A new generation of professionals have changed the way they travel for work and, as a result, how those employees want to book and pay for that travel. The changes that tech-savvy workers have imposed on their employers’ travel and expense (T&E) policies and strategies go beyond adoption of expense management FinTech solutions, too.
The rise of “bleisure” — the mix of business and leisure travel — has employers facing new challenges to provide positive travel experiences for their employees while streamlining expense management. It’s a task that can quickly get tangled, and lack transparency when business and leisure trips are combined, but one that companies cannot afford to leave unaddressed.
“Technology and demographic changes are transforming business travel. Gen Y and Z will represent 70 percent of the workplace by 2025, and we can no longer ignore the way they are reshaping today’s workplace and its codes,” stated Boris Bogaert, COO of corporate travel and expense management solutions provider Rydoo, in a recent interview with PYMNTS.
Generation Y (more commonly known as millennials) and Generation Z (those born between the mid-’90s and mid-2000s) have already made major inroads in the labor market. The Pew Research Center found millennials are already the largest generation group in the U.S. labor force, while the oldest members of Generation Y have reached working age.
At the same time, technologies like mobile apps, electronic payments, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are offering this younger generation of workers a simpler way to spend money while on business trips. According to Bogaert, consulting companies and other players in the corporate travel space, like airlines, have been instrumental in pushing adoption of new solutions.
“Companies should not be afraid to [make] bold decisions and engage with innovative solutions provided by new players,” he said.
However, the younger generations of traveling employees have introduced new challenges to adopting these types of technologies. According to Bogaert, one of the largest issues is the interdependence of organizations’ existing technologies and infrastructure. Even if the T&E space has seen a recent influx of FinTech innovation, adoption is limited by businesses’ struggle to manage disruption to other systems linked to expense management, like accounting and event departments.
Adding to the challenge is millennials’ demand for bleisure-supported solutions. While a significant portion of employees surveyed by Egencia earlier this year said they do not take bleisure trips, due to concerns about how those trips would look to their employers, 68 percent said they took at least one trip last year that combined business and leisure.
Separate research from the Global Business Travel Association emphasized that younger workers are more likely to take a bleisure trip. More than one third of North American business travelers said they extended a work trip for leisure, but that figure rises to 48 percent when examining millennials independently.
Less than 2 percent told Egencia they had billed the leisure portion of their trip back to their employers. However, the lines between business and personal expenses aren’t always clear on a bleisure trip.
“Millennials have been getting a lot of attention lately for how they’re reshaping the travel industry. This naturally extends beyond their leisure time and into their business travel, as they find ways to inject leisure into business trips,” wrote Rocketrip Founder and CEO Dan Ruch for an article in Inc.com, published last year. “What does this mean for finance leaders? It means that an already difficult-to-control expense just got a little harder.”
Bogaert noted that employees today are frustrated “that they still have to submit their expense report with a spreadsheet.” T&E solutions that still require retroactive expense report filing for reimbursement may make it even easier for employees to bill personal expenses to their employers when traveling. An employee traveling on business may choose a more expensive hotel next to a favorite tourist attraction or near family members, for example.
At the same time, businesses are exploring how to provide their employees with travel booking and payment solutions that they already use in their personal lives, further blurring the lines between professional and personal travel experiences.
Rydoo, for example, recently announced its first merchant partner to integrate with its T&E solution: Uber. The ground transportation company exemplifies business travelers’ demand to use the same technologies while on business that they use in their personal lives. The benefits of digitized, integrated and automated solutions, like Uber’s connectivity into the T&E portal, exemplify the positive ways that consumer technologies can impact business processes.
“See how payments are done with Uber? They are digital,” said Bogaert. “It’s a seamless step for the user.”
In other ways, though, consumerization of business travel can introduce additional challenges for managers who struggle to separate personal from business expenses, a point of friction amplified by a lack of automated T&E solutions. It’s one kind of hurdle that — while reflective of a generational trend — will affect everyone.
“These evolutions, already initiated, have an impact on all generations,” Bogaert continued. “The T&E market is at a turning point.”