Meeting the millennial challenge: how can the travel and hospitality industry respond?

8 Mar 2019 | by editor


By Prof. Riccardo Campione, Les Roches Global Hospitality Education

Entrepreneurs and leaders of our industry are well aware of the potential in the millennial demographic. Where they are less sure-footed is around how to cash in on this segment of the market. What is going on and what is needed?

To understand the millennial mindset, we must appreciate that this is the first generation to feel the full effects of the way the internet and digital technology have changed our world.

We now live in an information age, when we can all have ready access to images showing the impact our economy has had on the places from which it drew its resources. Sustainability politics is now an important component to the mix of words that fly wirelessly from continent to continent; while the excesses of the Western world have been exposed in sharp relief to the reality of life in other less-developed places.

Millennials have no experience of the pre-internet, pre-smartphone era. As a result, they are the first generation to seriously question their lifestyle choices within the broader context of their impact on our planet. At the same time they’re prepared to challenge every industry, every foreign policy and every economic practice from the perspective of sustainability and environmental impact, as well as the effects that may be inflicted on other communities in different corners of the planet.

Give the customers what they want

Little surprise, then, that millennials desire something authentic and socially responsible from their travel experiences. A few providers are now entering this space and giving them what they want.

One example is 2B Local, a social travel and lifestyle network founded on the value of authenticity. It offers advertisement-free digital travel guides for destinations worldwide, based on real reviews for local dining and lodging options. 2B Local brings users verified knowledge and insider tips about the lay of the land in different localities without clogging up user feeds with advertising and false information.

Such applications point to a greater ‘dream’ in the millennial mind; a dream in which abundance and responsible commercial practice are not mutually exclusive, but the same thing.

Along with new ways for people to receive their travel information, we are also seeing changes occurring in terms of the types of lodging on which millennials choose to spend their money. Gone, it seems, are the days of copy-and-paste brands turning significant profits via a mass-produced, mass-market approach.

The millennial palette has room for authentic passion, as evidenced by the success of Flophouze Hotel, an artists’ retreat in Texas which boasts beautiful units constructed entirely of recycled materials. A predisposition towards fostering those things which make life living (i.e. good art, unobstructed views of the night sky) has given the hotel’s owners the luxury of a unique and viable business model. This in an industry which is waking up to the need to provide its customers with something to lift the spirits, and not just a bed for the night.

We can see similar principles being adopted in all types of premises, from office spaces to ecological retreats, which have sprung up from Patagonia to the Arctic Circle. These new structures emphasize mindful architecture, minimizing carbon footprint and leaving no trace. Their owners and operators are intent on capitalizing upon the growing need for sustainable architecture and corporate responsibility in the world of travel, leisure, and lodging.

Vive la différence!

It should come as no surprise that millennials are different from us. They were born at a time when the world was supposed to be facing digital apocalypse; whereas in fact what has changed most fundamentally since then is not our comfortable and symbiotic relationship with computers, but with our own minds.

The evolution of our global economy is a rocky and uneven path. Entrepreneurs – in hospitality as elsewhere – need to begin digging a little deeper and anticipating consumers’ needs on a socio-spiritual level. By analyzing the paradigm as a precedent to marketing, business owners can set themselves up for success in an economy which faces significant change in the areas of sustainability, responsibility and mindfulness.  

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