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December 24, 2014 / BSP Marketing

How People Choose Hotels: Results of a Decisive Survey

How People Choose Their Hotels Hotel Preferences are Largely Determined by Age

No one would argue that the needs and wants of someone in their 50s or 60s are quite different than those of a person in their 20s or 30s. The baby boomer generation still listens to Elvis, Sinatra, and the Beatles. The millennial generation’s music preferences are more likely to lean toward Beyonce, Eminem and Pharell Williams. Someone in their 60s is more likely to be technologically challenged (how do you send a text?) while a 30 year-old could not live without a smartphone and uses social media sites regularly.

Travelers choose hotel rooms based upon location, price, level of service, and several other factors. Hotels cater to all market segments from budget to ultra-luxury. The travel and hospitality site Hotel Management recently published a 2014 report entitled Portrait of American Travelers. The study analyzed hotel and travel booking preferences of various generations. Below are the generally accepted parameters of each generation:

Mature – individuals born before 1946 (Age 69+)
Baby Boomer – Individuals born between 1946-1965 (Age 49-68)
Gen X – Individuals born between 1966-1980 (Age 34-48)
Gen Y / Millennials – Individuals born between 1981-2000 (Age 14-33)

Independent vs. Chain Affiliated Hotel or Resort

People across all age groups favor staying in a chain affiliated hotel or resort by a margin of 3:1 over an independent hotel. In looking for a reason that 75 percent of all travelers prefer chain hotels and resorts and only 25 percent would rather stay in an independently run hotel, there are several possible explanations. National chains come with a reputation, have bigger marketing budgets, and instill a level of comfort for the traveler.

Economy Hotels

This is the least popular category across the generations. Only 12 percent of the boomers and 13 percent of the mature generation say they preferred to stay at an economy hotel. Millennials (19 percent) and Xers (16 percent) also are not keen on staying in economy hotels. A reasonable explanation might be that most travelers see better value in paying a little more for the additional amenities of a mid-range hotel.

Moderately-Priced Hotels

A full 72 percent of matures and 69 percent of boomers prefer staying in this middle-of-the-road type of hotel. Generation X (61 percent) and millenials (60 percent) like moderately priced hotels, but not as much as the older generations.

Luxury Hotels

Age is a determining factor in the luxury market. Younger travelers exhibit a greater preference than older travelers. Generation X and millennials favor staying in luxury accommodations by 22 and 21 percent while mature travelers (15 percent) and boomers (19 percent) are less likely to book a room in a luxury hotel.

Getting the Lowest Rate

Senior travelers strongly favor using a hotel’s website like Marriott.com or Hilton.com as opposed to an OTA like Expedia.com or Priceline.com. The study shows that 58 percent of the mature segment like to deal directly with the hotel, while only 15 percent prefer to seek the lowest price through an OTA. Only 40 percent of millennials however prefer to book directly on the hotel’s website. Perhaps the older generation is more comfortable dealing directly with the hotel they plan on staying at rather than going through a third-party intermediary. On the other hand, the younger generation thinks that it is more convenient and costs less to use the services of an OTA. The fact is, with a simple phone call, most hotels will match any OTA price.

Motivation for Staying at a Specific Hotel

Members of the boomer and mature generations are influenced more by value for their money than are the millennial and Xer generations. Older travelers also cite past experiences with a hotel as being an important consideration when deciding whether or not to book a room. The younger travelers think that the location and room rate are the more influential factors in determining where to stay.

Features Liked Best on Hotel Websites

Generation X, Baby Boomers, and those born before 1946 all agree that the best feature when visiting a hotel’s website is the ability to easily check rates. On the other hand, the youngest generation found the visual aspects of a hotel’s website more appealing. Millennials go to hotel websites to see pictures of the property more than to check prices. A well-designed website with lots of pretty pictures that include environmental awareness, and interesting content is the best way to get the attention of millennials.

Whether you are talking about a hotel in the center of the city that caters to the business traveler, or a hotel near Disneyland that provides affordable accommodations for casual travelers, hoteliers should pay attention to the age of their clientele. It is impossible to make blanket statements about any age group, but in general, there are significant differences between the traveler under age 50 and the traveler over age 50.

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