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Bleisure: How Millennials Do Business Travel

Written by Mandy Voisin

Bleisure. It’s a real thing and it’s how Millennials are choosing to do their business travel. This 18 – 36-year-old demographic have been mixing things up since 1980, and (as many of them are now part of the workforce) they are blurring the lines between business and leisure, especially when it comes to traveling.

And that matters. Because according to a recent report from Skift, which covers travel industry trends, Millennials now take more business trips than any other generational age group. Meanwhile, the Boston Consulting Group estimates that by 2020, Millennials will account for 50% of all business travel spending. So it’s more than likely that their style of the work trip will become the new norm for business road warriors.

And what can we expect this new norm to look like? Well…

They Merge Work & Life on the Road

For most Millennials, the line between work and life is blurred, with many opting to clock in from home or keep flexible hours. And HR departments nationwide are scrambling to accommodate. A recent PwC report shows that a work/life balance is the primary driver for work engagement as well as organizational commitment for Millennials — even more than financial reward. So it makes sense that a business/leisure balance is also important to them in regards to business travel.

They do this by adding an extra day or two to their trip (even dipping into their vacation time) to pad out their time in a new destination, instead of arriving just before their meetings and leaving as soon they’re done. According to one survey, 81% of millennials surveyed said they would probably add extra time to a business trip (versus 56% of GenXers and 46% of Baby Boomers).

And what are they doing during their bleisure time? According to a 2014 report by Bridgestreet Global Hospitality, the three most popular bleisure activities are: sightseeing, dining, and taking in arts/culture.

And while that might seem bad for business, according to American Express, as long as companies and employees are both clear on their responsibilities while traveling for work (“from a policy and insurance point of view”), the trend can be seen as positive overall. Employees are able to get what they want from their company, which is a good work/life balance with flexibility and downtime, and employers get more focused and engaged workers.

They Value (Brand) Loyalty (Rewards)

While Millennial workers aren’t known for being the most devoted to their companies, they are more interested in brand loyalty programs that will get them free or discounted travel than their older colleagues. According to the same Boston Consulting Group study that predicts that half of business travelers will be Millennials in 2020, young Millennials (ages 18 – 24) are three times more likely to report strong brand loyalty than their non-Millennial counterparts. And a 2011 report estimated that over 75% of millennials are members in a loyalty reward program of some sort.

And because most Millennial business travelers are doing their own booking, they’re able to choose where they spend their company’s money — which means they’ll earn loyalty points through business travel that they’ll then redeem for personal use.

They Like to Spend…and Save

No one would call Millennial business travelers cheap. A study from 2013 found that those business travelers aged 18 – 30 were 42% more likely to spend their company’s money on high-end meals than they would their own money (in comparison, those aged 46 – 65 were only 26% more likely to do so). What about room service? 37% of Millennials would spend their company’s money versus 21% of their elder counterparts. They’re also more likely to put flight upgrades on the company bill.

But Millennials are also more likely to save in other avenues compared to their more seasoned colleagues. They’re more likely to book their stay through digital lodging marketplaces like Airbnb or Aloft, where accommodations aren’t as expensive or glamorous as traditional hotels. They’re also more likely to spend less to get around, thanks to ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft, which can be cheaper alternatives to rental cars or using taxis.

While it is uncertain how the future of business travel will continue to be shaped by Millennials as more of them are put into roles that require traveling for work, one thing is certain: bleisure is here to stay. A little work plus leisure plus some reward perks for doing your job sounds like the way business travel should be done. And we’re loving it.

About the author

Mandy Voisin

Hey I'm Mandy. Writer, traveler, wife, mother, author, woman, over-sharer. I like to talk about the grit of travel, the beautiful, and the people that I meet.

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