Gen Y: don't fear them, join them

10/02/2015 By James Bland

9 February 2015

The concept of Generation Y fascinates me.  Technically, by the definition our Hotel Guest Survey uses I am one of them (just), but as my colleagues delight in pointing out, I display very few of the characteristics identified by literature as cohort-defining.

In our research, the Generation Y leisure traveller has six key emerging differentiators when it comes to the attributes they demand from hotels.  These are not exclusive to Generation Y, of course, but they do stand out as being materially more important.

  • 24/7 food offering
  • High bandwidth Wi-Fi
  • Entertainment
  • Fine dining
  • Fitness & leisure
  • Inviting public places

And it struck me that many people have been thinking about Generation Y and approaching it in completely the wrong fashion.  It’s all very well taking these attributes and focusing on them in isolation, but to do so will miss entirely what I think are the three overriding themes.

  1. Generation Y likes to stay connected
  2. Generation Y values unique experiences
  3. Generation Y likes to share


It comes down to providing an experience that they cannot get elsewhere, one they’re happy to share on Facebook or Twitter - because if it doesn’t get posted there, how can anyone be sure it actually even happened?

I’ve a friend who ‘checks in’ at Euston Station whenever they go to London.  Why?  Because they want to engage with their friends, they want to be asked where they’re going and they want to talk about their experience.  An experience shared is an experience enhanced.

Generation Ys are multi-taskers – they grew up surrounded by stimuli, live multi-device lives and juggle many different things at once.  In the same way as they revised for exams while watching TV, so they work just as comfortably in busy areas as others do in study-bedrooms.  Public spaces, therefore, need to provide them with connectivity, power, work surfaces – be that coffee tables, poseur tables or even those trays with bean bag bottoms.  Designers need to think as much about sockets as they do soft furnishings!

They also graze – 24/7 food offering needn’t necessarily mean keeping chef on standby at all hours.  It might just mean you should stop clearing away the pastries at 5pm.  By the same token – and indulge me second-guessing here – ‘fine dining’ is not so much about Michelin starred food as it is about something exciting, attractive and a little different; a new picture for the status update.

If you’re nervous about what providing free Wi-Fi will do to your bottom line, maybe think instead about what it could do for your top line.  People now carry your brand message for you.  (There’s a school of thought that says they now own the brand message anyway).  If you’re still charging for basic Wi-Fi access, or are limiting it to certain areas of your hotel, you’re starving your brand of the oxygen it now needs because you’re making it harder for your guests to talk about you

The approach to take (in 140 characters or fewer)
Give them something different to share and the means with which to share it.  They’ll be building your brand for you in no time.

Further reading?
To learn more about Generation Y, I’d suggest heading to the lobby at The Hoxton Hotel, Shoreditch, where you can study them in the wild.  I’ll meet you there if you like.  I’ll be the only one not wearing skinny jeans and a two-day beard or holding an Apple Macbook (but I promise you I’ll not be the only one there working).