Online meetings might be convenient, but they are not a replacement for meeting clients face-to-face. Despite their connectivity and ultra familiarity with technology, Millennials see more value in business travel than their Boomer counterparts. In the recent Global Business Travel Association survey, it showed that 45% of Millennials desire to travel for business, which was nearly twice that of the Boomers (26%).
Also, the travel industry can be encouraged that 57% of Millennials believe that face-to-face meetings are better than technology for getting business done. I was pleasantly surprised by that percentage. This was a breath of fresh air for me, a Gen Xer brought up in a sales training and direct response world who had to transition and grow into new technologies.
My previous experiences with Millennials were to the contrary. Attending internet marketing conferences in the early 2000s exposed me to a number of Millennials who were very gifted in technology and programming, yet they seemed to be very hesitant about meeting in person. Most desired to limit their business dealings by using online meetings or the emerging social media channels. I had many conversations with young start-ups about the value of face-to-face meetings in their sales process, but it seemed to be discounted as “old-fashioned” in this new, digital age.
Fast-forward a decade, and this survey shows a change of attitudes for Millennials. It shows that they see business travel as a vital part of the economy, an important method of building long-term business relationships, and part of “making the deal.” In fact, 83% of all business travelers expressed satisfaction in meeting their goals through their travel.
Technology and connectivity are highly utilized by younger business travelers. Social media is an intricate tool for them. From travel and booking apps to reviews for hotels, restaurants, and amenities, Millennials are connected and expect constant access to the (smartphone) tools of the trade. For them, free wi-fi on a flight is more important than having to pay baggage fees. Conversely, Boomers prefer to eliminate bag fees (47%), and only 17% desired free wi-fi.
Millennials (46%) and women (39%) saw the greatest value in using social media for work and connecting with friends. Half of the respondents were neutral about this question, but it shows an interesting trend. It seems as though connectivity is not replacing face-to-face interaction, but enhancing it. Social apps and technologies are not replacing business travel, but enabling connected road warriors to continue relationships with friends, clients, family, and co-workers while on the road.
The importance of being wired into the workplace, accessing documents in real time, receiving updates, and even collaborating on the project to be delivered at the client’s office are enabling a new kind of workflow. The road warrior is no longer the independent loner. The new business traveler is constantly connected, receiving real-time information, and never out of the loop. As a bonus, all of the technology enables a closer relationship with one's family while traveling.
I’ll never forget the first video chat with my family while I was in China. It wasn’t that long ago that I had to use a pay phone if my flight was delayed. Yet, now my family was right in front of me in real time. It made the travel much easier and is still a vital part of my travel experience.
I love how far we’ve come technologically, and yet how many things, like business travel, are still vital to good business relationships. Realize the value of being there to shake someone’s hand, look them in the eye and get the deal.