5 ways to compete with AirBnB and build hotel loyalty with millennials in a post-COVID landscape


When we think about millennial spending habits, stereotypical images of avocado toast and $5 lattes might spring to mind. But as a group of more than 71 million worldwide, millennials are today’s largest living generation. As they age and advance their careers, their buying power grows considerably — and they’re not just splurging on brunch. 


This should come as good news to hospitality professionals. For millennials, travel is key. This age group, born between 1981 and 1996, prioritizes travel. They make up the largest number of business travelers and are expected to comprise 50% of all travellers by 2025. In 2018 alone, millennials spent $200 billion on travel. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also the group most likely to start travelling again in the year ahead. In other words: it’s time for hotels to start prioritizing millennials.  

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Airbnb was designed with millennials in mind  

The millennial generation doesn’t just travel often, they travel differently. Raised with the internet, this cohort is more likely to book, plan and document travel from their smartphones. With that comes an expectation for total convenience and seamlessness. They also tend to value authentic experiences and good food over comfort and luxuries, and are often keen to get off the beaten path to connect with the local lifestyle. 

At first glance, Airbnb seems tailor made for millennial preferences. That could be why they’ve had such a huge impact on hospitality and tourism in the last 10 years, flooding the market with supply and offering unique stays in remote locations where hotels don’t operate. But COVID-19 impacted the entire travel industry — including Airbnb.  

As we look ahead to lifting restrictions and a growing demand for tourism, hotels have a unique opportunity to re-engage this market and build loyalty long-term. Here are five ways to do just that.  

1. Reward loyalty

When done right, loyalty programs are highly effective at keeping customers engaged. Studies show that millennials are willing to pay up to $41 more to stay with their preferred hotel program and up to 86% like or value personalized offers. But they aren’t just looking to rack up points on a branded card. They want tailored offers — often at the last minute or when they check in — that reward them for their return visits.  

Millennials also want loyalty programs that are flexible and mobile-friendly, allowing them to use their points or offers when and how they like. That could be because this generation is more likely to plan their own vacations than others, often hand-picking activities for each day. A flexible rewards plan lets millennials choose their own adventure, all while building loyalty with your brand. 

2. Offer convenience at scale

A single host renting a room in their home won’t benefit from economies of scale like hotels can — and we’re not just talking about laundry costs. With greater reach, hotels are able to build partnerships with their local communities that guests can benefit from. Discounts at local restaurants, for example, or recommended experiences with partner organizations in the area can complement a guest’s existing travel plans and help them feel like they’re getting an exclusive experience in a new city.  

Digital amenities, too, can scale with a hotel and make guests feel like they’re getting a unique value-add. Subscriptions like PressReader allow hotels to give guests access to a personalized publication feed, meaning they can keep up to date on their favorite magazines and newspapers from home or dip into some locals-only subscriptions for relevant news as they immerse themselves in the culture. 

3. Rethink amenities

Digital amenities aren’t the only way hotel brands can rethink their unique offerings, but it can be hard to know which amenities millennials are actually interested in. Millennials comprise a massive, varied group of individuals, all with their own tastes. Some are keen on privacy, others want to connect. Some want fitness and wellness, others want high-end dining and artisanal cocktails and many want all of the above.  

In-room amenities are a great way to meet varied millennial tastes. Things like digital room service, personalized in-room workouts and interactive TVs mean that guests can feel pampered and catered to at all times.  

Another crowd-pleasing amenity is food. Whether your hotel has a full-service restaurant or a continental breakfast, investing in quality, locally-sourced food can become the kind of amenity millennials keep coming back for. And beyond your front doors, personalized, place-based recommendations can be a big value-add for millennials hoping to live and eat like locals. Take a page out of Airbnb’s book and offer customized local experiences travelers couldn’t find on their own. 


4. Embrace home-stays

Airbnb has changed the way we travel, and some hotel brands are jumping on the trend, finding new ways to meet travelers where they’re at. For example, The Marriott recently announced a new partnership with Hostmaker, a home-rental management company. Together, they are offering hundreds of home-share stays in Paris, Rome, Lisbon and London.  

The Marriott is already the largest hotel company in the world, with brands like Sheraton and The Ritz-Carlton in their portfolio. Whether guests are looking for a luxury experience, a one-of-a-kind home-stay, or a convenient, no-frills stopover, the Marriott has something that meets their specific needs.  

5. Grow sustainably

We know that sustainability is important to millennials. In 2021, climate change was among the generation’s top three biggest concerns. This group is pushing for positive change and expecting the same kind of action from their choice brands.  

When it comes to sustainability, there are lots of big things hotels can do to reduce their carbon footprints, but it’s important to think about the everyday choices, too. Some hotels have started implementing recycling programs, others have eliminated their single-use toiletries 

At PressReader, we think a lot about paper waste and how to eliminate single-use products like newspapers and magazines. Going digital doesn’t just mean you can appeal to savvy digital natives, it can also be a good choice for the environment.  

Delight your guests with The New York Times on PressReader

The time has come to embrace change  

It’s no secret that Airbnb is a giant in the hospitality sector. By one estimate, Airbnb is capturing 10–12% of travel demand in New York City, Paris and London. As they continue to grow, they are fundamentally changing how we travel — and those changes aren’t going away.  

Still, hotels are uniquely positioned to capture and recapture millennials with creative, personalized and sustainable options this generation is looking for. By embracing the needs of today’s largest generation, hotels can meet the needs of travelers today and in the future.  


Learn more about how hotels partner with PressReader to modernize their amenities for a millennial audience, or download The Insider: Rethink Normal for more actionable strategies you can adopt today.   

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