The ‘unconference’ trend takes root


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The 2015 Sundance Film Festival, a cornerstone event for young creators, brought $83 million to host Park City, Utah. That’s down $3 million from 2014. A University of Utah study claims this is because millennial visitors stayed in fewer hotel rooms and in more houses, sharing space with others. The millennial traveler wants flexibility and opportunity to personally connect when visiting a new place. This makes room- and house-sharing services like Airbnb the perfect option. Existing hotel chains aren’t learning from Airbnb; instead, they’re attempting to modernize, as we have previously reported. Digital concierges, open workstations and tiny rooms are features of new millennial brands launched by chains like Marriott and Radisson. Meanwhile, Airbnb reportedly enabled approximately 40 million room nights in 2014, likely ending the year with a valuation of nearly $20 billion. It’s the opportunity to individualize your lodging option, and the personal connection with the host — not to mention rooms’ relative affordability and location flexibility — that drive Airbnb’s success. The company understands millennials’ craving for inclusion and curation. Morgans Hotel Group is the one chain that may also be noticing. In May, it launched “The Creators Unconference.” With workshops and presentations about marketing and entrepreneurship, the “unconference” educated millennials on being their own boss and crafting their own brands. The “unconference” series will continue at Morgans’ sites in London, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It aims to reach millennials without an office — freelancers, graduates and the unemployed — seeking creative freedom and flexibility. Even its name points to a millennial need to be free from traditional career-first definitions and rituals. The boutique chain Ace Hotel understands millennials’ craving for inclusion and curation, too, but through music. Ace’s London location features regular concerts and nightlife events; its New York site is slowly pulling DJs into its lobby. The approach is a new aim for a hotel chain: Entice millennials with events that speak their language — giving them something to be part of — and they’ll stay with you. 

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