At the Business Travel show in London a few weeks ago, in all the confabulations, seminars, talks and discussions, the undercurrent of having to deal, in a very near future, with a brand new and different breed of business travellers was quite evident.
In an interesting presentation, Business psychologist Tony Crabbe described it rather well. The Boomers generation focused on celebrating the charm of the sixties during that time and then ruing and missing it till they all started turning 60 plus within the last decade. The Gen X brigade, he indicated, spent the nineties whining about the Boomers, remained cautious and circumspect for the next decade and has now started whining about the Millennial and their brash bravado. No wonder, it is the Millenials who are leapfrogging and shifting gears of business with striking regularity almost every year in the last ten. While his might be an amusing way of putting it across, the trends knocking on the door are clearly about the complete makeover of travel as we knew it and it is driven by the smart phone toting, Facebook generation of business travellers.
In India, given its burden (and strength) of ideas spanning past centuries, understanding and assimilating the quick turning around, morphing and evolving world of the new business traveller can turn difficult for many businesses. Therein lies the danger of not being ready for the future challenges.
One can see clearly, the emphasis we proudly lay on our ‘demographic dividend’. In the travel business, we are dealing with a hugely wider context. While the window for capitalising on the country’s youth now has a window of less than a decade, the dealing with Millenials as future business travellers is quite another challenge.
Inbound, domestic or outbound, the millennial business traveller is marching in, strapped with communication gadgets, across a social media arena, armed with one new app for every new need and an irreverent attitude for too much form and function.
While holding their attention will demand constant change and update of strategy, the reliance on and quality of media will also get as strong as the message. Business travel might soon be more, even all, about ‘Bleisure’. Bleisure trips that combine business and leisure are rising fast as a common form of travel worldwide, according to a new report from BridgeStreet Global Hospitality. The stiff short trip might remain the same but ensuring repeats will need lots more since the line between business and leisure is all set to fade, especially in the context of the younger travellers. The definition of the idea that ‘business travel usually takes professionals and managers to places they have not selected themselves’ might need some reframing.
Internationally, surveys reveal that many between 26 and 35 years form the new breed; keen to spend more money than older counterparts on additional business travel benefits that offer convenience and comfort.
Today’s business travellers in general and tomorrow’s in particular will expect everything to be available digitally 24/7. Thus, we are seeing a rise in new services such as digital airline tickets, airport apps and digital membership cards for many services. The snob value of the starred hotels doesn’t rate that high for them and they would rather enhance their trips with added benefits like airport lounge access and travel concierge services. Today there are 17,000 travel apps in the market and they offer manifold ways to increase the travellers’ experience. Hotels are not the sole option for accommodation anymore. In keeping with travel styles, apartments are also preferred for business travel. Oakworld Worldwide’s new mobile app which has initially been made available in the USA is designed to enhance guest experience from before arrival through to departure. The app includes features such as use of GPS to provide recommendations on local amenities.
At the event, DUFL, the travel app that stores, cleans, packs and ships business travellers’ clothes and accessories to a specified destination won the first ever Business Travel Show Disrupt Award. It underlined the sort of services, attention and facilities the new business traveler will come to expect as routine. The growth and proliferation of similar services is now a given.
Travel companies have to look at their existing travel programme from such travellers’ perspective. Gone are the days when operators could quote a cost and be disdainful of questions of how the components added up to that price. No traveller today is content with what travel companies quote unless it is qualified by value add-ons and specific smart pricing. Instead of selling bargains, it is more business savvy to provide them the tools and information to make smart buying decisions.
The Boomers and Gen Y still rule the day, despite not being as dyed-in-the-wool gadget and tech freaks, but the fast rising tribe of Millenials are veterans at this game. It’s much less than a decade before they take over as tough new clients. It’s better to forearmed. Well, you have been forewarned. (The author is a freelance writer based in Delhi and a regular contributor for TravelBiz Monitor)