Millennials, for better or worse, are disruptors. And there may be no industry more poised to take advantage of disruptive millennial trends than the field of business travel.
In 2016 global business travel spend increased 3.5 percent and approached nearly $1.3 trillion, according to the latest report from the Global Business Travel Association. Growth is expected to continue accelerating by an average of 6.5 percent each year until 2021.
For millennials, the last of whom will be entering the workforce in the next five years or so, business flights are expected to account for 50 percent of total travel spend by 2020. By that time, spending by baby boomers, a generation that remains an airline favorite for their steadfast brand loyalty, will shrink to 16 percent.
That means airlines and travel companies — at least those that don't want to be playing catchup over the next few years — need to start catering more to the preferences of the millennial consumer.
Millennials are twice as likely as baby boomers to want to travel for business. But they want to travel in comfort: Millennial fliers are 60 percent more likely to upgrade for extra legroom, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group. And as one might expect from history's first ever-connected generation, they are four times more likely to pay for Wi-Fi, twice as likely to watch downloads on mobile devices and 60 percent more likely to watch in-flight entertainment.
But don't be fooled. Millennials, especially those who are just entering the workforce, aren't high rollers — they're value hunters. They want to get the best bang for their buck at the moment of purchase. That's why millennials are far more likely to cash in on a flight deal or turn to their social networks for hotel advice than enter a long-term loyalty program.