Millennials love to travel – also on business. They place particular value on authentic experiences over stuff that can be purchased and collected. What is interesting about Generation Y is their flexibility. They enjoy a stay in a luxury hotel but also enjoy staying at a hostel. They want to live like locals but are also interested in touristy sights. “Traveling for business or pleasure?”- this is a question of the past when it comes to Millennials. More and more millennial business travelers are interested in taking “bleisure” trips, mixing a leisure portion into their business trip.

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The Changing Face of Business Travel

The study “Chefsache Business Travel 2018” commissioned by the German Travel Association (DRV) found out that 18- to 34-year-old employees prefer to travel for the company compared to their older colleagues. Generation Y considers itself more efficient on the road than at a desk. Business trips are obviously a status symbol. For younger colleagues in particular, it is important to sit in first class when travelling by train and to get a chic hotel as well as bonus miles for private use.

The character of the business trip is further changing due to the tendency of many younger business travelers to combine the official with additional leisure time to “bleisure” trips. In the past, business and leisure have been regarded as distinct markets, but younger travelers enjoy adding a couple of days of fun to a work trip. Business travel is an unquestionably large slice of the global travel pie and “bleisure” travel has seen a huge increase in the past three years. It’s not just Millennials that are taking “bleisure” trips, however, they are now the largest segment of business travelers. According to the study, 48% of Millennials make regular use of extending their business trips for leisure. Employers must understand that business travel enables Millennials not only to advance their careers, but also to explore the world. Those companies who recognize this can change their current travel policies and have a better chance of retaining these young employees in the company.

The growing trend of “bleisure” travel benefits independent MICE hotels. Business hotels usually experience a high occupancy rate during the week, whereas the weekend is rather quiet. “Bleisure” travel fills in this gap and guests benefit from favorable rates on the weekend. Extending the stay reduces stress, especially during long-haul journeys, increases employee satisfaction and creates a better work-life balance. To motivate business guests to extend their stay hotels should offer them additional nights at the corporate rate paid by their company. But what do Millennials expect from a MICE hotel, what are their wants and needs?

What Do Today’s Millennials Business Travelers Expect From The MICE Industry?

Offering free Wi-Fi connection and comfortable meeting rooms is not enough to appeal to young “bleisure” travelers. The hotel as well as the MICE industry must adapt to the preferences of the new generations. The days are over when participants enjoyed sitting in a meeting room or listening to speakers all day long. Generation Y demands more: They may not fancy traditional speakers anymore. Organizers need to create interaction and involvement from the audience; people prefer engagement to instruction. Activities, greater collaboration among people and information exchange sessions are now more critical.

Generation Y and Z are more conscious of wellbeing and health; therefore, wellness has become a high priority. These generations prefer fresh and healthy food to sweet pastries. There is also a strong emphasis on brain food, a trend which hoteliers already experience. Catering is no longer only a facility to be provided at a venue, but it is being regarded as a platform to impress guests. Boring food sets an overall boring tone to an event. Millennials are interested in local and authentic cuisine; they expect the latest innovations in food. This trend will develop further, and hotels need to become more creative. More and novel concepts will delight guests in the future. As Millennials are technically savvy and constantly online, food needs to be content-worthy for social media feeds these days.

It is all about personal service: Events are required to be more experiential as Millennials are opting for unique, tailor-made experiences instead of a cookie-cutter approach; having flexible meeting spaces is near the top of every participant’s wish list. Meetings should not be dull.: Spa treatments, team building exercises, cocktail courses – hotels need to provide authentic experience that correlates with the destination. Millennials want to be immersed in local culture. They consider spending more at the restaurant down the street than they may with a large corporation or chain. Independent hotels that provide recommendations for local restaurants and that move away from a traditional to a more innovative and personalized approach will be the most successful.

Creating specific packages to showcase off-site leisure facilities to make the most of the stay are important to attract Millennials. Due to the nature of time constraints for business travelers, convenience is key. Hotels need to promote activities and sights in the neighborhood and surrounding locations to these travelers. A quick guide highlighting the best the city has to offer and an area map highlighting the distances to attractions and proximity of transport options are a simple yet useful gesture.

Generation Y is looking for something extra in a hotel, the individualistic aspect, something that they can’t find in any other hotel. They want to share a story, this can be a unique design element, local music bands playing in the hotel or local cosmetics or refreshments offered in the mini bar. Millennials want to meet other people, therefore hotels need to provide opportunities to mingle. This can be a social lobby or a hip bar, where locals and guests can socialize. In former times, guests on business trips worked on in-room desks only. Now, they demand third spaces, where they can work with their laptops or phones in a public area. Millennials prefer to work in a lobby, pod seating can encourage group work. To meet this demand, hotel lobbies or bars need to be designed as an attractive place for work with a social component.

As Millennials grew up with technology, smart technology is important for them. They prefer innovations which make their stay efficient, such as mobile room keys, real-time billing, concierge messaging and mobile check-in. Everything should be seamless; Millennials are impatient with hiccups in the process or a slow loading site. It is all about convenience for business travelers, as they are always short on time. Anything that simplifies their travel, saves time and reduces stress is deeply appreciated. Details like free WiFi, late check-outs, healthy mini-bar snacks and local touches can go a long way with this generation, as they prioritize maintaining a healthy work-life balance even while on the road.

Why Are Independent Hotels A Perfect Match?

As it has now become easier to book hotels due to the many rating portals, younger travelers are no longer skeptical about independent hotels. For years it has been said that the individual hotel industry has no chance against the big brands. That has changed. Today you need local authenticity and a good story. Millennial travelers want local experiences-something independent hotels have always been good at. Millennials prefer local, authentic hotels. Hotels with character. Hotels that differ. Something that chain hotels cannot offer. Large groups have a hard time defining a personal story. Independent hotels, on the other hand, have been designed to tell unique stories. In contrast to large hotel groups, independent hotels are valued for their distinctiveness and character.

Millennials are looking for customized experiences as opposed to the cookie-cutter experiences from big hotel chains. Independent hotels are often located in the most hip and vibrant neighborhoods and reflect the local culture in their design. These high-end residential neighborhoods that are away from the crowds, but close to city highlights are convenient for “bleisure” travelers with limited time.

Independent hotels are all about personalized services and customer-centric service: They offer experiences that are truly authentic and local. As they are smaller, they can adapt to trends faster than larger hotel chains are able to. Guests who stay at smaller hotels can interact with staff more easily and sometimes even meet the general manager. The more attention Millennials get, the more they feel important and valuable, the more likely they will recommend the property.

Independent hotels often partner with local-owned businesses to highlight their neighborhood. Millennials have a strong sense of community and love small businesses. Millennials are more concerned when it comes to environmental sustainability and therefore appreciate cooperation with local producers.

Millennials love something unique, authentic and social; they also enjoy creative design, quirky character, and personalized service, that is why they feel right at home in independent hotels. New, hip, independent hotels often have public spaces and programming that allows for social engagement and for Millennials to hang out.

The rapidly growing development of “bleisure” trips presents huge opportunities for independent hoteliers, especially since many employers now support these long weekend getaways. Independent hotels are designed to appeal to the millennial mindset; however, hoteliers need to observe these trends and keep adapting to the changing nature of Millennials. Hotels that don’t modify their concepts will not be successful in attracting Millennial “bleisure” travelers in the long run.

Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from http://www.hotelexecutive.com/.