How the hotel industry has turned its back on gen X

Gen X
Gen X appears to be fully forgotten by the hotel industry.

Simple Minds said it best: "Don’t you forget about me."

And while that sage advice surely helped members of The Breakfast Club get through detention, the hotel industry can learn a thing or two from that message too. I’m not talking about me personally; I’m talking about my whole generation.

You once knew us as that feisty Generation X, now we’re just the newly forgotten. Ignored by the hotel industry, we’ve been cast aside like an aging Hollywood starlet in favor of a younger, prettier generation. You know who they are, they’re the trophy generation. Those younger, upwardly mobile tech savvy Millennials you’ve been fawning over.

But they don’t know what we know. We’ve been with you in uptimes and through major downturns. Remember that time I stayed with you and paid a good rate in 2009?

We brought the style to lifestyle hotels and helped you realize that floral bedspreads are an abomination. Would a Millennial do that for you? I have my doubts because I’m not sure they’d look up from their smart phone long enough to tell you what you need to hear.

And frankly I’m sick of it. Sick of being cast aside, sick of being taken for granted in favor of another group. Maybe I’m jealous, maybe I’m envious. But maybe, just maybe, the hotel industry has thrown common sense out the window with their efforts to woo a dubious group that doesn’t love you like I, and my generational brethren loved you.

OK, I’m not sick of it and I really don’t care where your affection lies, but fawning over the Millennial crew is a huge mistake that will become evident during the next decade. And the industry needs to wake up to this realization quickly.

Millennials are a fickle bunch as they try to make their way through society and figure out who they are, how they want to represent themselves to the world, and what are the brands mean something to them. So far numerous studies and research indicate Millennials are the least brand loyal of the bunch. So trying to win their permanent affection is kind of like Anthony Michael Hall thinking he’ll win the affection of Molly Ringwald in any movie they were in together; it’s not going to happen.

Plus, the whole thing strikes me as odd. Trying to win a specific age group of people over with a product that when fully built out across the country may or may not appeal to them in 10 years’ time. I keep hearing from smart people repeatedly how different that generation is from the rest of us, but I just don’t see it.

When I was in my 20s I wasn’t brand loyal. But I was trying to show the world how different I was than older generations. But by the time I was in my 30s I was just like everyone else.

Other than shorter attention spans and homes filled with participation trophies, I think we are all people and therefore share more in common than not. We all possess similar traits and habits we want to see represented in the hotels in which we stay. The notion that Millennials are completely anathema to the rest of us just doesn’t make sense.  It’s a major red herring, and this concept is sending the hotel industry down a path of self-destruction.

Flash-forward to 2026. Hipsters have traded in their skinny jeans and aggressive facial hair for families and a sedan with a high safety rating from Consumer Reports. Will they still want smaller guestrooms, no desks, active lobbies to hang out in, and no bathtubs in which to bathe their toddlers? And will the generation behind them mimic the same behavior as the average 26 year of today, ensuring your multi-million-dollar investment is protected. I am not so sure about that.

It makes more sense to me to examine macro trends across all aspects of society, and not focus in on one group of people currently in flux. Brains don’t fully form until we’re 25, then we start down the path of being like the generations before us. 

The hotel industry needs to design products based on overarching human behavior that’s intergenerational. Otherwise we’re setting ourselves up for future failure and product obsolescence. Let’s be smart and look at long term trends and not our base instinct to fawn over one specific segment.

Unless you want to go back to fawning over Generation X, of course. We could sure use the affection.