Gone are the days of traditional, Mad Men-esque business travel – no more chain smoking on airplanes, hired car services, or flavorless hotels booked by the secretary. With a simple swipe of the screen, our nation’s Millennials have transformed business travel. They’re now the biggest portion of America’s Labor Force, and they’re traveling for business more than any other group before them. Business travel is here to stay, of course – but the How and the Who has changed.
According to MMGY Global’s Portrait of Business Travelers, Millennials are traveling for business more frequently (averaging 7.7 business trips in 2016) than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, and the frequency of their business travel is expected to continue increasing. This is great news for the hospitality industry, as long as leaders, managers, and guest service agents pay attention and adapt to the different behaviors, desires, and spending habits of Millennial business travelers.
What do Millennials Want?
Major hotel chains are fully aware of this valuable audience and have created new looks to cater to Millennials’ tastes, with brands like Moxy by Marriott, GLo by Best Western, and Canopy by Hilton, which are designed to offer a stylish, boutique hotel experience. They’ve also engaged in years of client interviews and focus groups, and what they found is not so surprising. Yes, this traveling generation does love a cool lobby, but the top driver for guest satisfaction is still a high-quality room and easy check-in. With, of course, some Millennial-essential amenities.
1. Digital Convenience
This should not come as a surprise: Millennial business travelers love technology, and digital convenience is high on their priority list. Free hotel WiFi has become a necessary amenity with the Millennial generation, which means they will typically choose hotels that have free WiFi over hotels that may have a better location, but no wireless internet.
With WiFi comes a plethora of devices that need charging. How many devices, exactly? Research completed by Toni Stoeckl of Marriott’s Distinctive Select Brands has shown that the average Millennial business traveler brings five devices that need to be charged. This makes the availability of outlets and USB plug options more important than traditional perks such as pay-per-view or cable.
In addition, Millennials grew up with intuitive design, where user experience is of utmost importance. This means that they should be able to find and operate light switches, outlets, remotes, blinds, and curtains seamlessly and intuitively.
2. Mobile Guest Service
The favorite and most used device of all travelers today is the smartphone. The majority of Millennials like to use their phones (in tandem with brand and industry apps) to select rooms, check in, order food, or find nearby hotspots. The use of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and social media hashtags allow peers to share their recommendations for the hotel and the area surrounding it, making mobile “the concierge for the social age.” Online reviews are also important –the online sphere is a big way that Millennials voice their pleasure and displeasure. While every facet of a hotel does not need to operate via mobile, if you want your hotel to be relevant with today’s business traveler, having a social and mobile presence is of utmost importance.
3. “Bleisure” Is a Real Thing
According to Expedia Media Solutions, “bleisure” now accounts for 43% of all business trips. For those unfamiliar with the term, “bleisure” – or “workcation” – is the blending of a business with leisure, work with vacation. It’s typically achieved by extending one’s stay by a few days, and perhaps inviting a significant other or one’s family to join. Not surprisingly, the concept of bleisure is strong with Millennials – they are 62% more likely to extend their business trips than their older counterparts. According to the same report, a business trip can serve as inspiration for a future leisure trip, too. This means it’s important for your hotel to stand out a little – drab office parks or poor guest service will not exactly beckon potential leisure.
4. A Personalized Experience
If the ever-increasing popularity of Airbnb has taught us anything about Millennials, it’s that they appreciate travel experiences that feel “localized.” They don’t necessarily want to walk into a hotel that looks like all the others; they desire a touch of authenticity and realness. Radisson’s Millennial-focused hotel brand, Radisson Red, achieved this by commissioning local artwork to help create a personalized ambiance reflective of each hotel’s location. Small touches like this add some character and make the hotel feel less “cookie-cutter.” If the hotel promotes local flavor and makes an effort to connect guests with the gems of the neighborhood – bars, restaurants, or area tours – it can help the Millennial business traveler feel more connected, and make your guest services stand out.
What is important to take away here is that Millennials aren’t so complicated when it comes to their business traveling needs. They still want easy check-in, great guest service, a quality room, and a good location. But little details like free WiFi, digital conveniences, and local touches can go a long way with this generation. The best approach is to concentrate on adding some millennial-driven benefits that maintain universal appeal, and to always make sure your brand is visible in the social sphere. Neither business travel nor Millennials are going anywhere any time soon, and that’s great news for those who can adapt.