The distinction between working and leisure hours is shrinking
FOR good or for ill, the start and end to a working day is increasingly blurred. Smartphones and wi-fi mean that even an airline cabin, once the last respite of the business traveller, no longer guarantees escape. But the push is not all one way. Sometimes leisure time can impinge on the business day.
The more that millennials travel for work, the more that hotels and the like must try to accommodate them. Skift, a firm that tracks travel trends, wrote in a recent report that the millennial generation is “social, fickle, design-centric and narcissistic”. Catering to them means offering more than a bed, a conference-room buffet and the first flight out of town.
The Lindenberg brand of accommodation is an example. Its 27-room Libertine Lindenberg (pictured), which opened in Frankfurt in March, includes shared leisure and kitchen spaces—including a group cooking session with a chef on Thursday nights—and a jogging club. The building houses a recording studio and the offices of an advertising firm, so regular traffic is guaranteed. Some of the rooms are rented for months at a time and the result is something like a well-appointed hostel for grown-ups, bringing together residents, business travellers and tourists.
Fanina Karabelnik, who wrote the business plan for Lindenberg, says it initially hoped to draw lodgers from creative industries to its “guest communities”. But based as they are in the banking centre of Frankfurt, the concept soon appealed to business- and finance-types who wanted a change in their daily routine.
Lindenberg is not alone. The Citizen M chain, based in Amsterdam, offers small rooms but “living-room-like lobbies”. Marriott and Ikea, meanwhile, have teamed up on Moxy hotels, which promise a shared “buzzing living room that is always on”. At present it operates in five locations, with four more to come yet this year and 25 more in 2017.
A recent study by Barclaycard calls these changes “the leisure effect”. Habits gleaned from holidaying, and a desire for a more customised experience, now bleed into the professional sphere. Younger business travellers are most likely to mix business with pleasure. A 2014 study by Hotwire, an online travel retailer, and Egencia, a business-travel firm, found that 56% of 18- to 34-year-olds extend business trips to include leisure time, nearly double the rate of their elders.
This means there is now less distinction between working and leisure hours. It is also points to a desire to save money. Common business-travel destinations, such as Frankfurt, often see prices for accommodation drop over the weekends. The Hotwire study, which focused on America, found that in Houston rates for a four-star hotel dropped from $154 on weekdays to $69 on weekends; in Atlanta it went from $112 to $64.
Airbnb, too, is looking to tap into this new market. The home-share site launched its own business-traveller service last year. It now allows travel managers to book space on behalf of others and lets them to search specifically for the types of apartments and locations business travellers like to frequent. Similar to the Hotwire findings, it says the average business traveller stays for six days, meaning at least part of a weekend. Overall, business-travel sales in the home-sharing sector—which also includes brands such as VRBO and HomeAway—grew by 56% in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period in 2015, says Concur, a travel-management company.
Back in Frankfurt, the Lindenberg operation is also expanding. To complement its existing 10- and 27-room facilities, it is opening a 50-room property in Mannheim and a 100-room hotel in Frankfurt’s Ostend neighbourhood next year. In a development fitting for the times, the latter will be next door to a new Marriott-Ikea Moxy Hotel. For some, business travel is becoming less of a commute, and more of a commune.