What wisdom have we acquired regarding millennials and their supposed impact on hospitality and tourism? A first question that could be asked is: are millennials really so different from prior generations (or indeed from older cohorts in today's society)?
For instance, young people travelling to experience local culture is hardly a new phenomenon.
The Wanderjahre, which refers to young tradesman setting out to travel for several years after completing an apprenticeship, is a Germanic tradition that dates back to medieval times.
Another historical example is the Grand Tour which saw upper-class youth from England and other Northern European countries embarking on extended journeys through France and Switzerland and especially to Italy over the period from the late 17th century to the early 19th century.
As a young man, my own grandfather worked his way across the Atlantic from America on a freight ship "to see Europe" in the early twentieth century. I myself spent almost a year travelling rough through South Asia and Eastern Europe a few decades ago.
Millennials will evolve too – that’s a fact
Hotel chains seem fixated on creating hotels designed for 'millennial tastes', as though they will remain fixed in stone for the next decades, which leads to a second question: how will millennials' tastes for travel and accommodation evolve over time?
I'm sure that most people who are now in their 40's, 50's and 60's would attest to the fact that they were travelling and socialising in a far different manner 20 to 40 years ago than they are presently. Let's not forget that the babyboomers were once Hippies and soixante-huitards (those who participated in the massive student demonstrations in Paris in 1968).
Thus it's highly likely that, as they age, millennials will also change and maybe once they begin to approach middle age will also begin to appreciate the comfort and security of a full service hotel rather than taking a chance on a 'couch surf'.
The world’s 'connected', not only Millennials
Maybe you will tell me that "millennials are 'connected' via technology and social media like no other generation before". True, but so is everybody else.
Millennials don't have a monopoly on the need for good bandwidth.
In all surveys of corporate business travellers (the majority of whom are still not millennials), free and reliable Wi-Fi is the number one attribute expected of a hotel. 'Road warriors' in their forties and fifties need to stay connected just as much as younger people - if not more so – to keep in touch with professional contacts, as well as their families back home.
In any case, Facebook is hardly cool anymore – more likely a platform where you might encounter your boyfriend's mother.
In fact, we can already see a counter trend coming which is 'digital detox' holidays. As an example, digitaldetoxholidays.com offers a full range of 'tech-free' vacation ideas on seven continents varying from city hotels to eco-lodges, spas and resorts.Bathtubs or pulsating locations?
Hotel rooms are getting smaller.
Guests in general and millennials, in particular, no longer wish to languish alone in their hotel room, so why waste space on an area mainly used for sleeping?
For instance, Marriott's Moxy brand, explicitly designed for millennials, has rooms measuring only 17.3 m2, which can be compared to the size of an average US hotel room at 30.6 m2. Rooms in trendy Amsterdam-based Citizen M properties are even smaller at only 15.8 m2.
Instead hoteliers have reallocated floor space to the common areas where millennials (and other guests) like to congregate. Moxy hotels, for instance, have public spaces with four zones: a welcome area, library and plug-in area, food and beverage outlets, and lounges.
Who has time for soaking in a tub anymore?
In any case there's always the risk of infection if it's in a hotel bathroom room that's been used by hundreds or thousands of guests before you.
Thus showers are 'in' and bathtubs are 'out' in the new millennial – designed hotels. While showers are reportedly particularly prized by millennials, getting rid of bathtubs is part of a wider societal trend that now sees luxury residences being marketed with only showers that are increasingly spacious and may feature multiple heads.
Mel Gibson told us ‘What women want’; really?
Hoteliers have finally woken up to the realisation that most hotels and rooms are designed for men.
Meanwhile, women have other expectations and requirements. In fact, hotel features designed for women are nothing new at all.
America's finest hotels in the nineteenth century like the Tremont in Boston, the Palace in San Francisco or the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia, had features designed particularly for women like special entrances (to avoid crowds of loitering smoking men at the main entrance) and women's parlours and reading rooms. However, back in those days, the women who inhabited such hotels were mainly the idle appendages of wealthy families.
Nowadays the situation has completely changed, as women have entered the workforce in droves over the last half century and increasingly occupy positions of responsibility in companies and consultancies.
This societal evolution has given rise to the single woman traveller. What do women guests really want? Richard Branson thinks he has the answer.
According to him, his new Virgin hotel property in Chicago was designed with the female traveller in mind. “I think 50% of travellers are women, and they haven’t been catered for well in the past,” he remarks, citing better lighting as one amenity that female travellers value.
The vanity does indeed have extra lights. The sliding door that divides the bedroom from the dressing room has a peephole, so guests can have privacy when room service or laundry is delivered.