The Business Travel Show 2018 and the rise of the 'bleisure' traveller by Kally Carder

The Business Travel Show 2018 and the rise of the 'bleisure' traveller by Kally Carder

The Business Travel Show 2018 (BTS) at Olympia was bigger and better, playing host to 7,500 buyers and suppliers. Alongside these were 260 leading suppliers showcasing their travel solutions, innovations and start-ups and visitors had access to 60 conference sessions with 120 expert speakers and seven conference streams.

I arrived bright and early on behalf of Nobull Comms, to meet up with clients, catch up with journalists and network new prospects. I was immediately hit by the ‘buzz’. There certainly seemed to be a bigger one surrounding this year’s show, particularly in the Travel Technology sector.

Pre- show I’d also been reading up on the latest research into the ways in which millennials are changing the way they travel for work. In particular, Travelport revealed that today’s young, thoroughly modern business traveller expects 24/7 digital support and the option to add extra days onto their trip for ‘bleisure’ activities.

That stats are particularly interesting: In a survey of 11,000 travellers in 19 countries, who took at least one flight in the last year, researchers found that 44% of British millennials count being unable to access booking information across their devices 24/7 as one of their biggest travel bugbears.

38% of them say they get frustrated when their companies don’t use data analytics to provide more personalised recommendations based on their past preferences. And although device access is a key requirement for millennials, 42% find frustration in being unable to get travel advice from human consultants during the booking process, suggesting younger travellers prefer a mix of both physical and digital support.

Fascinated by my findings, a key exhibitor for me at this year’s BTS was AirBnB Work. The corporate arm of the popular-with-millennials accommodation sharing platform is clearly maximising on its huge success in the consumer market (and presumably with those who like a bit of ‘bleisure’ travel).

But the AirBnB Work model could be failing on one major factor, according to Travelport’s research. While it might have all the booking tech to satisfy the millennial business traveller’s tick list, it doesn’t score high on personal contact.

Cue the serviced apartment offering. It strikes me that the compromise for accommodation seeking millennial ‘bleisure’ travellers lies here, in a fantastic offering of location, safety and service benefits. A serviced apartment offers all the space, privacy and cost effectiveness of an AirBnB private rental, with booking tech and helpful human support to boot.

Unsurprisingly, I found the serviced apartment sector well represented at BTS. The key players, including Frasers Hospitality, BridgeStreet, Oakwood and StayCity were all exhibiting, their stands busy and buzzing.

There’s no doubt the sector has been growing over the past two years, so is the serviced apartment destined to become more and more mainstream? The word on the street suggests that demand in some European cities is already outstripping supply. Interestingly, many serviced apartment providers have been listing their properties on AirBnB’s platform too. One can assume this has had some weight in increasing demand and is attracting new audiences.

It’s interesting times for this particular sector and 2018 could be a pivotal year for the main players to differentiate and ‘get out there’ with bold marketing messaging that speaks of human contact and excellent, consistent service levels. There is most definitely scope also to instil loyalty in a wider customer base who, left unincentivized, may otherwise head straight off to AirBnB.