Move over Millennials, Gen Z are (almost) all grown up. Born between 1997 and 2012, the oldest Gen Zers turn 25 this year, which means they are finished studying, entering the workforce, and reshaping the way people live, work and travel.
According to the workplace analytics platform, VergeSense, by 2025 Gen Z employees will make up 27% of the global workforce, and they’re bringing their expectations, experiences and values with them. There’s also little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an incredible impact on their lives.
What does this mean for business travel? Oz Desai, GM Corporate Traveller, believes that as Gen Z experienced the shift to hybrid work during the earliest, most formative years of their career, they’ll have a very different mindset to older generations.
“Gen Z are tech-savvy, highly motivated, independent and mobile. They have embraced a hybrid model of working and employers are going to have offer a certain level of flexibility in order to attract – and retain – key talent.”
The opportunity to travel is important to Gen Z, and Desai says companies will need to relook their approach to business travel, including redesigning their travel policies, as Gen Z becomes a force to be reckoned with.
From per diem allowances to hotel programmes and sustainability, Gen Z are having their say. According to Desai, these are just some of the changes we can expect:
The Expedia Group says that when it comes to corporate travel, “both Millennials and Gen Z travellers are capitalising on and saving for opportunities to extend business travel for leisure.” In fact, more than 66% of Gen Z are adding leisure to business trips, compared to 61% of Millennials.
“Bleisure guidelines are an increasingly important part of a travel policy,” says Desai. “Organisations will need to decide what constitutes leisure travel, who pays for what, and if the leisure portion of a trip is covered by the company’s travel insurance policy. It can become quite murky, so guidelines need to be clear, concise and easily understood.”
Gen Z are the first ‘digital natives’ who have little or no memory of a world before smartphones. This means that while older Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers book travel on their desktop (or over the phone), Gen Z use their cell phones. It’s a scary figure, but Expedia reports that more than half of Gen Zers use their smartphone for more than 5+ hours per day. They are constantly connected.
For Desai, this means that today’s travel programmes have to move with the times:
“Corporate Traveller’s AI-enhanced booking platforms are intuitive, quick and easy to use. More than that, they can be used on any device, which means travellers can save their travel documents; make changes to their bookings; receive itinerary updates; and receive travel alerts direct to their mobile phone. Gen Z are not only comfortable using technology, it’s how they want to engage, work and travel.”
Gen Zers love booking their own accommodation, love choice, and often want to explore different neighbourhoods and local restaurants when they travel.
“Unfortunately,” says Desai, “hotels are a big expense in the travel category. In fact, leakage (the term used when travellers book their own flights or accommodation) is the biggest threat to a travel programme’s performance. These bookings are difficult to track; making it impossible to keep a handle on your budget, optimise your travel programme or negotiate with suppliers.”
Luckily there is a simple solution:
“Work closely with your travel management company to curate a wide range of safe, vetted, on-policy and on-budget accommodation options. Travellers can still browse from a large selection of properties – but you’ll eliminate leakage; enjoy the perks and discounts associated with a hotel programme; ensure that stays are of a consistent standard; that you can track spend; and that you’re meeting your duty of care obligations. It’s a win for everyone.”
Inc. Magazine reports that 3 out of 4 Gen Z and Millennials plan their own trips based on food. They go as far as saying that for younger travellers, the chance to experience new and local food is as valuable as the trip itself. So whether “it is a trip to Cairo (delicious Kofta and Turkish Coffee) or Boston (New England Clam Chowder), younger generations will look for some foodie experience during a business trip.”
And while it sounds perfectly reasonable, it does mean that hotel room service or standard per diem allowances may no longer cut it. As employers consider 2022 itineraries, perhaps a street food walking tour or 5-star, Insta-worthy food experience should be at the top of the list.
“We know younger travellers prioritise activities and experiences,” says Desai. “So its always worthwhile chatting to your travel consultant to see how you can enhance a business trip – often they’ll be able to secure a few add-ons and perks on your behalf. Afterall, a happy, exciting trip is also a successful and productive one.”
Another imperative to address in your travel policy? Sustainability.
“Studies show us that Gen Z cares more about mental health, inclusion, racial equity, social justice, the environment, and sustainability than any other generation,” says Desai. “And their opinions on these issues have a direct impact on their travel behaviour.”
When it comes to sustainability, the days of greenwashing are over. Gen Z travellers will be looking for eco-conscious stays and suppliers – as well as exploring ways to offset their individual carbon footprint.
Desai says sustainability goals can be built directly into your travel programme, whether it’s looking at ESG (environmental, social, and governance) selection criteria for the procurement of new contracts; carbon offsetting schemes; or rewarding travellers who change their travel behaviour.
“Honestly, this generation is leading by example, and companies should be putting sustainability at the heart of their travel programmes.”