Southern Lodging Summit Memphis

August 29 & 30, 2017

Presented by Pinkowski & Company and MMHLA

Millennials book for unique experiences, social status - Hotel News Now

September 07, 2016

By  Stephanie Ricca

While it may be easy to over-generalize millennials, their travel habits and spending patterns at hotels can be complex. Understanding their patterns can be a goldmine for hotels’ profitability and loyalty, said speakers at the recent Southern Lodging Summit.

The process starts by looking at age and life experience, explained Christine Hight, senior director of market research for Hilton Worldwide Holdings. While millennials as an age group fall into the 18- to 35-year-old age range, Hight said they break into two distinct groups in terms of their worldview and behaviors.

Josiah Mackenzie (left), VP of business development at ReviewPro; and Christine Hight, senior director of market research for Hilton Worldwide Holdings, share insights about how millennials book hotels and travel during a panel at the recent Southern Lodging Summit. (Photo: Don Reber Photography)

“It’s driven by life experience and earning potential,” she said. “Some of those in the younger group may be in college or not even there yet, so they’re not necessarily living independently. Their discretionary income is limited, as is their life experience.”

Bump up a few years, though, and the situation is different.

“By the time people hit 25, they’re looking at marriage, starting families, starting their careers, and their values have changed,” she said.

That older group is the one in which people naturally start earning more discretionary income, which they’ll spend on travel and other hotel experiences, said Albert Smith, SVP at Pivot Hotels & Resorts, the division of Davidson Hotels & Resorts that concentrates on lifestyle and boutique hotels.

“This group is aspirational, and they want to engage in these environments (of interesting hotels) from a lifestyle perspective,” he said. “Even if they don’t stay in the hotel, they may go to the bar or restaurant, and that’s part of the experience.”

Attracting millennials during the booking phase
Since this age group is so technologically connected, especially via mobile phones, attracting them to your hotel property must happen early and thoroughly.

“Just watching friends and my own wife book travel, I can see that everything’s about reviews,” said Josiah Mackenzie, VP of business development at ReviewPro. “So if something isn’t in the top percentile of restaurants or hotels, it’s not even in the decision set. So I’m looking at the top five, maybe the top three restaurants or hotels when I make a decision.”

Great photos, videos and descriptive content also go a long way with this visual-learning cohort, Hight said, as does creating booking options that facilitate travel in groups.

“We have found that at their age, when they have not yet committed to marriage and children, they’re traveling but they also have limited income, so we learn that they can come together for travel and maybe trade up and stay in a nicer place,” she said.

Making the process easy and efficient also appeals to these digital natives, said Christine Kettmer, Marriott International’s senior director of consumer insights advisory services for the Americas.

“Any channel that makes booking very convenient, it’s going to be the winner,” she said, citing that this age group is accustomed to the one-step shopping process popularized by Amazon.

More about the experience
The word “experience” is tossed around a lot when it comes to best practices for attracting millennials to a hotel, but the speakers said it’s about more than just offering unique experiences on-property—it’s about understanding how this age group values and shares those experiences, too.

“There’s a big mentality that if something doesn’t happen on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, it didn’t happen at all,” Kettmer said. “So the validation that comes with those bragging rights that say, ‘I’ve stayed at this hotel’ or ‘I went to this location,’ that’s really important.”

That influences what millennials will pay for, too.

“There’s an interesting dichotomy that happens with millennials in that they want to have some luxurious or pampering experiences, but they may trade those off with others because they have limited discretionary funds,” Hight said. “So they may be selective about where they stay, at a moderately priced location, but they want to go to the cool bar and get a $15 cocktail and be seen there.”

This group of travelers seeks experiences both in and outside the hotel, so the more hotels can facilitate that process, the more successful they’ll be at garnering loyalty.

“Anything that can be done to make the guest feel like they’re part of a welcoming environment makes them feel like they’re in the know,” Kettmer said. “That’s one of the biggest compliments they can receive, so enabling off-property experiences as much as on-property is very important.”

That’s where partnerships come in, as well as staff education, said Hight. She said that when staff or even online tools via the hotel’s website can help show guests their proximity to interesting attractions or activities nearby, that’s the goal.

The facilitation of experiences is a big differentiator between hotels and Airbnb, Mackenzie said. Since hotels are staffed 24/7, they can offer more real-time suggestions about what’s going on in the city than an absent Airbnb host can do.

What about loyalty?
Brand and property loyalty is where the speakers said millennials differ most from their older traveling counterparts, so hoteliers must adapt.

One of the biggest changes, Kettmer said, is that millennials may not show their loyalty in the form of multiple repeat stays—they are after unique experiences every time they travel, after all—but rather they may show it in the form of recommendations to friends and social networks.

“Any opportunity to post about an experience on social or review sites is important—it shows loyalty if someone is willing to take the time to write a review or speak about experience,” she said. “That’s an indicator that someone is willing to pass along that word-of-mouth recommendation.”

For more immediate loyalty rewards, many hotels are turning to instant recognition or gift rewards instead of traditional points. All methods have their value and trade-offs, Hight said.

“Brand recognition isn’t just about a free stay,” she said. “It’s about recognizing the value of that guest. While (millennial) guests may not come back next week, in three or four years they might, and as long as we’re trustworthy, that will pay dividends in the long term.”

Randy SmithThanks again for inviting me to the Southern Lodging Summit.  I continue to find the conference one of the most informative events that I attend. I thought the sessions were outstanding and I thought the one moderated by Isaac was especially interesting.  It's a great mix of local hoteliers and top notch industry executives so attendees gain practical knowledge about property operations and overall industry trends. Well done.

Randy Smith, Chairman/Co-founder, Smith Travel Research

If you want a serious and thoughtful in depth discussion about current topics related to our industry, then this conference (SOUTHERN LODGING SUMMIT @ MEMPHIS) is the place for you.

Laurence Geller, CEO, Geller Investment Co.

"I have been attending and participating in  the Southern Lodging Conference for the last 6 years...always a great lineup of speakers addressing timely regional and national industry topics...a terrific venue for  networking purposes. I look forward to attending again this year."

Ed Ansbro, Executive Vice President, Fairwood Capital LLC  

Jerry Daly"The Southern Lodging Summit @ Memphis continues to impress me year after year with its annual roster of top industry speakers and panelists, as well as its insistence on maintaining a forum for meaningful discussion on timely topics that matter to people in the hospitality industry."

Jerry Daly, Chairman, Daly Gray

"Only the true professionals will survive in the next several years. You will learn from the best (AT THE SOUTHERN LODGING SUMMIT @ MEMPHIS) and you will need it to be successful in the lodging industry going forward" 

Jack DeBoer, CEO, WaterWalk Hotel Apartments

Jeff Higley“The Southern Lodging Summit @ Memphis is one of the gems of the hotel conference industry….often overlooked but a great program.  It may not be on your radar but it should be.”

Jeff Higley, Vice President, Digital Media & Communications, Global

“The Southern Lodging Summit @ Memphis…a perfectly-timed industry update;….a  short, information-packed schedule (with)  quick networking opportunity in a professional but relaxed setting;…the Presidents’ Panel is one of the most lively and honest forums of its kind;…Luncheon Keynote Speakers have also produced some memorable moments.   I look forward to attending the Summit each year.” 

Denise Carpenter, Vice President - Development, Southeast Region, Hilton Worldwide

William Edmundson

“The intimate size, quality of content and the southern hospitality make The Southern Lodging Summit @ Memphis one of the best conferences the hospitality industry has to offer. You will learn from some of the best speakers in the industry, hear about topics that matter to you and network with industry peers who come back year after year.” 

William Edmundson, President & CEO, Abby Executive Suites

"… I found it to be informative and well attended;…the bright spots - the AHLA Update with Marlene Colucci…..(she)  is a very good speaker and keeps everyone informed;  The Star presentation was informative and impressed me with the data collected on OTA's.  The President's panel…was a great mix of operators, lenders and franchise representatives.  Peter Yesawich was entertaining and informative…a great opportunity to network."

Charles Swan - Consultant

"The Southern Lodging Summit @ Memphis was relevant, concise, on time, and totally worth the time and money spent. I will definitely be back next year. The speakers were great, the topics were the hot issues, and you kept it going. I saw a lot of old friends there and will plan to come earlier Tuesday and socialize now that I know they are coming."

Mike Cowart, Cowart Hospitality Services, LLC

Jerry StaffordThank you all for the opportunity to be a panelist yesterday at the Southern Lodging Summit.  It was a great time of learning and sharing.  I left much more informed than when I arrived.  It was an honor to be a part of such a great collection of industry professionals.

Jerry Stafford, Regional Director of Revenue Management, Davidson Hotels & Resorts

"I want to commend you for the good job you all did putting on the Southern Lodging Summit – 2012.  The people, venue(s), information and networking exemplified the best of Southern Hospitality.  I’ll definitely be back to this great event."

Bruce C. Lowrey, Managing Director RockBridge Capital, LLC

Mike Leven"I loved being there and especially back in the south again.  When I have the privilege of attending such an event I am always impressed. How only in this industry can competitors come together in friendship and desire to learn and improve.  The camaraderie was a thing of beauty and the hospitality was over the top.  Thanks for your kind response to my remarks to a remarkable group."

Mike Leven, President & CEO Las Vegas Sands Corporation

Bob Hunter"Congratulations…and thank you!  Congratulations on your best ever Conference!!  I like the various venues and dress and audiences…I like the size.  The food was outstanding…your menu selections were terrific.  Mike Leven was great.  Mark LaPorte was very strong! "

Bob Hunter, CEO, Hunter Realty

Jeff Higley"Chuck, I’m happy to be a part of the conference. I’ve told you before it’s the best conference of its size and the content surpasses many of the big conferences, too."

Jeff Higley – Vice President, Digital Media & Communications, Global

Trevor Stuart-Hill"Thank you again for the opportunity to address the delegates at the annual lodging summit in August.  I was very impressed with the conference organization and the quality of the programming.  I can certainly see why you have gained such a strong following over the years."

Trevor Stuart-Hill, President, Revenue Matters

Mark G. Carrier“The Southern Lodging Summit provided an excellent networking opportunity along with meaningful speakers and content.  The keynote was both moving and impactful.”

Mark G. Carrier, President, B. F. Saul Company Hospitality Group

Shawn McBurney“Every year the Southern Lodging Summit at Memphis proves why it is a must-attend event for hospitality leaders throughout the country.  From the speakers and panels discussing critical issues impacting hoteliers to the personal interaction with industry leaders, the summit was not only valuable, it was a real pleasure.  I’m looking forward to attending next year and encourage anyone who wants to be part of one of the best lodging events in the country to do the same.” 

Shawn McBurney, Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs, American Hotel & Lodging Association

Ed FullerThe Memphis conference provides a unique view at a growing industry, which is going through a significant change and globalization. The Conference drew an exceptional group of Industry Executives and leaders, whose candor was refreshing

Ed Fuller, President & CEO, Orange County Visitors Association

I truly enjoyed the Summit last week. The hospitality found in Tennessee and the professionalism throughout the event were second to none.  I am glad that I had the opportunity to participate and look forward to staying connected to all the great people that I had the pleasure of meeting. 

Ashleigh Mason, Director of Development, GF Management

Wendy NorrisThe event was wonderful and I was able to take back some items to apply to our hotel group.  Hopefully I was able to provide some items for the rest of the attendees to take back as well. 

Wendy Norris, Corporate Director of Revenue & Ecommerce, Valencia Group

...congratulations on another successful SLS.  I thought it was one of the best one’s I have attended.

Ed Ansbro, Executive Vice President, Fairwood Capital, LLC

W. Michael MurphyAwesome. Great content, lots of fun, excellent chow!  Thank you so much for inviting me to speak.

W. Michael Murphy, Head of Lodging and Leisure Capital, First Fidelity Companies

S. Kirk KinsellIt was an excellent conference...really found the panelists and speakers very informative and I learned a bunch to take back to my business and colleagues....this Summit is a don't miss.

S. Kirk Kinsell, President, Panther Ridge Partners, LLC

I just wanted to let you know that Memphis really put on a great show this week.  The speakers, facilities, food, and overall hospitality was top notch.  And, I very much enjoyed getting the chance to reconnect with friends. 

Steven Napoli, Director of Business Development, Bohan Advertising

Stephanie RiccaI just wanted to say thank you for inviting me to participate in SLS this year. I was so impressed by the conference—the speakers and participants, the way you run it, everything. Now I know why Higley always hogged this conference for himself! 

Stephanie Ricca, Editor In Chief, Hotel Management Magazine

Jan FreitagChuck and his team continue to attract a top notch line-up of industry veterans and thought leaders. The conference is small enough to allow for lively interaction between audience members but large enough to tackle the issues relevant to the industry today. I am always pleased and honored to participate.

Jan Freitag - STR

Isaac CollazzoSLS@Memphis provides a comfortable setting to meet and hear from both regional and national leaders on issues facing our industry.

Isaac Collazzo, VP Performance Strategy Planning – InterContinental Hotels Group

Jeffrey. J. GoodA great mid year conference that exemplifies the Southern Hospitality Spirit and Tradition. 

Jeffrey. J. Good, President, Good Hospitality Services Inc./HRC Hotels LLC

Jim Abrahamson

The Memphis Summit has consistently delivered terrific insights and speakers. I'm proud to be a  partner in 2013 and have enjoyed participating over the years as there is consistently a great turnout of industry leaders and a highly engaging format.

Jim Abrahamson, CEO, Interstate Hotels

John BeldenThe SLS@Memphis is one of the best-run conferences in our industry and provides attendees with invaluable information pertaining to the region, as well as the industry as a whole.  The intimate setting allows for great collaboration amongst attendees and speakers.  My thanks go out to Chuck and the entire SLS team for holding such a great event in Memphis, a city which has played a historically-relevant role in our industry.

John Belden, CEO – Davidson Hotels

Don FarrellIt is always a great thing for the Memphis business and hospitality community when nationally recognized leaders meet here and can learn more about what is happening on a local, regional and national basis. There is no other forum like it in this area.

Don Farrell, Chief Cultivating Officer – Fresh Revenues

Julienne SmithThe Southern Lodging Summit is an intimate gathering of today’s industry experts where current topics can be elaborated upon and discussed in an environment that is easy to navigate.  The Pinkowski team makes sure the conference stays interesting, on point, and entertaining!

Julienne Smith, Senior Vice President Real Estate & Development, Hyatt Hotels

Mark HaleyThe Southern Lodging Summit creates a perfect storm, combining multiple big ideas from different directions, all at a scale perfect for networking and collegiality.  A great experience for any hotelier.

Mark Haley, Partner, The Prism Partnership, LLC

Jim AbrahamsonThe Southern Lodging Summit is always engaging and informative with outstanding panels and speakers. Most of all I enjoy the ability to connect with industry colleagues and leaders from every segment. This year’s Summit was no exception – the format and content was exceptional.

Jim Abrahamson, CEO, Interstate Hotels

Greg AdkinsThe Southern Lodging Summit is a great place to learn about new trends and regulation in the lodging business.  The conference is located in a premier southern destination city and provides great networking opportunities with many top level management and ownership groups – I have been attending the conference every year for six years and it’s never disappointing and a lot of fun!

Greg Adkins, CEO, Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association

Robert ColeI found the Southern Lodging Summit particularly interesting and helpful due to learning the ‘up to the minute’ industry trends, the diversity of topics and hearing ideas particularly relevant to owners and operators like ourselves.  I found the size of the conference perfect for networking and socializing with colleagues and will definitely make it a point to return and recommend to my peers in the industry.

Robert Cole, President & CEO, Hospitality Ventures Management Group

Lee DavisThe Southern Lodging Summit afforded me the opportunity to share my experiences as well as learn from the successes of my peers.  I am better informed, but more importantly I am more motivated after attending.

Lee Davis, Earl Swensson Associates

Bobby BowersThe Summit is a great blend of Southern Hospitality and insightful, thought-provoking discussion.  The friendly feel and extensive networking opportunities help make the Southern Lodging Summit unique.  You’ll be glad you came.

Bobby Bowers, Senior VP Operations, STR

John KoshivosThe Southern Lodging Summit is a great venue in a relaxed environment to meet with owners, developers and management companies to share ideas and discuss trends in our industry.  The panelists are passionate and knowledgeable about their topics And help attendees grasp some intricacies of our business that they may not have thought about.

John Koshivos, VP of Franchise Development, Hilton Hotels

Mitch PatelI left the Southern Lodging Summit with some new and valuable insights that I will be able to apply to my business immediately.  The regional aspect of the conference is of particular value in its relevance to the issues we face developing and operating hotels in the South-East.  Further, the intimate nature of the conference lent itself to more valuable interactions and networking opportunities than I see at larger conferences.  I think this is a great conference and would wholeheartedly recommend it to my peers.

Mitch Patel, President & CEO, Vision Hospitality Group, Inc.

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