Big hotel chains aim small in Europe to net millennial generation

Mon Mar 23, 2015 7:37am EDT
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By Victoria Bryan and Neil Maidment

BERLIN/LONDON (Reuters) - Driven by the demands of a new plugged-in generation seeking "authentic" travel experiences with a local feel, the world's biggest hoteliers are moving into a new sector in Europe - the "lifestyle" boutique hotel.

After many years focused on baby boomers and business travelers, brands such as Marriott, Hilton, Starwood and InterContinental Hotels Group are paying more attention to the so-called millennials, expected to be the biggest group of hotel customers by 2020 according to industry executives.

Hotels that want to attract this generation must avoid the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. Citizen M, an affordable luxury operator with seven hotels in the Netherlands, Britain and New York, for example, positions itself as an anti-chain chain with a tinge of rebellion.

"Absolutely no trouser presses, bellboys, or stupid pillow chocolates," it proclaims on its website.

The challenge for the mega-chains will be to maintain the required chic of being unique as they grow to meet demand across their markets globally, industry players say.

Usually defined as people who reached adulthood around 2000, millennials use online travel sites that aggregate thousands of hotels and make choices based on peer reviews, according to leisure-and-hospitality industry advisors Grant Thornton.

They want to feel like locals in a bar or lobby where they can hang out with people from the neighborhood, plug in and work over a coffee, or tuck in to locally sourced food.

"Twenty years ago, you'd go to a hotel and sit in the bar and it would be boring because you'd only see other travelers. With these hotels, you get a mix of locals and travelers," Liran Wizman, a developer who also owns his own portfolio of independent hotels, told Reuters.   Continued...