Customizing the travel industry for millennials

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The travel industry is one of the largest businesses in the world and one that has always been robust. The images we associate with travel are that of leisure, recreation and time off, but a major chunk of the travel industry is also related to business. While the financial crisis of 2008 did pull back the reins on it with companies resorting to cost-cutting, the travel needs of the business are undying. In spite of the blow, the $1.2 Trillion market faced because of the crisis, with the recent disruptions in this field the market is set to increase to $1.6 Trillion by 2020.

The dawn of the digital age has led to more innovative, convenient and financially efficient options for business communication like video conferencing and live streaming, but the need for meetings in person hasn’t been met yet. Travelling to different locations to do, find, get more business is here to stay.

According to numbers from the Global Business Travel Association, the annual business travel has grown from $273.7 Bn to $341 Bn in the last 5 years.  On the other hand, the Oxford Economics Journal reports that for every dollar spent on business travel a company in the US earns 12.50 dollars in revenue, giving more companies the right motivation and incentive to have their officials travel more. The question here is, how can you drive your executives to catch early morning flights and work across geographies despite the jet lag?

As per a Forbes study, the millennial working generation, that will comprise of half the global workforce by 2020, has found the right balance between business and pleasure (#Bleisure). The 2017’s MMGY Global survey on American travellers states that 81% of millennial associates travelling for business are happy to do so, with professional satisfaction as a key outcome. Millennials are also the ones who are currently taking most of these business trips – almost 7.7% annually, and are expected to take 8.4% of all business travel in the next year (a sharp 11% increase).

Now that we’ve established that Millennials are definitely changing the how business travel works, how are they exactly do that? According to a BridgeStreet report, Millennials prefer work flexibility and often extend their business trips to include leisure days. Corporations are open to accommodating the downtime as it leads to a tremendous increase in employee productivity, engagement and loyalty. Hotels equipped with essential amenities and updated with the latest technology ensure that Millennials can take a break, while staying in touch with their co-workers, friends and family with just a few taps. The growing trend where transport (airlines, trains and even cars) and hotel websites are largely focusing on the comfort and luxury angle stems from here.

Millennials embrace the shared economy and value choice. Social media plays a crucial role in influencing their life choices, consumer habits, working styles and even their preferred means of business travel.  They rely on a variety of applications and web services to take advantage of deals, avail discounts, us web check-in and review their experiences. According to the Global Business Travel Association 2015 GBTA Business Traveller Sentiment Index, although millennials are the first generation of individuals that have grown up with an abundance of technology advancements, including but not limited to phones, laptops, and internet, they still prefer face to face meetings to get work done. They believe in the element of a personal connection and business relationships.

According to a Forbes report, more than 70% of the millennials admitted to spending money on travel and experiences over material goods. They are eager to extend their business stay at a hotel or B&B (like Sweet Field Manor) by a few days, at their own personal expense but would refrain from spending any money out of their pockets for room service during their business stay. It sounds complex but that’s the leading pattern. They even want different things from loyalty points from their corporate travel.

For employers, this only goes to show how important it is to link business travel to ‘incentive travel’ when it comes to Millennials, where ‘incentive travel’ still means business, but has been customised to offer a valuable ‘staycation’ experience. Having said that, while ‘Bleisure’ is fairly a new term, the concept of leisure travel has historically been included with business travel, and at times been extended to families since the baby boomer generation. Employers should focus on formulating effective strategies around this trend for a new segment of business travellers. As a company operating at a global scale, asking yourself the following questions is a good start:

  • Is it wise to established clear rules and guidelines for business travel and personal time?
  • Can millennial employees be trusted with balancing work commitments and personal time on their own?
  • Should companies allow travelling employees to club a few personal days to their business trip without making it a strenuous task of seeking permissions?
  • Should companies go a step further and tie up with hotels/airlines to streamline this process and boost employee benefits?

 

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