How A Millennial Trend Helped Save The Hotel Industry

By Greg Velasquez Director of Sales & Marketing , The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills | January 10, 2021

Digital nomads with a tendency to blur the lines between work and play, the often-misunderstood generation known as millennials, just might be saving parts of the U.S. hotel industry during Covid-19 lockdowns.

For the past decade, hoteliers have been preparing for the many ways in which millennials were predicted to change the hotel industry. Radically different in values and behavior than the baby boomers who had defined the modern travel industry, millennials were viewed through a lens of curiosity and circumspection by a hotel industry that had grown to a staggering $218 Billion in the U.S. alone by 2018.

Changing an Industry Shaped by Baby Boomers

The astronomical growth of the hotel industry had been driven largely by catering to the needs and desires of baby boomers: affluent travelers who liked their creature comforts and prized consistency above all. Industry touchstones such as personalized interactions at check in/check out, bell and concierge service, a variety of in-house F&B outlets, room service, twice daily housekeeping service (with turndown for luxury hotels), business centers (where work could be done outside of one's hotel room), 500 thread count bed linens – all of these innovations spoke to the baby boomers' desire for comfort and convenience, ideally wrapped in the trappings of luxury, whenever the budget permitted.

Millennial travelers, on the other hand, were willing to forgo each of these things in favor of authenticity, local experiences, flexibility, and spontaneity, with the only requirement being that the wireless internet signal must be fast and strong. Hoteliers, realizing that the old values and rules no longer applied to this up-and-coming mega-generation of customers began scrambling to redesign the guest experience.

Buzzwords like "Insta-worthy", "experiential programming" and "culture curators" began creeping into the hotelier's vocabulary, along with a word that must have seemed like an oxymoron to baby boomers: "Bleisure," the blending of business with leisure travel.  After all, boomers worked hard to play hard and lived by the rule of "paying your dues" – meaning that one must work hard to earn their time in the sun. Business trips were business trips; vacations were earned time off and they rarely, if ever, coincided or overlapped.

The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills offers their spacious guest rooms as office spaces for those seeking a change of scenery to work remotely.

Here Come the Millennials

Millennials completely rejected these notions. As early as 2013, a survey conducted by Egencia of 8,500 travelers in 30 different countries revealed that 18-30 year old travelers not only took more leisure trips than their boomer counterparts, but were also much more likely to bring along a partner or a spouse on a business trip, thereby taking advantage of the opportunity to explore a new destination and sample local culture while on a blended business/leisure trip. For millennials, business travel was an opportunity to have an experience, not just to get the job done.

With varying degrees of enthusiasm and success, hotels slowly began adapting to this new breed of travelers. Internet access, at first limited to ethernet cables and sometimes hidden behind a paid firewall (with some brands even tiering speed to pricing) soon became the most important and desirable hotel amenity, surpassing luxurious bath products and the foil-wrapped chocolate on the pillow. Hotel lobbies were transformed from stately, serene showcases that proclaimed "you've arrived" to buzzing hives of work and socialization, a place where millennials could tap into a wireless network, sip a local fair-trade coffee, and post a selfie on their social media. Some of these social media posts began being hashtagged #workcation as early as 2015.

The workcation concept wasn't invented by millennials, but they were the ones who embraced it and perfected it. The notion of working while on vacation was considered so unusual as late as 2014 that CNN interviewed several top hotel brand leaders to learn more about this phenomenon. One senior hotel executive gamely described the "work-cation" as the logical extension of baby boomers' 'time is money – no time that is not work time' ethic.

This perspective overlooked the rising tide of digital nomads from the booming, well-paid technology and internet industries; employees at companies such as Google and Facebook, campuses where the culture of nine to five and office cubicles had been jettisoned from the beginning. Millennials increasingly lived, worked, played, and stayed wherever they could maximize efficiency, experience life to the fullest, and get a strong internet connection.

Covid-19 Changes the Game

Then Covid-19 happened and practically overnight, entire industries had to come to terms with the unique and unexpected challenges of working remote, something millennials had long championed as a requisite job perk and indeed, demanded as part of their employment (often to the chagrin of their baby boomer employers.) Boomers themselves, by this time largely in an age bracket deemed at "high risk" for infection, and by generational nature averse to uncertainty, immediately shelved any vacation plans and cancelled their discretionary travel.

Long haul flights were suspended; international travel to major tourist destinations in the United States dried up. Corporations issued "essential travel only" directives; groups and associations postponed contracted events to future years, or even cancelled bookings outright. Hotel occupancies and forecasted revenues plummeted accordingly.

Hotels awoke to a radically new environment and quickly realized that the bulk of their business during the global pandemic would have to come from their own backyards; boarding an airplane for leisure travel was strictly off the table for most travelers. Hotel rates and promotions were retargeted towards the so-called "drive market" and urban hotels looking for a lifeline in the absence of corporate and group business quickly pivoted to hyper-local marketing strategies.

Despite these quick reactions and immediate measures, many hotels failed see a return of their usual guests. Instead, the guest age demographic at hotels began to fall squarely into the millennial range of mid-twenties to late thirties. And, something even more unusual happened. The average length of stay began to slowly increase. At The London West Hollywood in Beverly Hills, the average length of stay increased from 2.5 days in October 2019 to 5 days only one year later, in October 2020.

The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills' work-from-hotel setup is ideal for their "Workcation package," valid for travel through March 31, 2021 and including a five-night stay (15% discount), waived hotel amenity fees, $50 daily F&B credit, complimentary breakfast for two, special cabana rate and parking rate, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Millennials to the Rescue

Some of these effects could have been anticipated: millennials, being largely under the age of forty (and most in their thirties), were in an age group considered at the time to be low-risk for serious complications from Covid-19 infection. Simply put, a small but significant percentage of millennials weighed the potential risk of carrying on as usual and found it to be minimal at worst, inconsequential at best. Anyone watching the evening news during the early months of the Covid-19 outbreak in the United States and seeing reports of bars and restaurants packed with crowds of thirty-somethings would not be surprised by this demographic shift to a younger, millennial generation traveler.

Less obvious and predictable was the appetite of millennials for taking advantage of historically low hotel occupancies and rates by extending the typical one-to-two night weekend stay into four and five nights. These extended "workcation" stays were seen as an opportunity to experience a new environment, get out of the apartment, condo or house, and possibly see other millennials from a safe distance. When the hotel or resort came with amenities such as poolside cabanas, 24-hour room service and free Wi-Fi, the remote work situation was perfected. Long accustomed to working from remote locations, millennials quite naturally made the transition to working from hotels and resorts when remote work was no longer optional, but required by employers.

Hotels were among the first businesses to implement strict new cleaning and operational safety protocols in compliance with the Center for Disease Control and state and local health departments, and they were frequently audited for compliance. The hotel environment was already tightly controlled and monitored by security on a 24/7 basis. Many millennials reasoned that the risks of hotels and resorts, if any, were minimal.

An Opportunity for New Offerings

Now that work from home was being mandated by most employers, savvy hoteliers saw the opportunity and leapt at it. Hotels that had once shied away from offering day rates now began tailoring offerings specifically for remote workers to enjoy the amenities and ambience of a four star hotel while remaining connected and productive on their laptops (and having an covetable Zoom background was an unexpected side perk.) Leading the way were a number of boutique hotels, such as The London West Hollywood in Beverly Hills, which debuted "Offices at The London" in May 2020, and Hotel Figueroa in Downtown Los Angeles, which launched their "Work Perks" package in June 2020, featuring steep discounts off pre-Covid-19 nightly rates.

Soon, the big brands followed: Hyatt rolled out a brand wide initiative across their portfolio. The "Work From Hyatt" package included reduced daily rates, daily F&B credits, dedicated work spaces, complimentary wireless internet and other amenities. In a September 2020 interview with TravelPulse, Hyatt senior vice president Asad Ahmed stated, "We're leaning into the 'work from anywhere' trend and believe it's resonating with today's travelers." Hotel giant Marriott soon jumped into the pool with their own workcation offerings, launching the tiered "Day Pass", "Stay Pass", and "Play Pass" programs in October 2020. The "work from hotel" gold rush was now well and truly on.

During a November 2020 roundtable with investors and business leaders, Marriott's CEO Arne M. Sorenson indicated that the hotel industry as a whole would not return to pre-Covid-19 levels until 2023 or 2024, which may mean that the hotel workcation could turn out to be more of a permanent fixture rather than a temporary band-aid for a wounded industry.

Finding Ways to Adapt

The irony is that the much-ballyhooed and anticipated transformation of the hotel landscape by millennials may not have come about by their own design or travel preferences, but by a very pragmatic adaptation to a global pandemic that nearly brought the hotel industry to a grinding halt. Ultimately, the longevity of any industry is based on innovation and adaptation: those who excel at the latter survive, while those who do not, go the way of the dodo bird.

Fortunately for those of us who work in and love the hotel industry, we are a resilient group of professionals accustomed to adapting to the ever-changing needs and desires of our guests. Bleisure, workcation, remote work, work from hotel, work from resort – whatever you call it, creative and resourceful hoteliers have found a new niche market that will sustain them through these tough times. Hotels will be around long after this pandemic is a bad memory, and in the process, they will have become a familiar and indispensable part of the way millennials work, play, and travel.

Mr. Velasquez Greg Velasquez is Director of Sales and Marketing at The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills. Prior to joining The London, Mr. Velasquez was Chief Marketing Officer at Hotel Figueroa and held the role of the Director of Sales and Marketing at Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills for several years. His luxury hospitality experience includes properties across the country including the L'Auberge De Sedona; The Phoenician; The Royal Palms Resort and Spa; the US Grant in San Diego; The Joule in Dallas; and St. Regis Houston. In addition to his luxury expertise, Mr. Velasquez served as Director of Sales at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, and the Westin Pasadena. Greg Velasquez can be contacted at +1 310-358-7748 or gvelasquez@thelondonweho.com Please visit http://www.thelondonwesthollywood.com for more information. Extended Biography

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If you choose to purchase a subscription, member subscription payments can be made in U.S. Dollars, as well as a variety of international currencies. Membership terms are Annual Recurring, and Monthly Recurring. The Annual Recurring subscription is an annual commitment and subscribers will be charged each consecutive billing cycle. Annual Recurring subscriptions can be cancelled after the first billing cycle and within 30-days of the billing date for a full refund. Monthly Recurring subscriptions are ongoing and subscribers will be charged each consecutive monthly billing cycle. Monthly Recurring subscriptions can be cancelled after the first month and within 7 days of the monthly billing cycle for a full refund.

12. PAYMENT AUTHORIZATION

Payment for the services provided to you in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive may be made by automatic credit card, debit card, direct debit, bankwire or Paypal and other approved payment means offered in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive, and you hereby authorize HotelExecutive and its agents to transact such payments on your behalf.

You hereby authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card to pay for your membership to HotelExecutive. You further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card for any and all purchases of products, services in association with HotelExecutive. You agree to be personally liable for all charges incurred by you in association with your access or other use of any content provided by HotelExecutive or any third party in association with HotelExecutive. You acknowledge and agree that your liability for all such charges shall continue after termination of your access or any type of membership arrangement with HotelExecutive.

In the event that you have chosen to have your membership automatically rebilled, unless and until you notify HotelExecutive that you wish to cancel or terminate your membership to HotelExecutive, you hereby agree and authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to automatically renew your membership to HotelExecutive on a continuing basis and to charge your credit card (or other payment means you have selected) to pay for the ongoing cost of your membership. You hereby further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card (or other approved payment means you have selected) for any and all purchases of products, services and entertainment provided to in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive.

13. PRIVACY POLICY

The following is the Privacy Policy for HotelExecutive

We can be reached via telephone, email, or online at our contact page. When you visit our site we do not log any information regarding your domain or email address. Information Sharing: We do not share user information with any third parties other than via press release distribution as described below.

Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Cookies: Our system requires the use of cookies to enable the user to log back into our website to access information from the newswire, without having to log in each time using the required username and password.

If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

Ad Servers: We do not partner with or have any relationship with any ad server companies. From time to time, we may use customer information for new uses not previously disclosed in our privacy notice. If our information practices change at any time, we will post the policy changes to our website to notify you of these changes and provide you with the ability to opt out of these new uses. If you are concerned about how your information is used, you should check back at our website periodically.

Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

Security: We always use industry-standard encryption technologies while transferring and receiving user data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of information that we have collected from you on our site. We do not store credit card information in our systems.

If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

Susan Tinnish
Christine Samsel
Bonnie Knutson
Gini Dietrich
Dana Kravetz
Marcus Nicolls
Jason Ferrara
Mike Sawchuk
Steven Belmonte
Rob Rush
Coming up in February 2021...