Ranks of Millennial Biz Travelers Growing
by Lark Gould /

To twist a famous Mark Twain quote, facts about the lives of millennials have been greatly exaggerated. Or have they?

Here is what we do know: By 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be under the age of 32, and millennials will make up half of all business travelers.

Recent studies of this demographic group—those born between 1980 and 2000—show they will travel more, spend more and continue to increase their use of technology, according to Sarah Kennedy Ellis, vice president of marketing and strategic development for Sabre.
“This is a group that owns smartphones (98%), sends texts (approximately 67 per person a day, not counting receiving), and uses travel apps in much greater frequency than their older counterparts. Some 18% of millennials are mobile only,” said Ellis during a presentation last month on “The Millennial Myth” at the  Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) convention in Los Angeles.

When it comes to millennials and business travel, “this is a group that will not choose to save money for the company when it comes to ordering the more expensive meal. They often play by their own rules so it takes a lot to figure out the policy that will work for them,” Ellis said.

Loyal to many
Studies on the vagaries of working with millennial employees abound. There are also a number of studies on millennials’ travel and brand-loyalty patterns.

One study released in late July by Deloitte’s Travel, Hospitality and Leisure (THC) sector found offering “unique rewards” or experiences to be a key factor in motivating millennials – especially when it comes to loyalty programs. The average younger business traveler these days is enrolled in nearly three hotel loyalty programs.

But “ultimately, there is a distinction between a customer who has enrolled in a loyalty program and a customer who makes regular, truly loyal use of the brand because of it,” said Guy Langford, vice chairman, Deloitte THC in a news release on the study.

According to the study, millennials would pay $41 more per night and travel up to 15 minutes out of their way to stay with their preferred brand, compared with business travelers in other age groups, who are willing to pay an extra $29.
“We can say loyalties for this group are up for grabs,” said Ellis. “These travelers are not yet invested with specific companies. But they can be loyal; they’re just not invested yet.”

Perk or expectation?
The Deloitte study also noted that millennials don’t consider wi-fi a perk, but rather an expected part of a stay and one that ranks along with cleanliness and comfort in importance.

The average millennial business traveler checks ten online sources before booking and prefers feedback from social media and review sites (24%) to recommendations from family (16%).

Similarly, a recent poll of millennial business travelers by Chase Card Services found that millennials, more than older travelers, are likely to seek out hotels with luxury services such as dry cleaning (32%), massage or spa services (30%), and pet-friendliness (23%).

Millennials are also more likely than other travelers to want to meet other people staying at their hotel (57%).

Brand heritage vs. brand heresy
Ellis and Christine DiDonato revealed a few other behaviors that set millennials apart from older business travelers. DiDonato, founder of Career Revolution Inc., co-presented the “Millennial Myth” session at GBTA.

For millennials, “brand heritage can easily become brand baggage,” said DiDonato. “Millennials will interact with a product that meets their unique needs as those needs evolve. That means that if they prefer a high-end product, that product might gain more traction if it is offered, for example, through a vending machine at the airport.

“There is a demand for instant results and an expectation for on-demand services. And there is a desire to experience as much as possible, creating a tendency to cram multiple experiences into one place and time. They love to multitask.”

Go-go generation
Millennials’ influence in the hotel space is reflected in such designs as wired lobbies with co-working spaces (as Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, and InterContinental have showcased) and grab ‘n go dining options that seem to be preferred over room service.

When it comes to air travel, millennials will pay extra to spice up their onboard experiences with free-flowing alcohol, snacks and other perks, according to a study released in 2013 through Hipmunk, a travel deals site.

But millennials would also be happy to be seated near the restroom if it means paying lower fares, the study found. Millennials also tend to be last-minute bookers.

“Airlines used to live in a world where the only things that mattered were fares and schedules," said Adam Goldstein, CEO of Hipmunk. "Millennials show how the industry is shifting. Tech-savvy travelers care more about the in-flight experience."

We can say loyalties for this group are up for grabs. These travelers are not yet invested with specific companies. But they can be loyal; they’re just not invested yet.

Sarah Kennedy Ellis, Sabre