By Sebastian Modak. Photos: Courtesy Airbnb.
They flew business class, were picked up by a car service at the airport, and taken to a hotel near where they’d be working for a few days. They packed suits. They were overwhelmingly male. In a time before worldwide digital interconnectivity, they were an elite subclass of businesspeople. They are the business traveler of yore; an archetype. It’s yet another trend disrupted by the millennial, that mysterious generation of upstarts typically grouped as those who fall in the 18-35 age group who get antsy when there isn't a screen within reach. In 2015, a Pew Research Center study found that millennials make up one-third of the American workforce, the largest proportion. And a lot of those workers are traveling: a 2016 report from MMGY Global, a travel and hospitality marketing firm who polled 1,007 business travelers from across generations, found that millennials took an average of 7.7 business trips over a twelve-month period—more than their older counterparts, Generation Xers who were born between 1965 and 1979 (6.4 trips) and Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, (6.3 trips). As hotels, airlines, and ride-sharing companies scramble to figure out what this new generation of tech-obsessed, sharing-economy-loving, frequent fliers want, a few key insights have started to emerge.
Millennials know business travel can be rough on family life…but they want to do it anyway.
It’s a trade-off that millennials are willing to take, according to the MMGY Global study: While 61 percent of them think that travel has “a negative impact on family life,” 48 percent wish they could take even more business trips. For Gen Xers and Boomers, the numbers are lower—40 percent of Xers and just 26 percent of Boomers agree that business travel negatively affects family life, numbers perhaps stemming from the fact that they tend to have older children. But still, only 29 and 15 percent of Xers and Boomers, respectively, wish they were taking more trips. Beyond the scope of business trips, millennials are generally more willing and ready to pack up and get out of their comfort zone: A 2016 study by Hipmunk, which polled 1,650 adults, found that while 49 and 40 percent of polled Gen Xers and Boomers, respectively, have valid passports, three-quarters of millennials do.
Goodbye hotels and taxis, hello Lyft...
To keep up with a rhythm of daily life, people tend to stick to their habits—even when they're on the road for business. So, considering the rise of the sharing economy (Uber, for example, completed a billion rides in its first six and a half years in business) it's unsurprising that more and more people opt for ride-sharing services over taxis or rental cars on business trips. In all, three in ten respondents to MMGY Global's survey used a service like Uber or Lyft while on a business trip, and millennials—those perennial early adopters who want everything one swipe away—lead the charge, with 81 percent of them preferring ride-sharing services to taxis, and 76 percent opting to hail a Lyft or Uber over expensing a rental car. The numbers for Xers and Boomers are in the low seventies for ride-sharing versus taxis, and 60 (Xers) and 54 percent (Boomers) for ride-sharing over rental cars.
...and home-sharing services.
The same trend can be seen developing around home-sharing services like Airbnb. Overall, just four in ten business travelers expressed interest in staying in a "shared accommodation," like those offered via Airbnb, while on a business trip, but when the bracket is narrowed to just include millennials, that number goes up to seven in ten. The reasons are diverse, with 50 percent saying it was because they wanted the feeling of being in a home away from home, 42 percent attributing it to staying in an "unusual" place, and 41 percent wanting to stay with locals in their neighborhood. It's a trend that extends beyond the workplace, too: The Hipmunk study found that 44 percent of millennials prefer Airbnb-style accommodations over hotels, with just 23 and 11 percent of Gen-Xers and Boomers feeling that way.
'Bleisure' is a very terrible word, but a very real thing.
In the world of unfortunate 21st-century neologisms, 'bleisure' is overlord. It's a combination of—you guessed it—business and leisure, and it describes the practice of tacking on a few days of vacation to a business trip, maybe inviting a friend or a loved one to join you, and taking advantage of the expensed round-trip flight. It's not necessarily a new practice, but it is on the rise, and millennials love it—so get used to it.
Back in 2014, furnished apartment-provider BridgeStreet Global Hospitality actually released a report in which the dreaded word is used a whopping 43 times. In that report, the researchers found that not only were the majority of travelers tacking some vacation on the end of their business trips (60 percent had taken a 'bleisure' trip at some point), but also that companies are feeling pressure from employees to put in policies that made those kinds of trips possible: 78 percent said that being able to add some vacation days to a business-related trip "adds value to work assignments." And leading the charge? You guessed it—millennials. MMGY Global found that 77 percent of millennials expected to extend a business trip into a leisure one over a 12-month period, versus just 58 percent of Xers and 43 percent of Boomers. Overall, extensions last between three and four days (although millennials are most likely to extend it up to a week) and; in six of every ten travelers, according to the same report, a business trip can serve as inspiration for a future leisure trip, too. After all, staying at a beautiful Airbnb in a funky neighborhood might make you want to come back more than if you're at some bland chain spot with four conference rooms and nothing within walking distance but an office park.
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.
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