For employers, understanding the needs, expectations, and habits of the next generation of workers is crucial to their future business success. Millennials – the generation born between 1980 and 2000 – have unique tastes and habits. By 2020, millennials will comprise half of the global workforce. They are intrinsically tech-savvy, socially minded and according to the 2015 GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment Index™ nearly twice as likely to want to travel more for business than Baby Boomers. In fact, Boston Consulting Group forecasts that by 2020 millennials will account for close to 50% of all business travel spending.

So how are millennials changing the nature of business travel now?

Bleisure travel redefined

For millennials, the line between their personal and professional lives is often blurred, with increasing numbers working from home or working flexible hours. For some, this means working in the evenings and engaging in leisure activities during traditional work hours. Millennials have embraced this flexibility and freedom, especially when it comes to travel, often extending their business trips to include leisure days or experiences. As long as both employer and employee are able to clearly articulate from a policy and insurance point of view where their respective responsibilities lie, this trend can be seen as very positive overall. Providing such flexibility and potentially downtime often results in more productive, engaged and loyal workers in the long term. In fact, we are starting to see top talent make career decisions around companies that offer flexible and favourable travel policies.

Customising the travel experience

With millennials, the notion of being “traveller centric” is more important than ever before. Millennials aren’t shy when it comes to spending while travelling for business, however they are still savvy and constantly seek value for money. They want to connect with their social networks for feedback, then shop around and go with the deal that is not necessarily the cheapest but perceived to be the best value. They also reserve the right to earn, and burn, their loyalty points in the business environment.

From a company point of view, providing millennials with some flexibility and freedom to make their own business travel choices, within specific parameters, can be beneficial. By pre-negotiating rates with a variety of airlines and hotels, there is greater scope for millennials to select the option that best suit their needs, within policy.

The rise of the sharing economy

This love for value and freedom of choice are two of the main drivers behind the growth of the sharing economy. Millennials have a passion for unique experiences and are not confined, in particular, to traditional transport and accommodation options. In addressing this trend, American Express Global Business Travel was one of the first business travel management companies to form an agreement with Airbnb.

Our customers want to provide their travellers with options beyond traditional hotels; however travel managers have valid concerns around safety and security, cost, licensing and taxes, employment practices, and data. To manage these concerns, American Express Global Business Travel can now also integrate data from Airbnb bookings into our data environment to enable corporate reporting as well as traveller tracking that supports duty of care responsibilities.

Technology driving new business travel expectations

Millennials are the first generation of true digital natives – many can’t even remember a world without smart phones, laptops or the Internet. Ironically, despite all the technology available at their fingertips, they still prefer face-to-face meetings to get business done, according to the 2015 GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment Index™.  This tells us that travel will continue to be a key enabler of connectedness for the millennial traveller.

Millennials also rely on technology for the entire travel booking process – from online reviews to mobile booking and check-in to staying connected to friends in a new city. As a result, if the entire business travel ecosystem can be completely seamless and mobile-friendly, the millennial traveller experience will be greatly improved.

The unique habits and expectations of the increasingly important millennial generation will shape the travel industry for many years to come. It will be exciting to see how the industry embraces technology and innovative thinking to serve them in the future.