Attracting the Next Generation of Travelers

If you want to stand out with the younger group of tourists, your standard website and listing on hotel ranking sites won’t be enough.

Young travelers are a growing demographic–and they’re not all kids taking a gap year before college or partying over summer vacation. Rather, millennials are a savvy group with a taste for adventure and the skills to research and plan a great trip without ever leaving their beds. A lot of millennials do most of the research and planning for their trips on their smartphones.

If you want to stand out with the younger group of tourists, however, your standard website and listing on hotel ranking sites won’t be enough. Hotels today need to take advantage of social media in order to successfully appeal to this age group.

By devising a smart social media strategy, you can stand out from the many generic hotels represented online, and you’ll represent your brand as different from the competition through your technological competency. From Twitter to Snapchat, it’s time to redefine how hotels advertise their presence.

The multi-platform advantage

To grab the millennial set, you’re going to have to shift from a basic social media presence, where your hotel has a Facebook and maybe a Twitter account, to a strategy that embraces all of the popular platforms. If you aren’t using Snapchat and Instagram, it’s time to give them a whirl. For many younger travelers, Facebook is almost passĂ©–their parents might look up your Facebook page, but they want to see your latest Vine or Snap.

Not sure where to begin? Don’t worry about the learning curve, but try introducing your new channels during the off-season so that you have time to figure out the interface before peak travel planning begins. Frank Librio of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau explains that while Snapchat was a challenge at first, working with the community on a Snapchat story for Pride helped the group prepare to use the platform more widely this coming fall.

Making the connections

One mistake that many hotels make when trying to increase their social media presence is building content without building relationships. Posting tweets on a regular basis won’t help your hotel get noticed unless those tweets offer a way to engage. That’s where contests come in.

In some ways, social media is the ideal arena for contests, which is why you’ll see giveaways on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. One great contest idea is to ask young travelers who have already stayed at your hotel to write you a review on a hotel rating site and post a screenshot of their unique review to win a free night or another prize.

For example, take a look at this page for hotels in New Orleans. Every hotel featured has at least a handful of reviews. How do you think they got some of that feedback? Chances are, some of the visitors were encouraged to share their experiences. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

You can do a similar thing with visitors each month, offering a prize for the best Instagram photo from their trip. Even for those who don’t win, be sure to comment and connect. Millennials don’t just want to see you posting, they want to see you interacting.

Social media platforms offer a lot of modes of engagement with your audience, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Try promoting your hotel in different ways to see what sticks. And if you’re still not sure what to do, then it’s time to consider an intern–snag yourself a business, marketing or communications student and let them loose. Recruiting a millennial for assistance can be the key to success.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.