Business Travel the Millennial Way
Millennials & Business Travel? There's an App for That..
We don’t need to tell you that the business travel landscape is evolving all the time, with fast-emerging technologies and a fresh generation of travellers with higher expectations and distinct travel habits.
There's little doubt that millennials, that vague generation of people who were born sometime between the late 80s and late 90s and who grew up as the first 'digital natives', are raising the bar when it comes to business travel.
How Millennials do Business Travel
According to a recent survey by Amadeus, they typically travel with as many as seven gadgets, prefer to do their own travel planning and are three times as likely to stay in AirBnB-style accommodation than older travellers.
A host of start-ups have popped up with apps and services providing modern business travellers with simple hacks to save time, travel more efficiently, and wring maximum enjoyment from their business or 'bleisure' trips.
Rich Pleeth is one such traveller. The former Google marketing chief has notched up over 130 business flights in the past two years.
Constantly finding himself in a new city or airport with surplus downtime he was keen to find a way of meeting up with nearby friends without resorting to the rather cyber-stalkerish 'Find my Friends' feature on Facebook.
His solution was setting up Sup in November 2015, an app which makes spontaneous meet-ups happen effortlessly and has swiftly picked up 35,000 users.
Says Rich, 'We millennials hate to plan stuff, we have high disposable income and we much prefer spontaneous meetings. FOMO, or ‘Fear of Missing Out’, is a real scourge! We can't really imagine a world where we can’t easily locate our friends.'
Rich notes that many younger, web savvy entrepreneurs don’t have assistants and tend to book their own travel and find the best deals. But travelling for business is not always all it’s cracked up to be, according to Pleeth:
'Business travel might sound glamorous, but the reality is that you do spend a lot of time hanging around, killng time at boring airports. Apps like ours help you maximise that dead time.'
Upgrades and More
The new breed of business travellers seek value and convenience, but are still happy to splash some company cash when needed. A Boston Consulting Group study found that millennials are 60% more likely to buy flight upgrades for extra legroom or in-flight entertainment for instance, while they spend almost double on room service than 40+ travellers.
And millennials soon become wise to travel hacks that make the whole experience more streamlined and efficient, as Pleeth notes:
'As you travel more, you get into a certain routine. Efficiency is everything. I'm always amazed by the sight of people just wandering aimlessly around an airport! I never check in luggage these days, I always try to sit in the first few rows of a plane for a swift escape and I expect to be able to check in on my 'phone too. Ironically enough, I've actually come to relish my time on the plane. I switch everything off - so no one can get me while I'm in the air!'
Table for One?
Susi Wisniewski of TripLinks arrived at a similar destination, via a slightly different path. This former publishing executive and frequent business traveller drew inspiration from 'Join Me', a forum and mini-social movement set up by comedian, author (and Dave Gorman cohort) Danny Wallace to welcome new people arriving in her home town of Edinburgh.
Her primary motivation was to create an app that combats the loneliness of the perpetual traveller, by helping business travellers meet locals and others for platonic meetups on the road.
While it's true that some millennials use dating apps like Tinder to make local connections and some articles have exposed the sleazier side of couchsurfing in recent years, Susi stresses that Triplinks is not about hook-ups, but is all about innovative ways to forge meaningful connections, make new friends and build empathy.
'We don't use any matching algorithms and all communication takes place within the app, for total peace of mind. You can search for other travellers near you by location and either join events or start your own. Businesses are starting to come on board now too and offer tailored events, so if you're in New York and you fancy somewhere to watch the footie in a group, you might find a bar that's happy to spontaneously offer that.'
Susi feels that the demands of millennial travellers are very much setting the pace in the business travel arena:
'Increasingly we expect any potential pain point we have to be solved by an app, ' she says. 'Thanks to the likes of Uber and Deliveroo, we've come to expect a solution and are quite surprised when there isn't one, whether that's a service to deliver us a clean shirt when we need it or a way to make the most of your time when travelling solo.'
No Baggage Required
One such pain point is the pesky business of travelling with heavy luggage in tow. Enter AirPortr, a service which will deliver your luggage from any one of three London airports to your accommodation at a time of your choosing.
Their CEO Randal Darby recently spoke at the Millennial 20/20 Conference and sees his service as being right up their alley.
'Savvy millennial travellers know how to maximise their time, something that AirPortr helps them do seamlessly. Our service lets you travel around London totally bag and care-free, so you can better enjoy your experiences as a visitor. Of course it also helps you be more productive, whether you’re exploring the city or cramming in some extra meetings.
We find it helps our customers travel in more sustainably, by jumping on public transport or walking when possible – without their bags in tow.'
Lounges and concierge services play a key role also. Younger business travellers use the former to have a quiet space where they can use reliable Wi-Fi, make calls, catch up on some low intensity work and refuel without wasting money on overpriced airport eateries.
Travel blogger Maggie O'Toole of Planes and Champagne says, 'Lounges can be a godsend, especially when you're delayed. I usually aim to arrive at the airport several hours early to make the most of them when I'm flying long-haul. I like the odd spa treatment beforehand to get me in the mood for a long flight. Certain lounges such as Etihad in Abu Dhabi are fantastic - they have hairdressers, nail salons, beauty spas, you name it!'
Millennials take great pride in their gadgetry too, so much so that the phenomenon of 'flashpacking' is now a well-established travel trend. Some key gizmos in the new road warrior's armoury include kindles and tablets, DLSR cameras, high capacity chargers, Fitbits, GoPros and noise-cancelling earphones.
Then there are the multitude of travel apps which tend to be championed by these early-adopting millennials. An exhaustive list of these deserves its own article of course, but some of the stalwarts include XE, Skyscanner, Expedia, Skype, TripAdvisor, and messaging app Slack, alongside many airlines' own apps.*
Whether or not you have this demographic in your sights, ignore them at your peril. After all, their habits and demands are likely to drive the future of business travel.
One of the things which we think sets us apart from other travel management companies is our industry-leading technology. Take a look at what we offer on this page.
*We conducted a mini-survey of younger business travellers for this article. If you’re interested you can view the results here.