THE MODERN BUSINESS TRAVELER lives in a world of opportunity. With travel trends growing alongside evolving technologies, anything is possible. However, while brands have made strides to meet even the slightest business travel needs and business trips are more customizable than ever, the root of the matter remains the same. Business travel is all about — and relies on — its human aspect.
After all, 42 percent of corporate travelers head out on the road with the main goal of developing and maintaining client and customer relationships. The statistic comes from the latest white paper from the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, which also points toward a greater trend in business travel of focusing on the needs of the actual traveler rather than just the client, using the resources available to turn a once-stressful form of travel into an enjoyable experience. Planning or overseeing your business travel, then, is not merely about getting in front of the client; it’s about making every step of the way as productive as possible, either on a business or a personal level.
Perhaps the industry can thank millennials for the inclusion of the traveler within the human aspect of business travel. According to one survey from MMGY Global, millennials took an average 7.7 business trips in the past year and expect to increase business travel by 11 percent in the coming year. Pushing the envelope further, more than half say an increase of 11 percent is not enough. They want even more travel, noting it has a highly desirable, positive impact on their job satisfaction.
Regardless of age, however, managing one’s own business travel comes with a special set of challenges which those working with a corporate travel manager don’t always encounter. From booking hotels and flights to following a corporate budget and reporting costs efficiently, preparing for the actual travel is only half the journey. Upon reaching the destination, one needs to think about ground transportation, client dinner reservations and emergency services, from travel insurance to evacuation. Beyond the hurdles, though, managing your own travel can also result in a high level of freedom most find beneficial, whether in terms of extending business travel into leisure trips or simply enjoying favorite airlines and hotel chains.
Emerging travel technology certainly makes this management easier, allowing easy booking on travel apps, mobile payments, paperless expense reports and more. Business travelers consistently choose brands which offer the best and newest technology, whether it be a hotel with free, fast WiFi and voice-activated room features (like those now offered at select Aloft locations) or those which allow guests to bypass the front desk by checking in on a mobile device before using that same device as a room key. If it makes the process easier, it attracts this crowd of intrepid globetrotters.
The newest travel technology specifically created for business travelers varies. A recent Global Business Travel Association Foundation study finds a huge increase in the use of any sort of self-service technology to manage business travel, with almost 80 percent of U.S. business travelers indicating a high interest. The more personalized the self-service technology the better, with many passengers even willing to offer up some of their personal information to vendors if it means a travel experience tailored to fit their needs. When it comes to apps, they’re most interested in travel tools that allow them to manage flight details, both booking and boarding passes; it’s no wonder that when given a choice, most business travelers would rather manage their air travel themselves than any other part of their trip (MMGY Global). Apps created to allow mobile payments also rank high on the list.
One segment of the industry in particular melds this desire for personalization and technology into the perfect offering for business travelers managing their own itineraries. The sharing economy, both in transportation and accommodations, is growing at an increasing rate, with the majority of business travelers preferring Uber or Lyft to a taxi service or car rental. According to an American Express Global Business Travel report, the growth in Uber and Lyft usage by business travelers may correlate to a decrease in using premium black cars and traditional car hires by those same travelers.
Airbnb data compiled by Concur from the first part of last year shows a particular increase in usage from business travelers in the technology and academia industries, which is no surprise given tech startups’ affinity for the sharing economy. Business travelers were also most likely to use Airbnb over a traditional hotel when staying in San Francisco — again, no surprise in the tech hub — and London.
However, all this technology and added tools for business travel and the management thereof, while vitally important, aren’t the only solutions for creating a more pleasurable, humanized business travel experience. More business travelers are looking for ways to not only combine business and leisure but also to bring along family members or loved ones as they attempt to manage business travel and their personal lives at the same time. Surprisingly, while millennial business travelers are much more likely to increase the number of business trips taken, they’re also the group most likely to see business travel as a hindrance to their family lives.
Thankfully for many, bleisure travel with or without loved ones is becoming more and more of a possibility. In fact, Concur suggests it may be one of the reasons Airbnb usage spiked. Taking a business trip out of the hotel setting can make it easier for corporate travelers to transition from work to play as they explore more residential, scenic neighborhoods away from financial districts and other places they may spend their work days.
Brands are certainly running with the trend, especially those that feel the need to compete with the sharing economy. Hotwire.com took the term and created its own — the “workventure,” which it applies to those American business travelers polled who are more “savvy, adventurous and spontaneous” than those who fail to “take full advantage of work travel.” According to one J.D. Power report, rental car companies see bleisure travelers as untapped opportunities.
Regardless of personal preferences and favorite travel providers, business travel is undergoing a mammoth change that tosses aside an outdated mode of travel — a one-size-fits-all business trip itinerary offering the same options, same brands and same problems time after time — in lieu of a unique and customized experience flexible enough to provide profits. Beyond corporate revenue, however, the new manner of business travel offers much more. New trends solve longstanding problems in the world of corporate travel by making the journey more satisfactory, through experiences such as bleisure travel, while also more convenient, through the ever-growing range of hotel, airline and independent apps. These changes and more are drawing in a new crowd of millennial travelers who both thrive on and drive the current trends. It all comes down to one rewarding actuality: Managing your business travel has never been so easy, rewarding or at your fingertips.
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