Keeping up with the Asian millennial business traveller

Millennials, Strawberry Generation, Generation Y – whatever you might call them – is a segment of our society that is getting a lot of attention at the moment.

Born approximately between 1980 and 2000, millennials are quickly becoming the dominant generation within the workforce, rising into leadership and decision-making roles.

By 2025, millennials will account for 75 per cent of the global workforce , and Asia Pacific (APAC) will be home to 60 per cent of them by 2020. They are already the most frequent business travellers, and both employers and travel suppliers will benefit from understanding and adapting to their expectations.

More than the generations before them (Baby Boomers and Generation X), millennials thrive on a sense of purpose in their work. They crave autonomy, flexibility, personal fulfilment and empowerment. As their numbers grow, the culture they create will inevitably permeate every business.

Millennials continue to disrupt the travel industry, and the business segment is no exception

A big APP-etite for technology
APAC is ranked first in the world for the growth of smartphone traffic to the Internet. APAC also claimed the top spot for app revenue in 2016, which is expected to double by 2020.

Technology is very closely associated with the millennial generation; and is significantly impacting the dimensions of business travel – particularly in APAC which is home to many ‘mobile-first’ markets.

The expectations of these highly-connected ‘Digital Natives’ are rapidly evolving. Gone are the days where business travellers carry large suitcases filled with work documents. The new millennial business traveller travels light. They are highly dependent on their mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, ‘phablets’ and smartphones to improve their productivity and efficiency while on the go. They are also heavily engaged by social media, turning to mobile communication tools first to keep in touch with family, friends and business counterparts around the clock.

Travel suppliers must engage in digital and mobile-first strategies to reach modern and increasingly younger business travellers who are highly-dependent on their mobile devices for work and travel. Technology also presents many opportunities for businesses to empower their employees with mobile tools and solutions that enhance productivity and drive the topline.

Autonomy over their travel choices 
Millennial business travellers prefer autonomy – whether real or perceived – over how they travel.

Millennial employees want to have the option of being able to customise their own business travel journey according to their preferences. Loyalty programmes, such as frequent flyer and hotel points programmes, also impact their choices. Employees’ highly consumerised behaviour mean they book with their preferred suppliers directly, often resulting in non-compliance with their employer’s travel policy.

To combat this, employers must implement technology solutions that end users ― the travelling employees ― will find easy to adopt.

Booking tools and functions must be fast, intuitive and accessible via mobile devices, and offer a variety of options for transport and accommodation. If these tools are used effectively, data can be easily captured, allowing for smooth processing of expenses and for easily locating employees while are travelling in the event of an incident.

A new work-travel hybrid experience
It’s been well documented that those in millennial age group desire ‘experience over expenditure’. This has given rise to the idea of ‘bleisure’ (a combination of business and leisure). Bleisure is most associated with younger business travellers who want work-life balance, and to easily blend business travel with leisure by extending trips and bringing along family and friends.

Asian business travellers are in fact almost twice as likely to make a booking that includes a weekend (12 per cent) compared with their European peers (seven per cent).

Employers therefore need to make it easy for millennial employees to take advantage of business travel to enjoy leisure time, but must design travel policies that clearly define where business travel ends and leisure travel begins. Allowing younger travellers to have this flexibility will lead to greater employee satisfaction and can help to attract and retain talent.

What businesses and the travel industry can do better
The effective use of technology is the leading differentiating factor both travel providers and businesses can harness to keep pace with the ever-evolving customer. The travel, expense and invoice industry is rapidly evolving with advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data.

These advanced technologies are helping businesses save time, simplify tasks, and deliver richer, more personalised experiences today than ever before. And Concur is at the forefront of this technological revolution, championing innovation.

Currently in beta in the US, Concur Bot for Slack is designed to help employees tackle select travel and expense tasks directly from Slack. Users can interact with the Concur platform through a conversational interface, allowing them to request information about their business travel plans and submit expenses without interrupting their work in Slack. End-users can type a question like, “When is my next business trip?” and the bot will instantly respond with itinerary details.

Traditionally, APAC organisations tightly control business travel and spend. As travel decisions continue to shift into the hands of travellers themselves, businesses can foster greater internal policy-compliance, leveraging on the right technological tools to manage travel and expenses.

Businesses can attract and retain the best millennial talent by being more flexible and considering their needs and preferences when it comes to business travel – especially when it relates to the millennial desire for experiences.

Travel providers in their approach to this group of business travellers would foster deeper customer loyalty in the long-run, by tailoring their offerings to suit the highly-mobile, fast-paced and aspirational lifestyle that these young professionals lead.

Nick Evered is the senior vice president and general manager for Concur across Asia Pacific. He leads the sales and operations team in delivering innovative software technology solutions to meet customers’ needs.

Concur, a SAP company, is the global leader in travel and expense management. By connecting data, applications and people, Concur delivers an effortless experience for organisations providing total transparency into discretionary spend.

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