What do millennials want from a green hotel?
What do millennials want from a green hotel?
21 APRIL 2014 11:48 AM

Millennials are searching for a “real” green experience at hotels as opposed to a “convenient” green experience, and they’re not willing to pay extra for it, sources said.

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Hoteliers face a conundrum when communicating their sustainability initiatives to millennials. And what exactly millennials are looking for in a green hotel is still up for discussion, according to sources.
“Millennials are looking for some sort of green footprint, such as towel conservation, so that they feel like they are doing something for the environment,” said Brian McGuinness, senior VP of specialty select brands at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. “But the vast majority of them don’t know exactly what they are looking for.”
One thing millennials do want is for green initiatives to be real and not just convenient, according to Steve Jennings, managing partner at consultancy Monitor Deloitte.
For example, a real green initiative might be repurposing a hotel’s materials when doing a renovation. A convenient green initiative, he explained, is one done to achieve a certain number or goal for the hotel, such as towel-reuse programs.
“Millennials’ ‘B.S.’ meter is pretty strong,” Jennings said. “If they feel like they’re being fed a sales pitch, or if it’s heavily marketing-oriented, that doesn’t sit well.”
Not going to pay more
Sustainability might influence millennials’ booking behavior, but so does price, sources said. 
“I don’t think any generation yet has been willing to pay more for green or sustainability,” said Harry Wheeler, principal at Group One Partners, a Boston-based company specializing in architecture, interior design and purchasing. “We’ve seen them pay more for a local cultured and authentic experience.”
Jennings pointed to similar learnings gleaned from a recent Monitor Deloitte survey. While more than half of respondents said sustainability matters to them, “the percentage drops a lot when you ask people if they went out of their way to pay for it.”
“Over time, millennials will be willing to pay more for (green) if it’s integrated,” Jennings said. “… It is clear they are going to be responsive to things like the farm and table movement. That has a lot of appeal for millennials for multiple reasons. It fits both the authenticity piece, and it fits with sustainability.
“Hotels that can really build an integrated property that feels like it’s naturally sustainable as an integrated whole and creates an experience will be successful.”
Millennials, particularly those who consider themselves environmentalists, are attracted to that holistic approach, McGuinness said.
“For the group of millennials that do consider themselves environmentalists or at least want to stay on the greener side, a hotel with green features is ideal in that they won’t have to sacrifice their healthy lifestyle routine on the road by being able to continue to conserve water, energy and more when they have to travel for personal or business travel,” he said.
Not just a generation thing
Although Wheeler said the millennial generation is more environmentally savvy than others that have come before it, sources were quick to point out that sustainable hotels appeal to more than just millennials. 
“We see in our consumer research that caring about green spans the generations,” said Paul Snyder, VP of corporate responsibility & sustainability at InterContinental Hotels Group. “It may pale out a little bit in the World War ll generations and baby boomers.”
But unlike the younger cohort who places value on authentic green initiatives, baby boomers are more likely to be satisfied with those “convenient” efforts, Jennings said. 

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