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Creating Brand Loyalty for Diverse Customers

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As hotels reinvent themselves to compete for a new generation of travelers, they face competing pressures: providing a consistent stay while offering personal experiences. By solving these seemingly conflicting purposes, they hope to create brand loyalty among the Millennial Generation, a group that some estimates say covers as many as 95 million people.

Hotels are responding with new perks and even new brands that respond to their unique needs, creating loyalty for both business and leisure stays. For this group, thread count may be less important than a hotel’s green practices.

Last year Marriott announced its Moxy brand, a partnership with Ikea that specifically targets “Millennial global nomads.” The goal is to open more than 150 of the three-star hotels across Europe in the next decade; its first location opens soon at Milan’s Malpensa Airport. As an economy hotel the rooms are smaller, but the thinking is that the social millennials would rather spend their time elsewhere anyway. Design features include high-style communal spaces, prominent recycling stations, complimentary computers and free Wi-Fi. They will be designed to achieve LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Hotels are also trying to create loyalty through new personal services. Hyatt recently started its “Hyatt Has It” program, which provides guests with an array of personal items they may have forgotten, such as a phone charger, curling iron, yoga mat or makeup remover wipes. Guests can keep, borrow or buy the goods. For stylish travelers, the Hyatt Union Square New York created an “Accessories Butler,” a service that loans guests chic pieces of jewelry, scarves and clutch purses. The curated selection is on display in the hotel’s lobby, along with the stores where guests can purchase the items if they wish.

For travelers of all genders and generations, a responsive loyalty program is among the chief drivers of room stays. But people who prefer independent hotels—including millennials, who seek unique experiences and environments—have long been forced to choose between one-of-a-kind properties and the perks of a brand’s loyalty program. One response has been through a rewards network of independent hotels, Stash Hotel Rewards. Guests earn points based on their room rate and can redeem them for free stays at the program’s members such as The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, The James Royal Palm in Miami Beach, Florida, and Denihan Hospitality Group properties such as The Benjamin in New York City. The Stash website also functions as another marketing vehicle for its member hotels, with a blog that promotes the properties and deals section.

Despite the competition, major hotel brands also continually work to keep their loyalty programs enticing to travelers. InterContinental Hotels Group revamped its program, then known as Priority Club Rewards, in July, offering new benefits and a new name. Now called IHG Rewards Club, the program offers a key benefit to its 71 million members: free Internet access. The chain, whose nine brands include Holiday Inn, the luxury brand InterContinental Hotels & Resorts and the lifestyle brand Hotel Indigo, began offering the perk to elite members in July and extended it to all members this year. A study that the brand commissioned showed the importance of free Internet to travelers: Nearly half of adults said they would choose not to stay in a hotel that charged for Internet access. For a generation that lives on their smartphones and tablets, it’s a vital benefit.