We have noticed a dearth of conversation (ahem...read more here!) about millennials on the web and thought, “What an original idea for a blog post!” So, we wanted to give a shout-out to this neglected generation and see how they are influencing companies to revisit business travel options and policies.

Agencies have tremendous opportunities to get in front of millennial travel trends, endearing them to a new generation of travelers. And with agencies enjoying a spike in popularity among this demographic, now is the time to consider capturing their attention during the peak spending years.

Leading the charge in the sharing economy

Customers are driving change in the way companies approach their business strategies. Corporate policies are being swayed by employee preferences, and the business travel industry is no exception, especially when it comes to sharing economy options.

What is interesting is that it is the younger employees who are driving these changes. According to a recent study by Hipmunk, 74 percent of millennials have stayed at a vacation rental, like Airbnb, while traveling for business. That rate is just 38 percent for Gen Xers.

Hipmunk: 74% of millennials have stayed at a vacation rental, like Airbnb, while traveling for business.

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And don’t forget about Uber, which is the most expensed ground transportation in US business travel. Uber expenses are higher than rentals and double that of taxis. Combine these and other sharing economy platforms and you get big numbers in the near future: Juniper Research suggests that sharing economy revenues should triple, reaching $20.4 billion globally by 2020.

The sharing economy has become a juggernaut.

Evolving corporate policies to attract and retain talent

These shifts are monumental, both as far as the way agencies sell travel and the traveler books it. On-demand is what the traveler wants. This expectation exists thanks to the instant gratification in nearly every other aspect of their lives as consumers.

Think about how the BlackBerry was replaced by the iPhone. Even though the Blackberry's security features were better for large companies, employees loved the iPhone!

This preference eventually drove companies to allow employees to bring their own devices to work. The BYOD trend marked the beginning of a shift. Employees now want their business experience to mimic their personal. This means that corporate policies must adapt to the morphing needs of the traveler. The traveler wants to personalize her experience, and the policy must facilitate wherever possible.

The challenge is many companies don’t have policies in place to allow for travelers to use Airbnb. Traditional hotels are the only option. For attracting top talent, the ability to provide this service can be a competitive advantage. In fact, the ability for travelers to self-manage is quite appealing to many talented workers.

By solving the best way to safely include Airbnb as an option — including the duty of care component — travel management companies add value to the traveler's experience.

3 ideas to get ahead of changes in business travel

While certainly highest among millennials, these trends towards self-service transcend generations currently in the workforce. Here are three other perks business travelers want, each of which agencies can fulfill.

1. Mixing vacation with business. More than 80 percent of millennials say they will probably add a few days to a business trip in order to see the city which they’re traveling to. This blending of business and pleasure, known as bleisure, is growing in popularity. Like many shifts, bleisure causes headaches when scheduling through a business-centric system. Creating a frictionless experience, where one can easily transition from a business travel itinerary to leisure plans, encourages greater appreciation of the service. This fosters employee satisfaction and ultimately, loyalty.

2. Providing the best overall offer. Business travelers have more information at their disposal than ever before. They know the value of their flight, hotel and car reward points. While what travelers want can sometimes differ from what the company can provide, the closer the travel management companies (TMC) come to appeasing both parties the more likely they will retain business. This is where personalization can set you apart.

3. Crowdsourcing a great bite. When business travelers are away, they often take time — even if it’s a few hours — to try a local restaurant or visit a local site. But travelers want to experience the city like locals do, not just hit up the tourist traps. Information provided to them can differentiate your agency. Whether it’s from crowdsourcing or social tools, place-based content about what’s new, interesting, and fantastic in the local area is a valuable addition to any trip.

Many of these offerings will require TMCs to access more information about the user. But for millennials, they’re comfortable with that, as long as you provide them with quality in return. If they feel that your information and offerings have become spam-like, though, they will turn their back on you faster than the speed it takes for a new trend to hit.

For more information about how to take advantage of millennials’ travel habits and preferences, the Millennial Mindsets series offers valuable insights.