What drives millennial spending habits on business travel?

Millennials have outnumbered baby boomers and Gen Xers in the Canadian labor force since 2014, according to data from Statistics Canada. Born between 1981 and 1996, millennials grew up during the digital revolution, entered the workforce amid a global economic recession and have since competed with baby boomers for job opportunities.

While it's difficult to define the working habits of an entire generation, millennials are usually characterized by their comfort with new technologies, their desire for flexibility on the job and their ability to adapt to change quickly. Even though its oldest members are pushing 40, the millennial generation is often unfairly caricatured as inexperienced professionally and financially.

Considering the many differences between the world in which baby boomers came of age and the fast-paced business environment of today, it should not be much of a surprise that millennials spend differently when travelling for work.

How millennials are reshaping business travel spend

millennial bleisure travelCompared to baby boomers and Gen Xers, millennials spend 18 percent less on dining and entertainment when travelling for work, according to a 2017 report from SAP Concur. Millennials do, however, spend about three percent more on hotel amenities such as parking, Wi-Fi and room service.

Millennials also differentiate themselves from previous generations by their desire to explore the destinations they visit for business. Where a baby boomer may be content to fly into town, attend a meeting and fly back the next day, a millennial is more likely to look for memorable experiences in the new location. For this reason, many millennial travellers want to add leisure days to their business trips — also known as bleisure. Giving workers time to rest after a trip could positively impact their productivity upon returning to the office.

Millennials are also defined by their willingness to share resources with others. The sharing economy has evolved with millennials as they entered the workforce. Skift reported that 81 percent of surveyed millennials prefer ride-sharing services, such as Uber, to traditional taxis. Depending on the city and time of day, an Uber ride can cost significantly less than a taxi ride. Likewise, 67 percent of millennial travellers are interested in staying at a shared Airbnb listing during business travel.

How to support millennial business travellers

Millennials are quick to adopt new technologies, so they may get frustrated with out-of-date corporate travel programs that fail to utilize the latest digital solutions. Travel technology, such as a business travel app, combined with a flexible policy, can improve travel satisfaction rates among millennial workers. 

Traveller experience plays an important role, too. Recently, Skift reported that 34 percent of millennial business travellers continue to feel stressed out for three to seven days after a trip. Travel managers who support bleisure opportunities or find unique ways to reward travellers who reduce costs will benefit the organization's overall travel budget. For instance, partnering with suppliers that allow travellers to keep their hotel loyalty points and airline miles could grow traveller satisfaction without increasing the company's travel cost structure.

Additionally, millennial travellers want to see development, which means they will champion progressive changes to the company travel policy. Aligning priorities between stakeholders and travellers can produce valuable results. Consider which channels your organization can use to allow millennials to provide feedback about your travel program and their experiences, such as a traveller satisfaction survey.