February 04, 2020
By Megan Boley

Millennials and Gen Zers are leading the technology charge with their widespread adoption of smartphones and social media. According to Pew Research Center, more than 9 in 10 millennials own a smartphone, and 86% of millennials use social media. For Gen Z, 95% have a smartphone and 55% use it for five or more hours a day.

So as millennials and Gen Z enter the workforce, they’re not just changing the way we interact with each other; they’re also changing the way we work and do business, too — especially in the meetings and events industry. Which means that coming up with a strategy to reach young event planners is as important as ever. 

In the 2019 Cvent Planner Sourcing Report, 47% of planners surveyed were either millennials or Gen Zers. This generation of younger meeting planners is serving a growing number of younger professional attendees — and both groups demand that events and venues offer innovation, interactivity, and social media shareability.

It’s not enough anymore for hotels just to provide free Wi-Fi. To attract this younger generation of planners and business travelers, venues need to step up their game across the board in a variety of ways.

But hoteliers don’t need to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel. Let’s take a look at how some other venues and hospitality brands are catering to these experience-hungry and social-centric guests — and how you can do the same.

Explore 5 hotels and brands that know how to reach young event planners:

1. Airbnb

One area where hoteliers can play an integral role is in experience creation, since millennials especially have an affinity toward experiential trips. Airbnb has led the experience curation trend with its evolution from a simple home-sharing site to a full-fledged vacation monger. It now sells whole packages and trips, specially crafted to appeal to various interests and activity levels. Handmade pasta classes with grandma in Italy or desert adventure tours with a local guide in Oman are just a few examples of the unique, local experiences that Airbnb now offers.

As a whole, 74% of Americans prioritize experiences over products or things, but millennials are leading the charge, with 65% saving up specifically for travel. While the study finds that all generations value experiences, the kinds of experiences people are looking for vary widely depending on age group. Gen Zers want to explore and try new and adventurous things; baby boomers put sightseeing or tours as their top priority; and millennials and Gen X look for relaxing getaways involving beach or spa time.

By helping meeting planners go above and beyond for their attendees and providing the offsite experiences attendees crave, hoteliers can position themselves as partners actively invested in the event’s success — which leads to good word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business.

How to apply it to your group business:

The more experiences venues can offer, the more likely that Gen Zers and millennials will elect to attend the event and stay at that hotel. Nearly half of millennials regularly extend their business trips for leisure, so connecting them to the local culture and providing offsite programs can be a profitable way to entice younger professionals and planners.

The takeaway here for venues is to offer localized experiences that are unique to your city and cater to a variety of interests. Like all younger travelers, the newer generation of meeting and event planners is looking for valuable experiences, for both themselves and their attendees. Event participants want to get out of the meeting rooms and experience the cities they visit, so provide them with opportunities to get involved in the community and be immersed in the culture.  

If you’re not offering experience packages, add-ons, and upgrades, you’re missing out on a huge revenue stream, as well as the potential to wow event attendees and earn coveted word-of-mouth reviews that will win you future business.

Reach young event planners and grow your business

2. Hutton Hotel

The Hutton Hotel in Nashville is a dynamic example of a venue embracing its roots while catering to the creatives, the multitasking young travelers looking for new and local experiences, and everyone in between.

The Hutton never lets you forget where you are, with its music-centric décor and atmosphere at every turn. It brings the culture of Nashville straight into the lobby, so attendees don’t even need to leave the property to experience the liveliness and melody of the city. Analog, its 5,000-square-foot cocktail bar and entertainment venue, has regular live performances of local musicians. The Hutton even brings the music into the guest rooms with Fender Play. Fully equipped with state-of-the-art recording technology, Writers Studios — conceptualized by Dierks Bentley and OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder — are an onsite staple of the Hutton, provided to cater to the creative traveler so they can record whenever inspiration strikes.

The Hutton also offers different packages and add-ons for different types of travelers. Its “Songs, Suites, and Sweethearts” romance package connects guests with the resident songwriter, who will compose and perform a custom song. The hotel also has other local experiences, including whiskey tastings and an evening of local dining.

How to apply it to your group business:

Sometimes, busy meeting agendas don’t allow planners time to incorporate an offsite activity or experience. The Hutton gives planners the local experiences and flair they’re looking for, but in a more flexible, onsite way.

Focus on the features that make your city and venue special. Bring the city indoors and infuse every interaction with your unique local flavor. Offer packages and add-on experiences that can be found only in your city, but do them onsite so attendees can squeeze in as many extracurriculars as possible — all without leaving the venue.

It doesn’t always have to be a large, extravagant offering, either. Something as simple as providing local coffee and house-made doughnuts in your café or lobby can be a signature and memorable touch.

3. Hyatt

Hyatt has teamed up with Headspace, a leader in mindfulness and meditation, to bring new wellness perks for groups, guests, and employees, such as mindfulness exercises, guided meditations, and sleep content.

The hotels will offer meeting planners the option to infuse Headspace content and experiences into their meetings, helping them check the wellness box that their younger attendees are looking for. Hyatt is also launching a new meditation experience exclusively for meeting and conference attendees, also powered by Headspace content. Hyatt guests get complimentary in-room Headspace content and access as well.

How to apply it to your group business:

Wellness and mindfulness aren’t going away. A UNiDAYS study found that 72% of Gen Zers believe managing stress and mental health is their most important health and wellness concern. And with an increasing number of Gen Zers and millennials entering the workforce and attending meetings and events, wellness benefits could help your venue stand out to planners who are looking to cater to the mental health needs of their attendees. Consider providing things such as yoga classes, guided meditations, in-room wellness content, or relaxation spaces, or emphasize your tranquil gardens and outdoor areas.

4. Radisson RED

According to Cvent’s report, 23% of planners rank a venue’s unique atmosphere as one of the top three influences in their venue booking decision, so making hotel spaces interesting and adaptable is a key way to prove to planners you can provide a memorable event experience for their attendees. And, the more social-media-friendly your venue is, the more people will want to share pictures of it — which is a powerful tool and free marketing for your hotel.

Take the swanky, sophisticated, and just plain cool Radisson RED, with its playful twist on conventional meeting, event, and common spaces. Every room and space is treated like a work of art and is designed for the wow factor, with an eye to elements that reflect the local style. With Instagrammable statements throughout the property, this fashionable hotel caters to business and leisure interests alike — and to the social-media-savvy millennials and Gen Zers who are always on the lookout for the best photo opportunity.

RED’s vibe shines through in its social spaces and hangout zones, with art installations, games, and mood music — perfect areas for mixing, mingling, or co-working. RED also provides spaces to meet any meeting needs, equipped with high-tech capabilities and connectivity. The fun, out-of-the-box rooms are designed to stimulate the imagination and help ideas come to life.

How to apply it to your group business:

When it comes to interacting with brands, 41% of Gen Zers prefer to use Instagram, while 38% of millennials prefer Facebook. That means these generations of planners will be using those platforms when sourcing venues as well — so it’s important to showcase your hotel’s unique atmosphere and offerings and to have polished, attention-grabbing social media profiles.

Add Instagrammable and social-media-friendly elements into your common areas, such as statement furniture or wall art installations. It’ll get people sharing and taking photos, and it’s a great addition to your property’s social media accounts. Design creative coworking spaces with quirky, eye-grabbing elements to stimulate collaboration — and social sharing.

5. Aloft

Dubbed the “next generation of hotel,” Aloft uses the latest technology, fresh design, and vibrant spaces to enhance experiences and bring people together. Aloft has eliminated the need for check-in and a room key with the Mobile Key program, which allows guests to use their smartphone or Apple Watch as the key. As soon as guests arrive, they receive a text with their room number so they can skip the check-in line entirely.

Whenever available, younger generations tend to gravitate toward a technology option or solution. For example, 46% and 47% of Gen Z and millennials have used social media to reach out to customer service rather than opting for a phone call or other method of communication. Because of their self-service-oriented mentalities, Gen Z and millennials like the convenience and ease of streamlined technology offerings, including automated check-in and keyless room entry.

How to apply it to your group business:

Incorporate the latest technology to streamline check-in processes and enhance the onsite experience of guests and planners alike. By making the lives of attendees easier and assuring a smooth stay, you’re also helping the planners — freeing up their valuable time so they can work on other important event logistics.

Or take a page from the book of other hotel brands — including Hyatt, The Ritz-Carlton, and Marriott International — and create an app exclusively for event planners that allows them to communicate with your hotel staff in real time and check the status of requests. This kind of ease of communication and seamless customer service is paramount to busy planners and certain to make their lives simpler.

Use these examples to reach young event planners!

For more on this topic, check out our posts exploring ways to reach Gen Z planners and millennial planners.

Reach young event planners and grow your business

Megan Boley

Megan Boley

Megan is a published web writer and editor with a passion for crafting stories. She specializes in planning and creating content across all platforms for brands and organizations, with a focus on demand generation.

In her free time, she's a voracious reader and a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu.

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