Traveling is a very tactile experience. People are always asking me if I think Business Travel will go away once online video conferencing and other similar tools are perfected. I’ve always maintained that while the travelers will change, the business trip will remain a constant requirement. After all, it’s tough to see, smell, taste, and experience everything through a video web conference. I worked with a customer once, who had a difficult time resetting one particular node on his network. I always wondered why it sometimes took a whole day for them to do this. Finally, I had to make a trip out there to do some training and I learned that they (an antifreeze production facility in extreme Northern Canada), often had to trek outside in whiteout conditions in minus 70 temperatures to gain access to the network node. Until I made that walk myself, I had no appreciation of the environment they were working in at all.
As I look around the airport today, I don’t see the large crowds of suit-clad men with briefcases, and portfolios. Sure, I see one or two of them here and there; but the majority of business travelers today have replaced their business portfolios with a slim case that holds a laptop or iPad. They’re wearing Dockers (or jeans) and a casual pull-over shirt. At first glance they look out of place, so casually dressed, traveling alone, without any vacation paraphernalia or large bags to weigh them down. Take a closer look at this traveler; you’re going to see a lot more of them in the coming years.
My friend Briana fit this profile. As a 24-year-old entering the restaurant business, she sat alone in the corner of an airport, clad in jeans and a comfortable blouse, ear buds in her ears as she listened to her iPod, all while participating in a short pre-flight video conference with her partners overseas to iron out some last minute details before departing on a wine and gourmet food survey of some of the regions of Spain. You may be able to meet face to face via a video web conference, but it’s tough to taste wine, shake hands, and have sidebar meetings, etc, over the internet.
All that the Gen-Y travelers seem to need for a business trip these days are a few changes of business casual clothing, and a solid connection to the internet (preferably a “fee free” connection). They don’t bring along “things to do,” they find those things locally after they get there. They’ve never known life without access to the internet, access to cable TV channels like Discovery and The Travel Channel, or access to a mobile cell phone that can show them movies, bring up their calendar, email, instant messages, and, oh yea… make phone calls.
I believe there are things that Gen-X can teach Gen-Y and vise versa. Having been traveling for business for more than a decade, I’m a Gen-X traveler who knows the ropes and the rules of the traveling process, how to make it work for me, how to do it with less money, etc. I think it’s time that I stopped rolling my eyes whenever a fellow traveler tells me, “Yo, dude, I found this super cool concert that’s happening in Denver this week at a place called ‘Red Rocks,’ have you heard of it?” Perhaps this fellow traveler isn’t just some “punk kid.” Maybe, just maybe, he’s using the tools he’s familiar with to expand his horizons a bit. Maybe he’s looking for a place to take his client while on a business trip! Maybe I should shake his hand and tell him, “Yea man, Red Rocks is a natural amphitheater build out of the natural bedrock with superb acoustics and a spectacular view of Denver…”
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and sent to him. You can also follow Ken on Twitter @foodbreeze!