How we travel… | Part two

Brands will need to set the stage for unique experiences to connect with this millennial.

In terms of values, attitudes, beliefs and lifestyle, Millennials are distinguishing themselves from previous generations, the Baby Boomers, Generation X. But Millennials, as we found, are far from a cookie-cutter collective. For example, these millennials, loosely defined as the generation that reached adulthood around the year 2000, choose hotels and airlines for different reasons. Recently a group of millennials from the VOA hospitality studio gathered at the Freehand Hotel in Chicago to talk about how we travel in an effort to generate ideas for the next generation in hospitality design. What drives millennial travel might be tough question, but these four millennials were eager to share their attitudes and preferences for travel and their ideal experiences. Today, Jake tells us how he travels.


Experience – the process of doing and seeing things and having things happen to you

Locality – a place occupied by certain people or as the scene of particular activities

Social Engagement – participation within the community or society

Authenticity  – real or genuine; not copied


A few years ago I stayed at the Ace Hotel while visiting my sister and friends in New York.

What I loved best about staying at the Ace New York wasn’t its minimal rooms with their unique, vintage touches. It was the hotel’s public spaces, which the served as the starting and ending points for my group’s social outings. My friends wanted to meet in the Ace’s lobby and this elevated the whole travel experience.

The Ace is a destination for visitors and locals alike.  When entering the Ace you are greeted by a warm lobby that during the day features people at large communal tables working and socializing, but at night they create an intimate night scene that attracts everyone in the area.  The lobby space transforms throughout the guest’s day and meets different user needs.  The Ace is also differentiated by its third party food and beverage offerings.  In New York, it features three distinct delicious eating and drinking areas with offerings ranging from cocktails and oysters to locally roasted coffee—making it a destination for locals, travelers and guests.

Ace Hotel, NYC, Photo: Douglas Lyle Thompson/Ace Hotel

Ace Hotel, NYC, Photo: Douglas Lyle Thompson/Ace Hotel

The Ace Hotel boutique hotel brand operates in the U.S. and Panama with the mantra “we are not here to reinvent the hotel, but to readdress its conventions to keep them fresh, energized, human.”  Each Ace Hotel delivers a unique experience and concept focused on the local community.

No matter where I am traveling or why, I want the hotel stay itself to be an experience.  I want a hotel that allows me to live like a local with a strong focus on lifestyle, locality, and insider knowledge. Millennial travelers like me aren’t looking for the traditional hotel model with its large rooms, continental breakfasts, and replicated non-localized design. This outdated style put the emphasis on the brand rather than the place. I believe travel is about greeting the new and unfamiliar, and having an unforgettable experience in a special place.

A new generation of hotels is thriving with millennial travelers. These hotels focus on urban apartment-style living where with an emphasis on great public spaces.  Traditional hotel brands failed to pivot towards these new travelers and their attitudes toward experience and place. This allowed for the rise of new types of lodging that emphasize social engagement. Airbnb, an online marketplace that connects users to vacation rentals resulting in a more stylized way of traveling, has upended the hospitality market.  Through September 2014 and August 2015, more than 2.8 million room nights were booked by Airbnb while 480,000 hotel room nights were reserved.

User experience and local connection are important to today’s travelers.  But the numbers also show that millennials are willing to pay more for this desired experience. As reported by STR, Inc., the average rate for an Airbnb unit was $148.42, 25 percent higher than the average hotel rate of $119.11.

On the bright side, hotels are positioned build a brand reputation for reflecting the local experience while platforms like Airbnb rely on the peer-to-peer connection which is always different.  Boutique hotel brands are eager to accommodate the preferences of the millennial traveler—but what works in one city or on one block isn’t guaranteed to work when replicated elsewhere. My generation craves unique, organic and authentic experiences—and setting the stage for those to occur is no easy task. Hotels can start by thinking of their public spaces as destinations.


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