaborate with others in lounge spaces.” Hotels have an obvious advantage in shaping these experiences, too: They own the real estate.

Airbnb Is Still Staying Very Busy

Millennials may prefer hotels to sharing-economy style experiences, but they’re still staying in apartments and homes. More than half of respondents in the research indicated that they regularly or occasionally use owner-direct rental options. Airbnb, of course, will want to move from being a convenient low-cost option to being the go-to accommodation for Millennials. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky is taking a more grassroots approach to building a product that resonates with customers than most hotel CEOs: He’s listening on Twitter. Earlier this year, Chesky asked his 267,000 followers what they would like to see in a guest-loyalty program. If Chesky can figure out a way to embrace some of the recommendations — a concierge service, VIP access to unique rental properties, partnerships with local fitness centers, and more — Millennials, and every other generation, may bed down more often with Airbnb.

What are your predictions for the future of travel preferences? Will hotels continue to be the top choice for younger audiences? Go to Catalyst to share your thoughts on where your attendees want to stay.

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