Alcohol has long been embedded in American culture, from the bar to the home to the brewpub and beyond. When we think about how and where America will drink in the coming years, we need to consider today’s on-the-go, fragmented consumer landscape. The bedrock of travel stay is the hotel, where opportunities remain to up the ante in the alcohol industry.

According to Nielsen CGA’s Hotel Report, a brand new study of 5,000 hotel visitors, the hotel channel includes almost 21,000 drinking outlets and is growing faster than traditional on-premise establishments within the U.S. With the willingness of today’s consumers to drink wherever, whenever, hotels continue to be a hotbed for growth within the beverage alcohol industry.

So, what’s the appeal of today’s hotel bar? It can serve many purposes for today’s consumer. You’ll always have the post-event and evening “wind down” for hotel guests, but increasingly, the hotel bar is becoming a destination for every occasion.

And if we think Americans enjoy imbibing in general, the Nielsen CGA Hotel Report data shows that people actually drink more alcoholic drinks at a hotel than a regular drinking occasion at a traditional non-hotel bar. In fact, 46% of adult U.S. consumers drink beer during a regular drinking occasion, while 52% do the same at a hotel.

Some hotels have been particularly perceptive to consumer drinking trends, and they have successfully aligned their resources to enhance drink quality. Consumers rated the following as the top five hotels that they feel offer an extremely good quality of drink brands:

  • Ritz Carlton
  • Four Seasons
  • Hyatt Regency
  • Omni Hotels & Resorts
  • JW Marriott Hotels

Business Travelers Seek Comfort on the Road

Business travelers are the most common visitors to the hotel bar and restaurant, attending 67% of the trips they take, and they drink nearly three drinks per visit. Hotels should cater their offerings to business travel preferences.

Happy Hour is the mainstay of the hotel bar, and the numbers continue to bear that out. For example, 56% of people say that they partake in Happy Hour in a hotel, versus 36% outside a hotel. Cocktails win the Happy Hour, and hotels have the opportunity to get creative with their offerings and deals.

Yet, the opportunity does not end there. People adjust their drinking habits depending on the time of day; for example, wine dominates earlier and during key meal times (e.g. brunch), whereas beer rates particularly high among hotel consumers regardless of the daypart. Brands can maximize the opportunity to adjust their menus based on the time of day and strategically market themselves to increase exposure.

Travel for business and pleasure is not slowing down, nor is the consumer desire for great experiences from their on-premise visits. Hotels and brands primed to succeed are those that best anticipate their client base’s preferences and needs.

Matt Crompton, Client Solutions Director at Nielsen CGA: “Today’s consumers are constantly on the move, yet their appetite for a drink remains regardless of where they are. With the inaugural Nielsen CGA Hotel Report, we’re ensuring our measurement reflects the wide array of locations where consumers drink, as well as the different habits they reflect when they’re outside their usual confines.

Hotels are no longer just stopover spots. They have the opportunity to increasingly become a destination for drinking occasions. The Nielsen CGA Hotel Report will empower our alcohol clients across the spectrum hone their offerings for the traveler, and provide hotels with the fuel they need to enhance consumer loyalty.”


The insights in the article were derived from:

  • Nielsen CGA Hotel Report, March-April 2019
  • Nielsen CGA Check Level Insights Pool (CLIP), Sept.-Dec. 2018
  • Nielsen CGA On-Premise Consumer Survey (OPUS), Sept.-Dec. 2018