How Millennials Are Transforming Business Travel

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Millennials are changing the way companies think about business travel. Scott J. Brennan, president, hotels at Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), stopped by Travel Agent’s New York offices to share his thoughts on what corporate travel agents need to keep in mind when booking for Millennial travelers.

Mobile devices and the digital realm play a major role in how Millennials experience the booking process.

“It’s about creating a seamless digital experience so Millennial travelers can have everything in one place,” Brennan says, noting that it’s becoming essential to offer an experience that compares with what they may have encountered when booking leisure travel.

“For a long time we had focused on being a B2B product,” Brennan says, “But that’s not something a Millennial will have the patience to put up with.

Customization and personalization of a trip are key, too, especially when it comes to loyalty and rewards programs. Brennan says that CWT has updated its mobile app to offer business travelers air and hotel loyalty points for bookings that adhere to a company’s corporate travel policy.

“It’s about taking those supplier loyalty programs and using them to incent the traveler to be doing what they should be doing anyway,” Brennan says. “Instead of being beaten over the head by the CFO to do it, you reward them instead.”

Sharing economy services like Airbnb and Uber are becoming an increasingly important part of the business travel mix, but they are not as prevalent as with leisure travel.

“Not every client wants their travelers to make use of the sharing economy, especially when it comes to accommodations,” says Brennan. “What works for someone on a ski vacation with their family may not work for them when they’re coming to New York for two days for business meetings.”

The attitude towards the sharing economy varies by client, Brennan says, noting that many businesses haven’t fully thought through the safety and HR implications of such services.

“One big issue with safety is key control,” Brennan says. “But it’s also about thinking through questions like, ‘What is the policy for putting two men and two women under the age of 30 in an apartment with no locks on the bedroom door and a keg in the fridge?’ It’s about making sure that we, as employers and employees, aren’t taking risks that we shouldn’t be taking.”

At the same time, Brennan sees a continued place for the sharing economy in business travel, particularly when it comes to extended stays.

“It’s less about Millennials and more about the use cases,” Brennan says. “If I’m coming to New York for a month, maybe I want an apartment, or maybe I want an extended stay hotel. But in some parts of the world those extended stay properties aren’t really available.”

Brennan also notes that he sees an uptick in sharing economy use around major events and conventions.

“I think it will continue to grow as an alternative to traditional lodging,” Brennan says, ”But I don’t expect it to become predominant.”