The Baby Boomer generation love old-school elegance and the reassurance of knowing what to expect when they check into a five-star hotel. 

But in recent years, many hotel companies have been launching business chains that have a more contemporary style, specially targeted at the Millennials. 

Who are the Millennials you might ask? They are aged 18 to 35, are more educated, tech-savvy and mobile than the previous Baby Boomer generation. The older end of this crowd (currently in their mid-twenties and upwards) forms the bulk of MICE travellers, and this group will increase over time as they get older and more secure in their careers. Travel booking site Expedia reported that Millennials in their late twenties and early thirties make a growing portion of managers and executives, and travel for business about five times a year, twice that of their over-35 peers. 

In Southeast Asia alone, there are over 130 million Millennials, a quarter of the population. Looking at global travel patterns, marketing firm HotelRez projects that by 2030 the number of them who travel will hit 78 million. Other forecasts say that Millennials will account for 75% of travel spending in the next 10 years.

Millennials travel with deep pockets. According to MasterCard, they had over US$4 trillion in disposable income to spend in 2015. Many also hold on to corporate expense accounts and 42% are more likely to spend company money than their own when travelling.

They are also used to combining work with leisure and are 62% more likely than their older peers to extend a business trip into a vacation. To capture their attention, the hospitality industry will have to cater to their preferences. 

To do this, hotel chains are responding by either building new hotels or refurbishing old ones. For instance, Southeast Asian luxury chain Jen has rebranded some hotels in Penang, Manila and Johor Bahru, converting them into trendier, more upbeat versions.

“The central question for us was always ‘How do we create something fresh yet relevant to the young-at-heart, Millennial-minded travellers?’” said it’s Director of Development, Howard Ho.1

Hoteliers are making these changes because Millennials are brand aware and demand authenticity and relevance from their favourite brands. Ipsos Business Consulting reported a director of Lenovo’s Digital and Social Centre for Excellence, Rod Strother, saying “Millennials are looking for a connection with a brand. They want to believe in a company that does good.”

‘Good’ can apply to anything, from the environment to food. It doesn’t just matter that their food tastes good; it matters where food comes from. Better yet if it is organic, harvested from a sustainable source, and locally produced to minimise their carbon footprint. Millennials also want to be good to their bodies, by eating healthier food that is free from chemicals or additives.

One third of them, for instance, read labels to make healthier choices, while a third chooses food and drinks with as little additives as possible, according to F&B consultancy The Hartman Group. 

When Millennials travel for MICE events, meals are not just meant for a chance to sit down and fill up. Travel Market Report observed that meals are about snacking, grazing and sampling, social dining that caters to specific diets. In other words, the buffet line is where hotels can shine in this aspect with their variety and novelty. 

It’s not surprising that Millennials’ preference for being mobile and sociable extends beyond mealtimes. In the same report, Social Media Specialist Philippe Cesson, who heads marketing agency Cesson 3.0, said that 36% of Millennials prefer working in the lobby rather than their rooms. Work, in the eyes of these twenty- and thirty-somethings, doesn’t have to take place behind a desk. 

Most importantly, when Millennial travellers are presented with the things they value, such as distinctive stories of local culture, healthy eating, and understanding of the country they are visiting, they have shown that they are happy to pay for the experience.