Marriott & IKEA Launch a Hotel Brand for Millennials: What Does That Even Mean?

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Most hotels are marketed to a specific group: travelers. Not Baby Boomer travelers or Gen X travelers or millennial travelers—but all travelers. But a new hotel brand called Moxy has been specifically “designed to capture the rapidly emerging millennial traveler.”

This week, hotel giant Marriott announced that it was partnering with the Swedish furniture maker IKEA to create a new brand called Moxy Hotels. The first location will open near Milan’s Malpensa airport in early 2014, and the plan is for roughly 150 Moxy properties to be launched all over Europe during the next 10 years.

The fact that a famed furniture company is involved in the venture has raised eyebrows. (And no, the hotels won’t be packed with IKEA bed frames, book cases, and other merchandise.) It’s also noteworthy that the brand is being aimed at a specific age group:

Designed to capture the rapidly emerging millennial traveler, the new brand combines contemporary stylish design, approachable service and, most importantly, an affordable price.

In other words, if you’re old, this probably isn’t the place for you. Moxy properties won’t be checking IDs or posting an age maximum or anything. In fact, in the press release announcing the brand, a Marriott executive clarifies that Moxy was created for “the next generation traveler, not only Gen X and Y but people with a younger sensibility.”

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So what do millennial travelers want in a hotel, according to Moxy’s designers? What is that “younger sensibility” all about? A few key phrases plucked from the press release offer some clues:

“Economy Tier”
Moxy rooms will be offered at price points and amenity levels somewhere in between a hostel and a four-star hotel. Typical nightly rates will range from $80 to $100. Considering that today’s millennials are living with high unemployment and underemployment amid a global economic slump, the below-average hotel price point is apparently a necessity. Younger consumers have also shown a reluctance to pay for things that older generations consider necessities, including cars and their own independent living quarters—and perhaps also upscale hotel staples like concierges and room service.

“Wildly Self-Sufficient”
“No design element was too small to test with these tech-savvy consumers,” Ramesh Jackson, Moxy Hotels vice president is quoted as saying. “We learned that these confident explorers are wildly self-sufficient, but still want a chance to connect with each other in inviting social spaces in person or digitally.”

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In this case, being “wildly self-sufficient” translates as being OK with self-service. (Here’s where you might see the IKEA influence, what with its renowned cost-cutting DIY business model.) Guest shouldn’t expect a gaggle of fawning hotel staffers at Moxy properties. If anything, staffing will be minimal—which also helps Moxy keep prices down. Self check-in will be available via mobile devices, in an overall atmosphere designed for “savvy travellers who thrive on self-service and embrace new technology.”

“Guestrooms will be functional and well-designed,” the Moxy announcement states. Read: small and uncluttered. Again, both of those characteristics help control costs.

The Guardian (UK) described the furnishings as “no-frills,” and yet the chain is splurging on many tech amenities that younger travelers are presumed to want, including flat-screen TVs and built-in USB ports in rooms, as well as “Plug and Meet” public areas with computers, seating areas, and 56-inch TVs. Free Wi-Fi will be standard too.

If the features described above sound appealing, then no matter what your age, you seem to be a traveler with a “younger sensibility.”

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It’s worth noting that one make-or-break hotel characteristic isn’t mentioned by Moxy executives: location. Considering that the first Moxy will open near an airport rather than in a center city location, let alone in a hip, desirable neighborhood, it’s a safe bet that subsequent Moxy Hotels will also open in the outskirts of cities. Is that what millennials want? Perhaps not, but this is often the tradeoff for cheaper prices.