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StrategyMay 08, 2019

Millennial Travel and Hospitality Personas: The Bleisure Traveler

Emily Dunn, and Cameron Weinert

The typical travel and hospitality customer is changing. The millennial share of this market is already significant, and it’s constantly growing. Travel and hospitality organizations must understand different millennial segments’ priorities in order to offer travel options that can win and retain their business for the long term.

This article is the first installment of the Millennial Traveler Personas series, which aims to provide insights on unique millennial traveler segments. The next two personas are the adventure seeker and the hopeful realist, and all three personas are evaluated based on key characteristics of millennial travelers as outlined in the Millennial Travel Behaviors and Attitudes white paper.

Millennials are creating a new customer profile for the travel and hospitality industry—the business as leisure or “bleisure” traveler. As more and more millennials have entered the workforce over the past few years, they have brought a new desire to make business travel less mundane and more adventurous.

As the world becomes more connected, business travel has become a necessity to foster growth and relationships. Monday mornings in the TSA Pre-Check line have become a sort of reunion for familiar faces before they board a flight. In the middle of these reunions, you can find the millennial bleisure traveler.

For example, meet Brandon the bleisure traveler:

Brandon has been traveling to New York for work every week for the past four months. Inside his luggage you’ll find business casual slacks and button downs, in addition to his more casual attire for adventuring through the streets of New York once the work day is over. His laptop has his project Excel files neatly organized in folders ready to send off in emails, but also has a Google Sheet that outlines all of the sights he must see in the city that he got from a likeminded blesiure traveler colleague. Lastly, his phone has his boarding pass ready to be scanned (and hopefully push him up to the next tier of his favorite airline’s reward program) and Yelp ready to find a dinner spot he hasn’t been to yet.

Loyalty program incentives, technological and social advances through smartphone apps, and the rush of exploring a new city all combine to foster the adventurous spirit of the traveling bleisure millennial once they close their laptop for the day.

loyal: all about the points

The travel industry is very kind to road warriors. Hotel and airline reward programs provide great incentives and personalization to loyal customers, and millennials have taken note. When discussing credit card rewards, the average consumer will talk about travel rewards 70% of the time, but millennials refer to travel rewards over 90% of the time.

Bleisure travelers especially want to take advantage of the loyalty programs the travel and hospitality industry offers. The allure of points and perks provides bleisure travelers with incentives to continue traveling each week for their jobs. Millennials are using their points on travel at a higher rate than any other generation as they accumulate through business travel.

To gain a loyal customer, companies are beginning to put more emphasis on personalization and transparency to cater to a generation who wants rewards that correspond with their lifestyle. For example, Marriott monitors real-time social media activity that occurs on their property to “surprise and delight” their guests. If their property is tagged in a post, the company will see if there is a little extra personalization that can improve their guest’s experience.

tech savvy: efficient and effective tools

The lifestyles of millennial bleisure travelers are integrated with their technology. Business travel to a new city provides many minor hurdles to the road warrior, such as travel between the airport, hotel, and client site or finding the best restaurants and entertainment in a city. With the age of smartphone apps now in full swing, the bleisure traveler is well equipped to handle these questions.

Ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are replacing the needs of a rental car. Uber accounted for 52% of corporate ground transportation in 2016 (up from 22% in 2014), whereas the rental car industry accounted for just 33% (down from 48%). Millennials don’t want to worry about where to drop off their rental car or whether they will make it in time for their flight home in case the work day runs late—their Uber or Lyft will just drop them off right next to security.

Organizing a business trip can be difficult, especially when traveling several times a month. Simply tracking down confirmation numbers and reservations details can quickly become a hassle. Reservation management tools like TripIt take that worry away. By clearly outlining your itinerary, TripIt provides its users with a consolidated location for finding critical information and the peace of mind that comes with such convenience.

social: the balancing act

Millennial bleisure travelers must balance their desire to post trip updates for their followers with the fact that Snapchat selfies are usually not welcomed in the boardroom (thankfully). Despite the easy criticism social media lends itself to, these sites and blogs are great ways to find new spots to see in a city and give updates on any entertainment events happening during the week. Most big cities even have their own social profiles or apps listing events that would be of interest to a business traveler extending their stay after the work week.

Some travel companies are even beginning to cater to the more social generations through how they book their travel. One company offers social seating through their travel booking platform. Business travelers can select their seats based on their network to ensure they are next to someone they work with or who is attending the same conference.

As more millennials continue through their careers, the social aspect of business travel will only grow. Companies will need to offer perks and incentives to bleisure travelers who post their adventures to their followers and in doing so organically boost the brand’s footprint.

experiential: quick excursions

With the well-documented student debt statistics, it’s no surprise millennials are interested in bleisure trips that satisfy their craving to see the world without breaking the bank. As one global travel news site editor put it, “Now, when people travel for business, they want to travel as if they’re on vacation.”

My current travels to Minnesota have included trips to state parks, a Twins baseball game, and the Mall of America. Those experiences made the trips more enjoyable and allowed the project team and I to enjoy different aspects of a city that we had never experienced before. Even these quick breaks from the conference and hotel rooms were very welcome and provided the team with more energy to continue through the project.

To take advantage of these opportunities, hotels and travel agencies can partner with city organizers to provide their guests a list of events occurring in a city during the week. The experiences do not have to be lavish or extravagant, but rather cater to the curious side of the millennial bleisure traveler.

bleisure traveler snapshot

How to win their business: Offer quick, personalized adventures and lots of loyalty points.

Bleisure travelers are constantly on the move. By helping them organize their trips through apps, pre-made event lists, and best places to go lists, companies can quickly be the go-to source for their millennial customer.

The millennial generation is changing the way travel companies think about their customers. Bleisure travelers provide a unique perspective for the industry as they look to balance their career ambitions with their adventurous spirit.

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