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Millennials Want Experience From Their Hotels, And They Want It Now

The rising Millennial generation of travelers, for business and pleasure, is about to be in the driver's seat when it comes to what hotels have to offer to be competitive, according to the speakers at our Seattle Hospitality on the Horizon event recently at Grand Hyatt Seattle. To put it in one word: experience. Make that two words: experience and authenticity.

Millennials Want Experience From Their Hotels, And They Want It Now

Even though hotels have never seen better times, and Seattle is one of the star markets of the business, there's turmoil in the industry, our speakers said.

That's because there's always turmoil. Today the industry's roiled by online booking, handheld devices, competition from Airbnb and the like, but even so hotels are remarkably adaptive. Brands rise, fall, alter, change—the industry is always looking for what the consumer wants.

Snapped: MG2 principal Ron Mitchell, who's been designing hotels for about 30 years.

Millennials Want Experience From Their Hotels, And They Want It Now

The major hotel companies are responding to new consumer tastes with an effervescence of new brands, our panelists pointed out. Hotel firms came out with 14 new concepts in the last year alone, such as Hilton's Tru, Mariott's Autograph Collection, and Starwood's Tribute Portfolio, among others. These new brands are lifestyle brands, at multiple price points, to try to offer what travelers say they want.

Here's Ron and Washington Lodging Association CEO Anthony Anton, who is now also CEO of the Washington Restaurant Association.

Millennials Want Experience From Their Hotels, And They Want It Now

What they want—besides 4- and 5-star service, which never goes out of style—is a hotel that helps them experience a place. Millennials are especially keen on the idea, since they tend to value experiences over objects, though older travelers look for experience too.

The key concept: hotels need to be a gateway to a particular place, not a property that stands apart from its neighborhood and has more in common with like-branded hotels in other cities than its own city.

HKS associate principal Tom Sprinkle, whose firm has a number of projects now in the Seattle area.

Millennials Want Experience From Their Hotels, And They Want It Now

Moreover, authenticity is highly valued in a hotel experience these days, our speakers explained. That can be a tricky thing to deliver for a hotel company used to brand standards that needed to be precisely the same everywhere, but travelers don't care about hotels being precisely the same everywhere anymore. In fact, they don't want that.

Some of the new brands might fail before long, but others will find  that magic spot that satisfies the new customer need for a different kind of hotel experience.

Seattle Pacific Realty partner Jeffrey Rosen, who moderated, and HVS VP Desiree Flanary, who specializes in hotel consulting. We'll cover the rest of the speakers in our next edition.