Generation Y business travellers: a hugely important and influential demographic that companies should be more aware of. Why? Well, these 20-30 year old employees are already influencing the workplace due to sheer numbers: within the next decade, Gen Y will represent the majority of the UK working population.
But their numbers aren't the only reason they're important. These younger members of the workforce have very different traits from that of their older counterparts. Specifically, they are what I call 'always on' - heavily dependent on technology, expecting information to be readily available, on multiple devices, anywhere, any time. Their constant trawling for information has had a massive impact on most industries, not least the leisure travel industry, from the rise of review websites such as TripAdvisor, to shared accommodation in private homes via Airbnb. Slowly but surely, these behaviours are being reflected in business travel habits.
This changing workforce demographic poses a number of challenges, not only for businesses with travelling employees but also the hotels, airlines, and other travel providers that serve their travel needs. These companies need to adapt their offerings - and in turn the way they produce and sell their offerings - to ensure they are tapping into this new breed of business traveller.
I have a few key insights about this generation that highlight their differing needs and characteristics:
- Gen Y feels at home in the digital world. They are more than twice as likely as older groups to use aggregator sites such as Hotels.com and Skyscanner.net to research and book travel, relying on simple icons and photos to show features at a glance.
- Despite their reliance on technology, Gen Y still values in-person contact and is more likely to say it's essential to have a face-to-face business meeting, even if it means travelling.
- Just as they comb review sites when booking holidays, the majority of younger business travellers would want to see pictures and reviews from other business travellers.
- Gen Y travellers look to save money on leisure trips by booking shared accommodation through companies such as Airbnb, and more than half of them would consider doing the same when travelling for business (versus only 18% of older travellers!).
It's clear Gen Y is used to having information at its fingertips - and often uses that information to find the best deals or to experience a destination like a local, not like a tourist, whether travelling for business or pleasure. This is something travel providers will need to take into account. Cost will of course remain a vital role in business travel, but access to quality information and excellent service will help capture market share amongst this new, more discerning type of traveller.
We gained this insight through research with key industry player, the UK's Guild of Travel Management Companies. Through this research, one thing became very clear: as Gen Y becomes a larger proportion of the workforce, business travel itself will need to change to better meet their expectations. Adapting the service offering, opening the floodgates to relevant content, and demonstrating value for money are all expectations of today's and tomorrow's business travellers. By recognising the changing demographics of the traveller, the industry can continue to build bridges with both new and existing customers, whatever their age.