March 20, 2019
By Hannah Prince

A lot has been studied and said about the millennial generation — but how can you use those insights to attract millennial planners to your hotel or venue? They’ve entered the business with passion and innovation, but they’re not likely to be influenced by the same factors as their Generation X and baby boomer colleagues. Here are four strategies for reaching planners who are a part of this huge demographic group.

1. Help Millennial Planners Think Out-of-the-Box

David Mitroff, a business consultant, marketing expert, and keynote speaker, says millennials are eager for opportunities that highlight and challenge their individual talents. When it comes to event planning, that means they appreciate the flexibility to try new things. Being open to those conversations and new ideas can help you start the relationship off on the right foot.

It also means that hotels and venues have an opportunity to create unique experiences and services that excite millennial planners and their guests. For instance, during focus groups at The Abbey Resort in Fontana, Wisconsin, millennial planners highlighted the significance of creativity and variety in the food and beverage, including healthy options. Themed and customizable menus with one-of-a-kind offerings are a good way to persuade them to book at your property.

2. Promote Unconventional Hotel Spaces or Unique Venues Nearby

Just as they prefer special experiences, millennial planners are increasingly seeking out creative spaces that go beyond the ballroom. In Cvent’s 2018 Gen X/Gen Y Report, the unique atmosphere of the venue showed the largest jump in booking influence among millennial planners. In their marketing materials and on their websites, venues and hotels should showcase how their pool deck, nightclub, terrace, or other public space can be transformed for events and parties.

Hotels that don’t really have nontraditional event spaces onsite are not off the hook — millennial planners expect even large chain venues to have something unique to offer. In fact, activities and attractions outside the venue was the third most cited factor affecting millennial planners’ destination choice, according to Cvent’s Gen X/Gen Y Report. One venue that sees this preference in action is Topgolf Las Vegas. Among all the large convention hotels in the city, Topgolf has been “insanely popular with a younger demographic and a hotbed for events, standing out in Las Vegas as a unique location,” says Karen Carlough, its director of sales. Younger event planners “understand the need to get their attendees out of the hotel for one night.”

That’s where local partners and convention and visitors bureaus can help. Is there an amazing restaurant next door? Work with them to offer packages or discounts for hotel events that book an offsite dinner there. Is a tourist attraction located nearby? Negotiate with the site or involve the CVB to secure group rates for the planner. Even just having information about area venues for offsite events will save millennial planners time and effort while giving them the unique spaces they want.

3. Get Involved in the Causes Millennials Champion

Regardless of the categorizations of Gen Y as the “me, me, me” generation, activism has been a key part of millennials’ experiences. According to the 2017 Millennial Impact Report, millennials are more likely to engage with local causes than national ones, and even those who don’t consider themselves to be “activists” are helping causes that don’t directly affect them.

For planners, that concern often translates to a desire to create meetings with purpose. For example, The Embassy Row Hotel in Washington, D.C., has found that many millennial planners are interested in the hotel’s work to help the community and remain authentic and local. That’s why the hotel’s 24-Hour Chef’s Pantry sources its offerings locally, while a partnership with So Others Might Eat benefits homeless people in Washington. It’s also why the hotel’s team is always working to curate new experiences with both purpose and a wow factor.

You can do the same for your property not only by promoting your sustainable and community practices to millennial planners, but also by helping them build corporate social responsibility into their events. Partner with local charities to offer meaningful activities for planners and their attendees.

4. Put the Information Planners Need at Their Fingertips — With Visuals

It’s no secret that millennials are tech-savvy. But despite the fact that nine out of 10 millennials own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center, they ironically tend to avoid phone calls. In a 2018 survey conducted by BankMyCell, 75% of millennials said they avoid calls because they’re time-consuming. By contrast, text messages and emails don’t require small talk and can more efficiently get them a quick answer to a question.

Millennial planners, by the same token, want to be able to do venue research themselves and get all the information they need — and in an engaging format. TechSmith research found that 60% of millennials understand information faster when it’s communicated visually, and 58% remember it longer. Therefore, it’s important for hotels and venues to present their property on social media and online sourcing platforms with appealing photos, videos, interactive tours, and more. Using a website or microsite builder that allows you to present the information in a variety of visual formats and embed social media feeds makes it easy to reach millennial planners.

Don’t Forget the Value of Peer Recommendations

For any generation, peer recommendations are the best way to draw planners to your venue. It was the top influence on all respondents’ sourcing decisions in Cvent’s 2017 and 2018 Global Planner Sourcing Report. Since millennial planners are such a large part of your group business, make sure you encourage them to spread the word after a good experience. In addition, their tech savvy can be used to your advantage with online reviews, another big influence that will can help you grow your group business.

Hannah Prince

Hannah Prince

Hannah joined Cvent as the Senior Editor for Hospitality Cloud content after more than a decade in the journalism world. As a passionate editor, she's always willing to discuss the merits of the Oxford comma, the use of who vs. whom, or the definition of a dangling modifier.

In her free time, she enjoys traveling, taking her dog to happy hour, and buying even more shoes.

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