In 2019, business travel doesn’t look much like it did ten years ago. A younger, more tech-savvy workforce has emerged over the past decade and are demanding more bang for their working buck.
The corporate travel industry is having to evolve to meet these needs. Millennials are continually shaping the future of business travel—among other things we’re seeing this generation turning business trips into experiences and preferring self-booking. Companies need to be aware of these widespread trends in order to improve existing business travel policies, making them fit the rising need for freedom and flexibility demanded by younger business travelers.
Work-life balance: Motivation, not laziness
Millennials sometimes get a bad rep for being ‘lazy’ or ‘less motivated to work’, but really, they just have a different mindset when it comes to work. One of the biggest motivations for them is work-life balance. The traditional 9 to 5 desk job has become less appealing and instead, more people are looking for flexible working hours, the opportunity to work remotely, and the opportunity to travel for work.
Feeling valued: Millennials love business trips
This is a generation who want to feel valued. They want to have new opportunities and not feel stuck in the same environment every day. A lot of this stems from social media and the amazing images and opportunities to connect with different communities from around the world that people are exposed to everyday (think digital nomads).
It’s a very different mentality from previous generations, such as Gen X & Y that see business travel as a necessity rather than a perk, and are more concerned about leaving their families behind. Most millennials don’t have the same family commitments or ties yet, and see business travel as an opportunity to meet people and build networks, to be away from their desks, to see new places, and most importantly, to create new experiences.
Bleisure: Experience and work, side by side
Younger business travelers definitely want to explore more and when they go on a business trip, the chances are they’ll likely want to extend it.
However, though millennials are keen to extend their trips, many feel guilty about asking for extra days. In fact, a recent study by Hilton Hotels & Resorts showed that around 45% of employees have admitted to feeling guilty about it or worrying it would make them look bad to senior management.
This is an opportunity to stop that and make your business travelers happier and more motivated to do their job well, both in and out of the office. Outlining a clear travel policy where you actually encourage bleisure travel will lead to more satisfied employees, and ultimately, more productive business trips.
Self-booking: Adopting a ‘value for money’ mentality
While there are many options for booking business travel, Millennials have their own preferred method, and it’s the same one they’d use at home for a personal trip. It’s actually all about finding the best value, so it’s a win-win for you and your employee.
Millennials tend to use price comparison websites more and might look for ‘experiences’ over luxury so as to immerse themselves more in local culture for the duration of their trip. This interest in finding the best value for money won’t always translate to finding something ‘cheaper’ per se, but it does mean they look for bigger discounts or deals, sometimes preferring the likes of Airbnb to a soulless hotel room.
They’ll also do their own research to see what people are saying about accommodation and restaurants. Because high value is placed on experiences, millennials are reluctant to waste time and money going somewhere that won’t live up to expectation. Social media and peer review sites are key for younger travelers basing their trips on reviews and recommendations.
This is an excellent strategy for companies to embrace too. As people are starting to shy away from the ‘luxury hotel’ idea, companies can find ways to save money in embracing self-booking for their travelers. Allowing this type of freedom is often more affordable—more and more young business travelers are looking for shared accommodation to create more meaningful bonds with their colleagues.
Tech savviness: Using technology to keep in touch
When employees are traveling, you need to be able to communicate with them and share projects. With the likes of Google Drive, Dropbox, Slack, Zoom and Skype, there’s no need for people to be disconnected at any time. Airbnb’s and hotels are becoming more aware of this, and are providing better and more reliable Wi-Fi whenever they can.
However, despite being the online generation, Millennials do actually prefer face-to-face meetings. If they get the opportunity to travel for a meeting (even if it’s just going on a train to the next city), they would still prefer that to a call in the office. Technology acts as a complement to business travel in this case, but not as a replacement.
Just as the entertainment industry had to adapt to the way people wanted to consume content, it’s time for the corporate travel industry and companies to do the same with how people want to travel for business. Modern, productive business travel should seek to incorporate a good, end-to-end experience for travelers, from easy self-booking to options for bleisure travel either side of a work trip.
Business travel doesn’t need to be a burden for anyone anymore! Done correctly, it should actually help your employees become more engaged and aligned with your company which will, in turn, contribute to overall company success.