The business traveler of today is a complex individual who doesn’t have a single travel profile. He or she may be going to a conference and staying at the conference hotel, or more often they’ll be traveling more casually. Today’s business traveler is often trying to avoid big conference hotels in search of more modern, private, and home-like accommodation.
Modern business travelers want a place where they can relax and recharge, but they also need an environment that is conducive to work. To find out how hotels are accommodating the needs of today’s business traveler, we analyzed not only how the business traveler has changed over time, in terms of his/her needs and demands but also how the industry answers to them.
The shift in the age structure of the business traveler
Millennials are becoming increasingly important to the evolution of the hotel industry. Estimates suggest that they already make one-third of all hotel guests, and these millions of young travelers are bringing on big changes for the hotel industry.
Millennials emphasize technology: While 15 years ago, free Wi-Fi was considered a luxury for most hotels and venues, today it’s expected thanks to a generation of tech-savvy travelers. But it’s not just Wi-Fi that has changed, as the millennial generation’s love for technology and desire for seamless technology has had a serious impact on the tourism and hospitality industries. From mobile check-ins for hotels to the security gates at airports, many areas have been redesigned to streamline the travel process.
Millennials prioritize sustainability: Evaluating the environmental impact of hotels, restaurants, and activities has become a priority for many millennial travelers. This has influenced the way venues to evaluate their own practices and has led to the installation of solar panels, automatic lights, and air conditioners, along with looking for ways to reduce waste.
So, these developing but fast establishing trends to the evolution of the hotels that the millennial generation of international business travelers are driving ultimately means that hotel industries are becoming more flexible and accommodating to offer more of what the people want.
Evolution of the hotel industry
Millennials have not only changed the way we check into hotels but have also influenced several other aspects of the hotel industry, such as through technology, amenity offerings, loyalty programs and more ( vibrant, tech-friendly lobbies with kiosk and mobile check-in options, grab-and-go food stations, exercise areas and modern, fresh rooms).
Technology: Thanks to technological advancement guests are now able to check in with a smartphone which is really helpful for business travelers arriving late after a night flight or a long day of business meetings. Some hotels like Hilton and Marriott are going even further allowing their guests to make various “on-demand” requests through their mobile apps. For example, the luxury brand Conrad has a virtual concierge app that works across all of its 26 properties and allows guests to order up whatever they need in 13 different languages. The request is immediately translated to the language spoken at the hotel and routed to the proper department.
Full-service and luxury brands are also following the lead of the younger, hipper brands that cater to the constantly wired millennial generation, offering mobile check-in options, virtual concierge service apps to speed up valet car retrievals, and other programs to serve their guests as simply, and quickly as possible.
Searching for meaningful Experiences: Millennials want meaningful travel experiences and demand distinct and different. A study commissioned by Eventbrite found that 78% of millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things. Such demand for new, unique and “experiential travel” is driving hoteliers to reconstruct, and develop their product offering to be more personalized, immersive, adventurous and more attuned to local culture so as to inspire and resonate on a deeper emotional level.
Such demand for new, unique and “experiential travel” is driving hoteliers to reconstruct, and develop their product offering to be more personalized, and more attuned to local culture. A prime example is the trendy boutique hotel group, citizenM. The brand denounces now-defunct amenities such as trouser presses, bellboys and, in their words, “stupid pillow chocolates.” Even as a chain, citizenM works to give millennial travelers what they’re really looking for — a unique local experience.
With the rise of trendy hotels offering unique local experience some major, well established traditional hospitality brands have created new hotel brands to stay competitive and attract Millenials (Canopy by Hilton, Moxy by Marriott, Element by Starwood).
Emphasis on Wellness: Millennials prefer wellness facilities, which is propelling hotels to incorporate wellness programs and facilities. The number of hotels has been converting standard guest rooms into a mini fitness center of sorts, making it even easier for business travelers whose exercise routines often get disrupted due to their crazy schedules to squeeze in a workout or two while out on the road.
Hilton Hotels & Resorts is the latest to do so with its new Five Feet to a Fitness room, which incorporates 11 pieces of equipment in the room, including a stationary bike and a Gym Rax™ training station.
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants has been offering for some time yoga mats in every room and on-demand TV programming that guides guests through yoga or Pilates sessions. Meanwhile, Westin Hotels & Resorts recently announced a partnership with the boutique cycling company Peloton™ so guests can go for a spin in the privacy of their own room.
OBMI architects designed multiple areas at Antigua’s Carlisle Bay to enable guests to enjoy health-minded features and unique excursions. MGM Resorts International has developed “Stay Well” guest rooms with circadian lighting and purified water and air.
Going Green: Millennials are more environment conscious in general and prefer eco-friendly and sustainable stays. TMCs, therefore, include sustainable hotels in their list. This topic is so important that we were covering it monthly with pieces on green travel, follow our Medium account (https://medium.com/@dibtravel) because more is coming soon.
Loyalty Programs: When it comes to loyalty programs, millennials want unique benefits that can be accessed fast using modern technology (such as the latest apps linked to social media). Thinking that millennials are not loyal to a brand is a misconception — they like brands that align with their values, needs, and preferences.
Shared Living Spaces — Work together: More than 10 percent of luxury, upscale and mid-scale properties have come up with communal rooms with shared living spaces to cater to the millennials’ need to socialize. More lobbies are being transformed to mimic the trend of co-working spaces so business travelers are forgoing the isolation of their guest rooms to come work in the lobby surrounded by other people. In fact, the trend has caught on so much so that several hotel brands have decided to remove the bulky desks from the guest rooms to free up space, while others have introduced in lobbies office amenities, such as built-in USB charging stations, copiers, and TVs.
InterContinental Hotels Group™ (IHG), for example, has been working with design firm IDEO to develop innovative “Flex Meetings” spaces with different configurations throughout the public areas of their Crowne Plaza™ properties. According to a report by Skift, most will have iPads™ where you can order and pay for food and beverage that’s delivered to your table, and some also will have monitors where you can connect your laptop for presentations.
The rise of Airbnb
One of the biggest influences millennials have had is on the idea of home-sharing. Millennials were a driving factor for the rise of services like Airbnb. Airbnb and similar services are sparking innovations in the hotel business model, as companies adapt to appeal to new demands of modern travelers. This had a serious influence on the hotel industry, making them rethink the idea of renting entire home spaces.
Marriott confirms it’s rolling out a new Airbnb-like rental service, called Homes & Villas by Marriott International, that focuses on upscale properties. The service will offer 2,000 “premium and luxury homes” in more than 100 cities. The homes will be managed by rental companies and are equipped with Wi-Fi, premium amenities, such as linens and professionally cleaned after each stay.
Guests will be able to book their home-rental reservations through the Marriott website. They will earn and can redeem loyalty points as they do when booking a stay with any of Marriott’s 29 brands, which include Sheraton, W Hotels, and Ritz-Carlton.
Another fine example is Choice Hotels, the company launched Everhome Suites, a new construction midscale extended-stay brand. It’s the first brand to enter the midscale extended-stay segment in roughly a decade. Developers have already committed to building 13 Everhome Suites in the Austin, Texas, and Los Angeles markets. Choice Hotels currently has more than 400 domestic hotels in its extended-stay portfolio, a 10 percent increase since the year-end 2018.
Domio, an apartment hotel company, runs short-term rentals that offer hotel-style amenities. It does this by leasing and operating units in buildings. Peer companies include Sonder and Lyric Hospitality. The brands aim to popularize professionally managed rental alternatives to generic hotel rooms.
The changes brought about to have for the gene greater things which are about to come as this generation continues to age, and their needs change, the hospitality industry will need to learn to adapt with them.
Sources: Kent State University, GEP, Pew research center, Skift, Wall Street journal.