Over the last few years, the habits of the millennial generation have often been considered in a isolation, not factoring the overall change of traveler behavior, preferences, and the influence of technology. But the fact of the matter is that these so called “habits” are not just part of a gradual shift—they are the majority of the working population’s predominant behaviors and norms right now. By the year 2020, millennials will make up more than half of the global workforce. And when it comes to traveling for work, they already account for the largest segment of business travelers, with one recent study stating that 38% of millennials travel for work, compared with just 23% and 8% of Gen-Xers and baby boomers, respectively.
So what kind of change is millennial travel driving within the business travel industry?
Tech-centric travel habits
Millennials are,the first generation to have their entire lives, or nearly so, so deeply influenced by digital technology. It’s perhaps the generation’s most defining feature: They’re “digital natives”, having been living in a connected world filled with smartphones and laptops ever since they can remember. And when it comes to travel specifically, digital technology plays a huge role.
The most important among these millennial travel trends is the fact that they’re driving demand for mobile capabilities. In the vast majority of cases, millennial travel is researched on mobile, and both flights and accommodations are booked on mobile. And, though the business travel industry lags leisure travel with mobile booking technology, it is certainly reacting to this growth in demand from millennial business travelers.
Trying something new
The growth and usage of mobile technology isn’t just a millennial travel trend, it’s also a key driver of other travel habits. Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed the sharing economy grow into an integral part of consumers’ daily lives, blurring the lines between leisure and business travel services and accommodations. As it begins to bridge the business travel gap, it’s millennials who are most comfortable utilizing these new services and technology. A survey of 1,650 travelers found that 74% of millennial business travelers had stayed in a vacation rental, like those provided by Airbnb™, while just 38% and 20% of Generation X and baby boomer travelers had, respectively. On top of that, 44% of millennial travelers surveyed actually prefer staying in these types of share-economy accommodations. This preference that’s forcing the hands of travel managers all over, bringing deeper integration into travel programs for companies like Airbnb and Uber™.
Business and leisure
Millennial travel is driven by the idea that trips taken for either business or leisure—or both—should be based on the preference of the traveler. Driving satisfaction and delivering new, valuable experiences. One study suggests that 75% of millennials are looking for travel experiences where they can learn something new. And these experiences should also be a part of business travel. The millennial travel trend that follows from these sentiments is the growth and prevalence of “bleisure” travel among millennials who travel for business. A survey found that 55% of millennial travelers were willing to extend a business trip for the sake of leisure travel. Many millennials are taking advantage of business trips to experience new places, and in doing so, it’s just one more way that millennial travel habits are changing the face of business travel as we know it.
So what do these millennial travel trends mean for your travel programs? In many ways, you may already be adapting to these different behaviors. Recognizing that the improved traveler service and satisfaction desired by many millennial travelers can also lead to improved performance and compliance, travel managers have sought to use more traveler-focused metrics, such as traveler net promoter score, or employee retention rates specific to your most frequent travelers, to measure the success of their programs and to justify improvements to service. It’s this interplay between traveler demand and your travel management’s efforts to accommodate it will shape the future of business travel.