Millennial Movers and Shakers
How does the 25-and-under businessperson travel differently than elder generations? In just about every way.
There is change afoot in the business travel world — more and more hotels, airlines, restaurants and bars are catering to the next generation — the Millennials. Travel spending by younger travelers rose 20 percent in 2010, making them the fastest-growing age segment, according to American Express Business Insights. Twenty-four-year-old Javier Hernandez, an associate with the non-profit consulting firm FSG, travels for work from his San Francisco apartment at least three times a month. And when he departs SFO, he can't leave without his laptop, his Smartphone and...gummy bears. "They help give me sugar when working on airplanes," Hernandez says. And maybe there's some comfort in sweet familiarity.
Twice a week, every week, 24-year-old Carolyn Gierer flies from New York to Charlotte, NC as an associate at Emanate PR which represents Bank of America among other clients. During these weekly trips, Gierer's picked up on the differences between her age group and older business travelers. "I get to the airport much later than they do — I'm the last person running onto the plane while they tend to arrive early," Gierer says. She's also noticed that while she likes to settle into her seat with her headphones on, laptop or iPad in her lap, the elder travelers around her sit reading paper things — like newspaper or a book. This seems unnatural to the millennial traveler, the Road Warrior born with a Facebook page. While most "elder" business people are not luddites, they are more likely to close shut down their laptops on a flight. According to Deloitte's annual business traveler survey, young business travelers are the markers of evolving business travel: "Younger respondents, ages 18-44, are expected to travel more frequently in 2012 than older respondents, aged 45 and older." The Plaza Hotel in New York, courting the younger generation, has even placed iPads in each room to control lighting, order room service and read the morning paper.
But what distinguishes the youngest business travelers — the 25-and-under sect — from their older colleagues? It's not just technology — it's social behavior. And, according to the New York Times, this age group more often than not seeks innovative and off-the-wall attractions rather than comfort. Twenty-five-year-old Alex Wall, the founder and CEO of Avant Creative, a web advertising company, has already logged over 20,000 travel miles in 2012, traveling most frequently from her Fort Lauderdale oﬃce to Chicago, New York and Austin. Deloitte's survey also says there are three main areas where business travelers from different generations differ: brand loyalty, social space (where people are working and socializing) and technology. Vice Chairman and Deloitte's Travel Industry Leader Adam Weissenberg said, "Older folks have been through so many years of price fluctuation that they often look for the best price regardless of brand, whereas younger travelers are clearly taking advantage of loyalty programs — which companies offer which promotions, which deals you can get, which levels get you what amenities, etc."
Gianna Cesa, 24, an account executive with New York City-based Behrman Communications, is loyal to the W Hotel and the Starwood brand in general. "If there's a W hotel, I will stay there." Cesa says.
Jon Marshalla, a 23-year-old business technology analyst for Deloitte and a Minneapolis resident, agrees. "I usually go with Starwood hotels — Sheratons, Westins, Ws — because they're one of the best as far as rewards programs," Marshalla says. "Also Hyatt hotels because they're convenient and their rewards are good."
When it comes to social space, Weissenberg noted that older travelers are accustomed to the "formal, marble-column, big couches, grandparents' living room feel design" in a hotel lobby, that's often "not too inviting as somewhere to sit or have a community." Consequently, older travelers are accustomed to checking in, going to their room and remaining there to watch a movie or finish work.
But today's younger travelers, Weissenberg notes, "have grown up working in groups as part of a team, so they want lobbies and environments where they can go downstairs and hang out on a couch or comfortable chair and have Wifi service, snacks, cocktails and TVs — even if they don't talk to anyone around them."
Younger travelers like 24-year-old Danielle Hale, a Behrman communications account executive who often flies from New York City to Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, bring their iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Mac laptop on each trip.
"A lot of business travelers like me were raised on technology, and we trust it," Wall says. She also utilizes TripIt for her business travel. As the website says, "TripIt drags traveling, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century." The travel organizer helps frequent young travelers like Wall keep track of her expenses, miles, confirmations and flight check-in. "So many young entrepreneurs like myself love it," Wall says. The next generation of business traveler isn't just plugged in to every portal — they're looking for a little adventure with their business dollars, a trip that includes mixology, high-design and food from rock-star chefs and the hospitality industry is responding in kind.