Millennials, far more than their Gen X or Baby Boomer colleagues, want to travel more for business. For some, this is part of a love affair with the road. For others, it’s a realization that nothing – not even technology – can replace a face-to-face meeting.
Overall, according to a new U.S. study from the GBTA Foundation in partnership with American Express, 45 percent of Millennial business travelers want to travel more for business, compared with just 26 percent of Baby Boomers and 36 percent of Gen Xers. This is a substantial difference, which indicates that a generational and cultural shift may be taking place.
So what might be behind this travel trend?
The simplest answer is that many Millennials have fewer obligations than their older colleagues so it’s easier for them to pick up and go for a few days, a week or longer. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers clearly see the value of travel as well, but sometimes the difficulty of juggling family and work schedules makes travel more of a hassle than an opportunity. Millennials are also no more than 10 years into their careers, meaning many may have less disposable income and enjoy the opportunity to travel on someone else’s dime. Additionally 21 percent of Baby Boomers take more than 20 trips per year while only 16 percent of Millennials do, so they may be looking for the same opportunities to travel as their older colleagues. These aspects are very likely part of the answer, but Millennials’ embrace of business travel goes much deeper.
This generation has been traveling since they were born and have come to appreciate travel, whether for business or leisure. Travel, to them, is much more than about getting from place A to place B; it’s about creating an authentic experience.
Like their older colleagues, a majority of Millennials – fully 57 percent – see the value of face-to-face meetings and don’t believe they can be replaced by technology. To me, this is a clear indicator that Millennials get the value of business travel.
But once the job is done, they will likely want to get outside the bounds of the convention center, skyscraper or office park and experience the city they’re in, the way the locals do. They connect with friends (46 percent) and colleagues (33 percent) over social media, and some will make the city their home for just a few days. And it shouldn’t be a surprise when they post photos of their trip on Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat.
Millennials are much less likely to be willing to float reimbursable expenses on their personal credit cards than their older peers, as 62 percent of overall travelers compared to 53 percent of Millennials were satisfied with personal card use to pay for business travel expenses.
On the other hand, Millennials are less concerned than others about some of the downsides of travel – the security lines, the baggage fees, the delays. Give them (free) Wi-Fi, and they’ll be just fine. When asked to select one amenity all airlines should offer, 52 percent of travelers overall rank getting through security above all airport amenities, while only 35 percent of Millennials found this most important compared to 59 percent of Baby Boomers. On top of that, 54 percent of Millennials want free Wi-Fi at the airport compared to 44 percent of Baby Boomers.
So the full snapshot indicates that Millennials have really embraced business travel. Yes, they’re doing it their way, relying heavily upon technology and their extended social networks, but they are ready, willing and able to drive business results from the road.