How Millennials Are Steadily Impacting the Hotel, Foodservice, and Hospitality Industries

Millennials and the Hospitality Industry

According to industry sources, millennial travelers will make up more than 50% of all hotel guests by 2020.

This, combined with reports of millennials surpassing baby boomers as the most numerous living generation within the next few years, means that this generation could and will seriously impact all industries, including hospitality, food and hotel services.

Who Is the Millennial Generation?

Before we dive too deeply into the impact the millennial generation will and already has had on the tourism and hospitality industry, it’s important to first analyze who makes up the millennial generation and what their motivations are when it comes to travel and leisure.

While there is no clear consensus on the years for the millennial generation, sources often define the generation as being born between 1980 and 2000, with the Pew Research Center defining millennials in its most recent report as anyone born between 1981 and 1996.

The Pew Research Center also points out some significant characteristics of the millennial generation that could impact various aspects of the hospitality industry, including the fact that members of the generation:

  • Are more ethnically diverse than previous generations.
  • Entered the workforce at the height of an economic recession.
  • Grew up during the rapid evolution of technology and the internet.

Each of these factors, as well as other socio-political events, helped shape this generation and, in turn, has helped shape the tourism and hospitality industry overall.

How Millennials Are Impacting the Food Service Industry

One of the biggest impacts millennials have made on the tourism and hospitality industry is the emergence of the foodie culture, which has put a much higher emphasis on dining and food service than previous generations of travelers.

This increased focus on food has changed the way hotels and even local attractions approach the food and beverages they offer their guests. Think of the emerging trends in the past few years of rainbow food or black ice cream – these are just a couple examples of how restaurants and other food service companies are looking to target the millennial generation.

Some other ways millennials are changing the restaurant/food service industry include:

  • Millennials eat out more.
    This generation is characterized by its emphasis on experiences, and dining at restaurants has become much more of a social experience than with past generations. They use meals as a way to connect with others. In addition to going out to eat, millennials are also eating more takeout, which has helped fuel the food-delivery industry with businesses like Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash.
  • Millennials are more conscious of what they are eating.
    As a large portion of the overall population, millennials are causing restaurants and other food service brands to move away from food filled with fat, sugar and preservatives to healthier, organic and even vegan or gluten-free options. Not only are restaurants changing their ingredients, but there’s been an even bigger focus on listing ingredients and calories on menus, which is in a large part thanks to the millennial focus on what they are actually eating.
  • Millennials are willing to spend more on food.
    Along with their focus on choosing healthier options, millennials are also willing to pay more to have their organic food items. This applies whether they’re eating out or getting food from the grocery store as, again, millennials want new experiences and are willing to pay for them.
  • Millennials are changing marketing strategies within the industry.
    As a generation that grew up during the internet boom, millennials look more to digital avenues rather than television to get ads and information about restaurants. Millennials also greatly value the opinions of friends and family when making decisions, which has created an increased importance on positive reviews for establishments.
  • Millennials are impacting restaurant technology.
    From the way we order food to the way we pay, millennials have had a big impact on restaurant technology as both users and developers. For example, online ordering will soon surpass in-store ordering thanks to the millennial generation.

How Millennials Are Impacting the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Overall

While there are so many ways that millennials have impacted the food service industry, their influence extends even further when looking at the overall tourism and hospitality industry.

  • Millennials are looking for something different than other generations.
    According to a 2018 U.S. Millennial Travel report from a Resonance Consultancy survey, 85% of millennials prioritize venturing out of their comfort zones and learning new things when traveling. Also, 46% of millennials were described as “all-in enthusiasts” compared to just 25% of U.S. travelers overall. According to the research, “all-in enthusiasts” refers to millennials’ interest in participating in most types of activities and having many types of experiences when traveling.
  • Millennials are traveling more both domestically and internationally.
    In 2016, U.S. millennials spent nearly $50.4 billion on domestic travel, serving as a driving force to the overall growth for domestic tourism. International travel is also on the rise, with more and more millennials not just traveling abroad by themselves, but also bringing the entire family.
  • Millennials are taking more family vacations.
    Some experts point to this generation’s need to remain in the home longer because of the economic recession as the rationale for why millennials are so open to multigenerational trips with parents or children. Whatever the driving force, those within the tourism and hospitality industries are taking advantage by offering plenty of deals and packages with this in mind.
  • Millennials prioritize sustainability.
    Evaluating the environmental impact of hotels, restaurants and activities has become a priority for many millennial travelers. This has influenced the way venues evaluate their own practices, and has led to the installation of solar panels, automatic lights and air conditioners, along with looking for ways to reduce waste.
  • Millennials emphasize technology.
    While 15 years ago, free Wi-Fi was considered a luxury for most hotels and venues, today it’s expected thanks to a generation of tech-savvy travelers. But it’s not just Wi-Fi that has changed, as the millennial generation’s love for technology and desire for seamless technology to make travel easier has had a serious impact on the tourism and hospitality industries. From mobile check-ins for hotels to the security gates at airports, many areas have been redesigned to streamline the travel process.

Millennials and the Hotel Industry – An Overview

Millennials have not only changed the way we check into hotels, but have also influenced several other aspects of the hotel industry, such as through technology, amenity offerings, loyalty programs and more.

One of the biggest influences millennials have had is on the idea of home sharing. Millennials were a driving factor for services like Airbnb, which allowed people to list their own apartments and homes for rent to vacationers.

This had a serious influence on the hotel industry, making it difficult for traditional hotels to compete with ideal locations and home amenities.

Surprisingly, however, new studies in 2018 found that millennials were shifting away from home-sharing services in favor of traditional hotels. This is mostly due to an increased value of safety as a travel consideration for the generation.

Paving the Way for Past and Future Generations

Many experts agree that the millennial generation has had one of the biggest impacts on the tourism and hospitality industry, more so than any other generation.

The changes they’ve brought about have helped benefit older generations and have paved the way for the even more tech-savvy generations of the future.

As this generation continues to age, and their needs change, the hospitality industry will need to learn to adapt with them.