Let’s face it – business travel can be rather dull. Every detail is arranged for you and, while this is undoubtedly convenient, the inflexibility offered by a stringent travel policy often results in nothing more than a foreign business meeting punctuated by air travel and taxi rides.
Business travel in the modern age is thankfully changing, and it’s all down to one thing – the inner consumer we have within all of us.
What is the inner consumer?
The on-demand economy is thriving. Speed and simplicity now feature prominently in traditional services that are increasingly entering the digital realm.
To understand the inner consumer, you need look no further than the influence of online retail and the new breed of transport companies. They shape our buying behaviour by giving us ultimate control over our purchasing and transportation needs. Rather than driving to the local supermarket or hailing a cab, every action can now be undertaken by simply pressing a finger against a touchscreen or dictating instructions to a digital personal assistant.
Inspired by these new technologies, our inner consumers are increasingly making themselves known in the world of work – and often unwittingly. It’s why business travellers regularly venture outside of the company travel policy in order to book their own trips via methods that are convenient and familiar to them.
Our inner consumers encourage us to act like consumers, no matter whose money it is we’re spending or the reason for the purchase.
The effect of the inner consumer on business travel
Traditional travel programmes and natural, consumer-driven behaviour don’t always mix particularly well, but the inner consumer is something of an unstoppable force.
As a result, consumer travel habits are making their way into business travel requirements. They manifest themselves in a variety of ways, from the choice of accommodation to the desire to combine business and pleasure.
We think there are three key areas in which the inner consumer is changing business travel:
1) Hotel choice
For business trips of old, the choice of hotel would be relatively far down the list of priorities. A low room rate would be deemed vital and only the most basic of amenities catered for.
Now, our inner consumer demands a rather more homely experience with fast Wi-Fi, hotel gym facilities and close proximity to local attractions expected.
Choice is of course about personal preference. Leisure guests of today are used to having complete control over their hotel experience which is why such expectations are increasingly prevalent in business travel.
2) The dominance of mobile
At the Skift Global Futures forum, Booking.com CEO Gillian Tan told those in attendance how she expects 50% of all bookings to soon be placed on mobile devices. Such behaviour is clearly becoming intrinsic, which is why business travellers are increasingly reaching for their smartphones when booking a trip.
Our digital devices are never far from grasp, which is why they’ll beat any travel arranger in the race to reserve a flight or hotel room for work purposes. The inner consumer is driven by the convenience of mobile, and it’s therefore only natural that we head directly for our touchscreen companion whenever a booking needs to be made.
3) Combining business and pleasure
The millennial generation is the biggest ever and their desire to mix business and pleasure is fuelling an inner consumer that has given rise to the ‘bleisure’ trip. According to research, six out of ten travellers are more likely to take a bleisure trip today than they were five years ago.
The progressive nature of millennial workers and their attitude towards flexible and modern business travel is inspiring older generations (if also offering some troubling questions for travel managers). It’s now common practice for such travellers to add additional days onto business trips in order to enjoy some personal adventure. This of course raises concerns over the extended use of hire cars and questionable business expenses, but it’s yet another example of the inner consumer making itself known in the world of work.
Business travel is now focussed on flexibility and choice – two things that have been absent from business travel for far too long. The inner consumer isn’t just changing business travel, it’s challenging business travel.
It’s time to start communicating with your business travellers and accept that the inner consumer is changing the business travel market.