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Millennials are the youngest and the fastest growing segment of MICE participants. Shrewd hotel managers are boosting their efforts to make the most of this youthful and travel-savvy demographic.

While the Baby Boomer generation loves old-school elegance and the reassurance of knowing what to expect when they check into a five-star hotel, millenials who make up the fastest growing MICE segment have a different set of demands .

In recent years, many hotels have been launching business chains that deliver the style travellers expect paired with a contemporary look, targeted at the generation just behind the Baby Boomers: the millennials.

Millenials are aged 18 to 35, and are more educated, tech-savvy and mobile than the previous generation. The older end of this crowd (the mid-twenties and upwards) already forms the bulk of MICE travellers, and the group will grow 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 up 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 spend in the next 10 years.

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

They are 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 play to their tastes.

Hotels are responding by either building new or repurposing old hotels to meet their needs. 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 and super relevant to the young-at-heart, millennial-minded travellers?’” said Jen’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. Rod Strother, a director of Lenovo’s Digital and Social Centre for Excellence, said in a Ipsos Business Consulting report, “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 it 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 few additives as possible, according to F&B consultancy The Hartman Group.

When millennials travel for MICE events, meals are not just about sitting down and filling up. Travel Market Report observed that meals for millenials often involved snacking, grazing and sampling, social dining that caters to specific diets. In other words, the buffet line is where hotels can shine with variety and novelty.

It’s not surprising that millennials’ preference for being mobile and social 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.