Travel managers today need skills that go beyond the ability to book accommodations and transportation for business travelers. They need to adapt to changing workforce demographics—a task that requires flexibility, empathy, and a greater reliance on technology.
What today’s workforce looks like
As general workforce demographics shift, the population of business travelers is changing. Here are 3 of the biggest changes:
- Full-time retirement rates are decreasing. The number of employees who expect to work past the age of 70 has almost doubled in 7 years, from 17% in 2010 to 32% in 20171. One-quarter of business travelers in the US are over age 552.
- Millennials make up roughly 30% of US business travelers3 and have a more fluid approach to work. They value mobility and new experiences over structure and routine. As a result, they’re more likely to switch employers, take extended breaks from work, and try to blend work responsibilities with leisure time.
- The workforce is becoming more diverse. Business travelers today are more representative of the general population.
A changing workforce has changing needs
Successful travel management requires supporting business travelers and their different needs. To do that, travel managers have to consider a number of factors about a traveler when planning trips, including these:
- Physical needs
- Travel preferences
Older business travelers, for example, might need to take a direct flight to their destination, spend a full day regrouping after a long travel journey, or get around using a hired car instead of relying on public transportation.
Pregnant travelers or those with disabilities may need special accommodations or seating on the flight to ensure their safety and comfort. Younger travelers, on the other hand, might be more inclined to fly economy or cover a multiple-day conference.
In addition to accommodation and transportation needs, employees have different preferences for scheduling and planning. Travelers who are married or have kids may want to keep their trips short, while single travelers are more likely to combine their business travel with vacation time. And many travelers, particularly millennials, would rather stay in a local apartment than an international hotel.
A growing number of business travelers also prefer to play a role in the planning and booking processes. To ensure they get the experience they desire, these travelers want to use self-booking tools that give them more autonomy and options.
Accommodating various employee needs and preferences requires flexibility and strategy on the part of travel managers, especially when setting parameters around budget and timeline for employees who use self-booking.
Cultural context plays a role
Considering a business traveler’s needs is just one part of the equation. Travel managers also must look at the destination.
Cultural differences may pose safety concerns for business travelers. In many countries in Africa and the Middle East, for example, being gay is considered illegal. Countries that have high rates of violence toward women, as well as countries that see high instances of faith- or race-based hate crimes may not be safe for certain travelers.
Plus, depending on the language and customs, some areas may be more difficult to travel in. For instance, sending someone who only speaks English to a country where English isn’t widely known can cause issues.
To ensure the safety and well-being of business travelers, it’s crucial for travel managers to consider each destination’s cultural expectations, laws, safety concerns, and customs.
The future of travel management
Going forward, travel managers should be prepared to adjust their business travel processes and policies to meet the needs of a changing workforce. In addition to improving self-booking technology, managers need to work on empathizing with a more diverse workforce and practicing cultural awareness.
Download our ebook to learn more about the future of travel management.
1Willis Towers Watson, 2017/2018 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, November 2017
2,3GBTA, The US Business Travel Industry: Business Travel’s Impact on Jobs and the US Economy in 2016, July 2017