Travel and Expense
How Travel Experiences and Expectations Differ by Generation
The findings of the SAP Concur Global Business Travel Survey, now in its fifth year, cover a lot of ground—from the impact of economic uncertainty, to discrimination and equal opportunity issues, to sustainable travel plans. This year’s data also reveals the differing experiences and expectations spanning baby boomer to Gen Z business travelers.
Below are some of the key generational findings from our global survey of 3,850 business travelers in 25 markets, which address willingness to travel and satisfaction with current schedules, the changing expectations of business travelers, travel’s role in career advancement, and more.
Willingness and Satisfaction
While nearly all global business travelers (98%) are willing to travel for business over the next 12 months, satisfaction with their current travel schedule varies significantly by generation. Baby boomers are most likely to be satisfied, as 59% are fine with their current schedule. In contrast, only 39% of millennials say the same—16% say that they’re traveling less than they’d like and 45% are traveling more than preferred.
The state of the economy remains in flux, and that fact isn’t lost on Gen Z. Forty-one percent of Gen Z business travelers see inflation as a top challenge to business travel today, compared to 35% of millennials, 31% of Gen X, and 23% of baby boomers. Surprisingly, nearly one-fifth of baby boomers (18%) didn’t consider any factors as challenges to business travel today, and 32% say that their company's business travel has not been affected by economic uncertainty.
Tracking to our whitepaper published earlier this year, we expect that as Gen Z continues to enter the workforce—and eventually becomes the predominant generation in the workplace—aligning travel policies to their expectations will be crucial. For example, 97% of Gen Z business travelers expect their company to allow them to make travel choices that are outside of company policy, with top reasons including ensuring they feel safe when traveling in certain areas of the world (53%), supporting their ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance (51%), and ideological or lifestyle differences with their travel destination (37%).
While millennials are largely aligned—93% share this sentiment—Gen X and baby boomers are less so at 84% and 79%, respectively. As these generations largely represent the higher ranks at many companies, it is important to acknowledge that younger generations have expectations of their own, and embracing the variety in perspectives will be essential to attracting and retaining younger talent and conducting business. In fact, 96% of Gen Z business travelers would decline a business trip that doesn’t align with their expectations—compared to 94% of millennials, 86% of Gen X, and 77% of baby boomers—including a third (33%) who would decline due to lack of flexibility to make adjustments to the trip outside of policy.
More business travelers from younger generations consider business travel as critical to their career success in the coming year, compared to older generations (Gen Z: 94%; millennials: 94%; Gen X: 89%; baby boomers: 75%). Establishing (41%) and maintaining (42%) relationships with clients are the top reasons, across the generational board.
Safety, Discrimination, and Equal Opportunity
Overall, 53% of global business travelers say they have changed their accommodations in the past 12 months because they felt unsafe. This includes 64% of Gen Z, 61% of millennials, 40% of Gen X, and 15% of baby boomers. Of note, roughly half of each have done so in this timespan more than once (30% of Gen Z, 33% of millennials, 20% of Gen X, and 8% of baby boomers).
Meanwhile, 74% of global business travelers across generations have personally experienced some form of discrimination while on a business trip, including 87% of Gen Z, 79% of millennials, 62% of Gen X, and 43% of baby boomers. (Related: Read more about our findings tied to LGBTQ+ experiences here.)
This year’s survey found that nearly two-thirds of global business travelers feel they haven’t had equal opportunity to travel for business compared to their coworkers. According to these travelers, their age was the most cited reason for this perceived inequality. And this perception was consistent across generations: 29% of Gen Z, 22% of millennials, 16% of Gen X, and 16% of baby boomers attributed it to their age.
And as the data above may suggest, the majority of Gen X (53%) and baby boomers (63%) said that they have never felt that they didn’t have equal opportunity to take business trips compared to their coworkers, versus a minority of Gen Z (25%) and millennials (33%).
Aligned with our findings from 2022, Gen Z (93%) and millennials (92%) are more likely to take steps to reduce their environmental impact while traveling for business over the next 12 months, compared to Gen X (85%) and baby boomers (71%). Gen Z (23%) and millennials (25%) would also be a bit more likely to decline a business trip due to concern over the environmental impact of the travel, compared to Gen X (19%) and baby boomers (18%).
Across generations, business travelers’ most popular actions to reduce environmental impact while traveling will include using public transportation (34%), reducing total number of trips by combining nearby ones into a longer trip (33%), and prioritizing alternatives to air travel, such as car or rail (31%). An important consideration for organizations’ travel programs and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals: Purchasing carbon offsets is the least likely step to be taken in the year ahead, at 19%.
The SAP Concur Global Business Travel Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research between April 7-28, 2023, among 3,850 business travelers in 25 markets: U.S., Canada, Brazil, Mexico, LAC (Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Argentina), UK, France, Germany, ANZ region (Australia and New Zealand), SEA region (Singapore and Malaysia), China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, India, Korea, Italy, Spain, Dubai, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg), South Africa, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. Data has been weighted to facilitate tracking.