Businesses are having to adapt their travel policies, practices and tools for the next generation of road warriors.
Whether it’s travel for vacation, to follow a dream or even as a way of life, millennials are forging our own ways of seeing the world. But there’s another group of millennials with a far less romantic view of travel. Yes, I’m talking about business travelers.
Even though we live in a time when video conferencing technology is pervasive, we all know it’s difficult to replace the effect of a face-to-face meeting, which means business travel is still a major part of working life for many people – millennials included. It’s a sentiment shared by Vision Travel Canada COO Brian Robertson, who recently spoke to The Reply about millennial business travellers.
Vision Travel is a travel management company that handles everything from corporate travel plans to more leisurely vacations and cruises. They’ll organize meetings and conferences from tens to thousands of attendees and even have a division that handles rewards and recognition programs.
Needless to say, they know travel.
What’s interesting though, is that Vision Travel’s recent survey of Canadian business travellers found millennials are changing the industry simply by doing what they are already doing so well — using technology.
Mobile Technology’s Effect on Business Travel
Robertson said the corporate travel industry is seeing two huge changes: one is the advent of mobile technology, especially applications for travel; and the second, perhaps slightly less tangible change, is how millennials are challenging their corporate travel policies.
One finding suggests, when using air travel, millennial business travellers spend 31 percent of their time in the air working. The results could certainly be interpreted in a way that speaks to the level of comfort millennials have with mobile technology — a measure of comfort that’s not shared by their Gen-X or boomer counterparts. But to provide a little context around that stat, Robertson says millennials are used to working in a mobile environment, and the availability of Wi-Fi in airports and on the plane make it even easier to get things done. “It’s almost like there’s no downtime when you’re travelling anymore,” he says.
Changing Corporate Travel
Perhaps even more surprising was the finding that millennials spend, on average, $431 on entertainment and expenses per day while travelling – nearly double what Gen-X and boomer business travellers are spending. Robertson said it’s an interesting statistic and notes many millennial business travellers are actually taking advantage of their corporate trips by turning them into mini-holidays – adding on an extra day or weekend to see the sights in the areas they’re visiting.
Taken together, these stats start to demonstrate how this generation is changing corporate travel policy. Robertson says traditionally, corporate travel policies have been structured around “dos and don’ts,” whereas today, many companies are opting for a more subtle tone — one that focuses on encouraging travellers to use certain tools.
So what does this actually mean?
Millennials might be used to using consumer-first websites to book travel, but they find the experience using corporate travel booking tools much less user-friendly. Robertson says that business travel tools are becoming better optimized for users, almost emulating what’s happening on consumer sites. In other words, millennials are pushing the business-oriented travel tools to become more like the consumer tools they’re used to using.
Similarly, we can to appreciate a good deal and we like to be rewarded for our loyalty. In fact, according to the Vision Travel survey, millennials are more likely than other generations to choose their airlines based on the loyalty cards they already hold. Robertson says we aren’t much different from other generations in this regard.
“…I think what’s different is [millennials] are used to booking in an online environment versus a full-service environment,” he says. “Younger travellers are more apt to be booking through the online tool than they are full service because they’re used to searching for everything [online] — whether it’s buying merchandise online or it’s booking hotels for their own vacation.”
This is where millennials run into the most trouble with corporate travel policies. Often companies need employees to book through specific tools so they can track their travel.
“The challenge is they don’t want them to go out to a consumer site and book travel, they want them to book through a site that is already set up,” Robertson says. “And those sites are becoming more user-friendly, they were cumbersome, but today, they are almost the same as a consumer site.”
Whereas previous generations might have picked up the phone or emailed their corporate travel provider to book a business trip, millennials want to do it all online, and they want to do it on any device.
“You want ease of use and convenience,” Robertson says. “That’s really why these mobile applications in travel are so popular now.”
For Vision Travel, which creates and hosts some of these corporate booking tools, Robertson says the key is always adapting to change. “We see that certainly younger millennial travellers are pushing the envelope and the [technology is] being adapted to become more user friendly — to become more mobile.”
Are you a millennial business traveller? Share your experiences below and let us know how you’re using technology on the go.