Millennials Force Travel Brands to ReThink what it means to be Customer-Centric


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Millennials and Travel
Photo Credit: AEMG

Every day it seems, marketers remind brands that they must be relevant to Millennial consumers.

As a result, travel brands recognize that in order to appeal to today’s Millennials, drive loyalty and fuel growth they need to update the standard customer experience that they’ve offered for decades with great success.

Dominant hoteliers such as Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt built their reputations on ensuring that guests could expect consistently, predictable experiences anywhere in the world, but today Millennials now want the opposite of that.

As Fast Company reports, they’re “driven by a desire to have a rich, meaningful experience when they travel, get an authentic taste of the local culture, and gather unique stories to share upon their return.”

Even iconic travel brands, like Micato Safaris, who practically invented the safari category itself, are evolving their customer experience mindset to keep pace.

Travel and Millennials

Millennials, in turn, are often choosing to stay in hostels, AirBnBs or non-brand boutique hotels. Big-brand hotel chains simply don’t interest them and that’s a problem.

Older Millennials in their late twenties and early thirties already are taking twice as many business trips as their peers over 35. Overall, Millennials are 23 percent more interested in traveling abroad than older generations.

To position themselves for the future, major travel brands need to adapt as more and more customers expect big companies to act like smaller, more nimble ones.

Marriott and Millennials

Marriott is leading this charge in the hotel industry as it seeks to transform into a hip, sexy brand that will appeal to its next generation of guests.

The key, Marriott believes, is developing fresh and unique customer experiences at each property.

And to that end, the hotel chain delved into the psyche of a typical Millennial guest, discovering that they need to be convinced of the value of a product or an organization through storytelling and value companies with a distinct point of view on the world and strong connections to the local community.

To tap into those emotions and desires, Marriott has designated several hotels as test sites to develop unique experiences for guests.

In London, one Marriott opened the hotel’s rooftop, which had never been used before, in order to create a pop-up bar and picnic dinner joint called “RoofNic.” In Phoenix, a Marriott hotel opened a cheese-and-charcuterie restaurant focused on artisan cheesemakers, charcuterie producers, and local craft beer and wine makers. In Dubai, the Marriott opened nightclub featuring top international DJs.

Building on this momentum Marriott has used co-creation to re-design rooms at many of its hotels.

The hope for Marriott is that by starting small, change can eventually ripple through the company and influence the impressions that Millennials might have of the chain.

Micato and Millennials

Beyond just hotels, travel experiences are evolving to keep up with shifting consumer behavior. Take the Safari. Fifty years ago, a Kenyan farmer and his wife started Micato Safaris, today’s gold standard for an African safari.

Typical experience years ago likely included staying in a mobile camp and most travelers went to Africa to hunt.

Today, travelers go on safari to photograph animals, learn about breeding habits, conservation and to be active. This has forced companies, like Micato, to rethink the experience.

New experiences include balancing individual desires with group itineraries. This can be a mix of exploring local culture, serving others, solo hikes or sleeping outside under the African stars.

Photo Credit: AEMG
Photo Credit: AEMG

And, like any good experience, it rests with the employees. Brands must equip employees with the right knowledge and training, then empower them to impact the customer. Something that Micato continues to refine and perfect as one of premier safari companies in the world.

Customer Service is Not Equal to Customer Experience

In conclusion, it’s smart for brands to consider that good customer service does not equal a good customer experience. And to be relevant today, brands must provide unique customer experiences as opposed to simply delivering standard ones.

Brian Walker, CEO
Brian Walker is the Chief Executive Officer of AE Marketing Group and host of the award-winning Brand Lab Series™ Podcast with today’s most innovative brands, including Bosch, Deloitte, IBM, RXBAR®, Accenture, and P&G.Recognized by Inc., Forbes, Branding Magazine, Ad Age, The American Marketing Association. Modern Healthcare, and more, Brian helps executives build brands beyond traditional advertising to improve customer experience, product development, and revenue.


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