By Hasnain Noorani
It’s hard to believe it’s been more than ten years since the 2007/2008 political skirmishes which almost brought Kenya’s economy to its knees forcing consumers to focus on reducing their expenditures. Now, for the first time since 2008, it looks like the hotel and hospitality industry is returning to normal — whatever normal is. It’s indeed heartening to see statistical evidence, which shows occupancy rates are on the rise and holidaymakers are traveling again (Jumia Travel and hospitality report of 2018).
For many Kenyan millennials, the world is their oyster. When it comes to sampling life’s best delights, they spend a fortune. The roller-coaster ride has been tumultuous and the leisure and hospitality industry has been forced to adapt, driven by technological advances and shifting consumer preferences. More recently, the role of the millennial holidaymakers is also spurring significant change in all facets of the hotel business in East Africa and Kenya in particular.
Every smart brand is targeting millennials, so why should it be any different in the luxury and hospitality space? Millennials include anyone born between the early Eighties, an era predating cell phones, and the early 2000s, the Internet age. Although there was an epic jump in technology during those 20 years, most millennials have one thing in common — a disruptive mindset. They are a free-thinking, individualistic generation.
Bursting into their careers shortly after university means that they enjoy high disposable income long before they have any meaningful financial obligations. This way, the largest fraction of their money is frittered away on random expenditure. Thus, the group is largely influencing the leisure and hospitality market, since leisure is not a luxury but a necessity to them.
The great challenge for hotel and hospitality brand owners seeking to capture the affiliations of millennials is how to communicate to a generation with shifting preferences and loose brand loyalties, and for whom no single channel appears to predominate. Yet amid this apparent uncertainty, the one factor that plays a role in almost every aspect of millennial consumption is the rise of online platforms. Social media is a major influencer when it comes to the spending decisions of millennials.
For millennials, finding and booking their holiday experience online is the best option they have, as is the possibility to pay via mobile. A seamless mobile-first experience that enables them to make the booking and payment from one device is a sure win for businesses that are targeting them. In fact, most of them buy products and services based on online conversations with social media being the biggest contributor and influencer.
What this signals for hospitality brands is that consumption has a different meaning for Millennials. “Consuming products and brands is not just a way to say who you are but a way to define who you are,”. This is why millennials are more engaged than previous generations with self-expression. Beyond that, millennials typically value experiences over things, which translates to the leisure experience.
The millennial state of mind is also global, being highly digital and having the disposable income to invest in travels and connectivity, millennial luxury consumers are exposed to very similar stimuli and can participate in the same global conversations and experiences. Even in those countries that were historically less open to other cultures, millennials have the opportunity to share experiences with people from all over the world. No culture is impermeable to the millennial wave!
The writer is the Managing Director and Founder of PrideInn Group of Hotels