Since the earliest trade routes between cities, there have been business travelers. For millennia, there has been a steady change in business travel behavior and some of the most rapid change has occurred within the last 16 years. From web-based researching tools being little better than hit or miss to advanced booking options that have dramatically changed the world of travel, to travel agencies that moved online and self-booking tools plus a slew of other advancements, the world for corporate travelers has changed forever.
So who are the business travelers of the 21st century?
Modern business travelers span all age ranges but one of the largest segments of corporate travelers are the Millennials. For Millennials who barely can remember a day without the internet and who became adults during the advent of online travel agencies, self-booking tools, and smartphones, their concept of business travel is helping to shape the future of travel.
Something that spans all generations is the culture of business travelers and that culture is changing in surprising new ways.
One of the ways that the future of corporate travelers has changed is with the use of technology. Online booking tools have taken the world by storm and have supplanted some travel agents as the primary agent by which people find their flights. However, travel agents are not without their purpose anymore. One of the drawbacks of a near infinite amount of information is that it can begin to clutter your options. This is just as true for individuals as it is for corporate travel.
Many businesses to spare themselves the hassle of paying an employee to book their own flights and accommodations will either act as the employee’s agent or pay an agency to set everything up. This allows for the corporate executives to have a professional level of care for each step of their business travel.
Another way that technology has changed corporate travel behavior is in its ubiquity. It is truly everywhere and because of that, its benefits can be applied at every stage of travel. For instance, you can book a flight and hotel on your phone, scan a digital plane ticket on your tablet, read emails and draft business plans with in-flight Wi-Fi, use Wi-Fi calling or texting on location to have your ground transportation ready, use a smartphone app to work out the exchange rates, translate languages, plan your schedule, automatically update you on any changes, and even pay for portions of your trip digitally. At every step, there is either a device or an app to assist you along the way.
But what does the future of this kind of life – with travel and technology syncing – look like?
It could look a lot like an app concept that was brought up at a recent interview between Marriott International’s global brand officer Brian King and Skift. In the interview, Brian King described a possible future app that would be like an intelligent automated assistant for people coming to a Marriott hotel or any of their other organizations. The idea is that you have a file open with them once you book, and the app begins to chart your progress. If your plane gets delayed or is arriving early, the app automatically updates your ground transportation so you are not waiting between exiting the airport and getting picked up.
If you come in late, the app lets the hotel know and if a room better suited to your preferences becomes available due to the delay, you may get an upgrade to something more reflective of your corporate stature. Going to be really late? This app could note that the driver is coming directly to your hotel so hotel staff could automatically be sent to make sure your room has a treat for you or even contact you if you would like room service to have a meal in your room ready for your arrival.
Although this kind of app does not yet exist, each of its core elements does and it will not be long before every corporate traveler has their own unique travel profile updated with preferences of food and lodging saved. The app will also be able to keep track of his or her travel progress to ensure a perfect trip every time.
Another common trait of the 21st-century travelers is that they make extraordinary use of the shared economy. Companies that cater to travelers like Airbnb and Uber have seen nearly double growth in the summer and they are just an indication of a much wider concept that business travelers like the auto booking tools but ultimately they also enjoy the human experience and would rather have a home and a private driver than a hotel or a taxi.
This idea of the shared economy, which has become very popular with younger corporate travelers, is changing the face of the industry. This is partly because it allows for greater convenience, which is one of the single greatest driving forces behind all business travel behavior.
So who are the business travelers?
They are the most technologically savvy, socially driven, shared economy smart travelers in the world today. They can go anywhere in the world utilizing apps and smartphones, no longer limited to places they have been before or languages they know already. The modern corporate traveler is truly a man or woman of the world.
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