The Millennial Bleisure Trend: What Does It Mean For the Travel Industry?

Posted by: Ilana Bodker

If you travel for business, you can probably relate to the yearning desire to turn a stressful work trip into a vacation. The recent spike in bleisure, otherwise known as  the addition of vacation days onto a business trip, can be attributed to adventure-hungry Millennials looking to get the best bang for their buck. Bleisure travel allows professionals to avoid their own airfare costs and use vacation time effectively while simultaneously raising overall employee morale (doesn’t a cocktail by the pool put everyone in a better mood?).

Per a Booking.com survey, half of all business travelers already extend their business trips to further enjoy the destination, frequently with vacation days outnumbering designated business days. Nearly one third of these travelers also said they would accept a lower paying job if it meant they could go on more business trips. While certainly surprising to Boomers and older working generations, this is important for brands to be aware of as Millennials are the biggest travelers — for business and pleasure — in today’s market out of any demographic. After all, Millennials view travel experiences as part of their identities, and what could be more important than cultivating one’s own identity?

In turn, it is also benefitting the hospitality industry, as Millennials are more likely to splurge on food and accommodations when they can expense the majority of their other travel costs.

So, what do brands need to know about how Millennials desire to spend their vacation days? First and foremost, they aren’t looking to party day-in and day-out, as some might assume. In a survey by Topdeck Travel, eating local cuisine (98%) and experiencing a new culture (86%) were ranked as significantly more important than partying (44%) or shopping (28%). Wherever Millennials travel, they seek “the most authentic experience,” according to Lisa Leavitt of Active Travels. This means living like a local and ditching tourist traps in search of unique, picturesque (read: Instagrammable) destinations. In fact, many are even opting for “sailing adventures, remote homestays and treks well off the beaten path.” This makes it safe to assume that Millennials are also foregoing the traditional tourist destinations of their parents and grandparents before them.

But this adventurous spirit doesn’t necessarily mean  Millennials always want to couch-surf or settle for a cheap Airbnb. In fact, when staying in a big European city, Millennials prefer boutique hotels; when traveling with a group, an all-inclusive resort is reported as the likelier path. As such, Millennials take their travel decisions seriously, utilizing online tools, informational sources and even travel agents more than any other generational group.

By far the most important influencer of travel, however, is Millennials’ social networks. While more than half of young travelers only post on their accounts a few times a week during a vacation, they cite social media as the top factor influencing their travel choices, far and above travel agents. What platforms hold the most weight in their decision making? The majority of Millennials use Facebook, Pinterest, and/or Twitter as travel inspiration. In addition to these motivational social media platforms, 75 percent of Millennials have travel apps on their phones, which make planning more convenient and efficient regardless of the type of trip.

Hyatt is one hospitality brand getting it right.

In an effort to inspire potential travelers, Hyatt introduced its own social media content hub. This content hub is completely driven by user-generated content from those staying at one of Hyatt’s 575 hotels around the world and features more than 89,000 Instagram images to date. This content can be either directly uploaded to the site or sent in by using the brand’s hashtag #InaHyattWorld. Experiential content filters let visitors to the hub use specific terms such as “golf,” “spa” or “food and drinks” to narrow down the images to exactly the experience they are hoping to plan. If they need more specifics, they can overlay the location and brand filters to narrow down to one city or one property that features their selected experience.

Overall, it’s clear that the Millennial penchant for bleisure, adventure and good deals will make certain the evolution of the travel industry to a more culturally-rich and socially-reliant entertainment sector. What steps does your brand need to take to get there?

About Ilana Bodker

Ilana's background in publishing combined with a lifelong love of writing led her to her current position at Barkley, where she serves as Junior Editor for Jeff Fromm and Angie Read's upcoming "Marketing to Gen...See Ilana's full bio.

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