As an entrepreneur, I have to do a fair bit of traveling, and in the course of time, it gives you plenty of material for comparison of not just how things are done differently in different places, but in different times as well. And although 20 years doesn’t look like that long a period, when you take out all the gradual changes that took place over this time and look at how things were and how things are now, the scale of change becomes staggering.
Sometimes I even feel too old to stay current: although I am no stranger to technology, the readiness, and naturalness with which millennials use technology that for me comes as a replacement for something that existed before is more than a little bit jarring. Here are some of the most drastic changes in business travel from when I first started engaging in it in the late nineties.
1. Planning Your Itinerary
In the past, if you didn’t have an inviting side to make arrangements for your stay at your destination, it meant either a lot of costly calls done ahead of time or a hectic rush to arrange everything once you’ve arrived. Booking hotel rooms, hiring a car, finding a place to keep your luggage – all this took hours to arrange, turning every trip into a challenge you weren’t very eager to face.
If you haven’t tried to find your way in an unknown city (better yet, a foreign one the language of which you don’t understand) using nothing but a printed map and a phrasebook, you don’t know the meaning of suffering. Of course, it turned every foray into an unknown territory into an adventure, but, frankly speaking, adventure is the last thing on your mind when you have a job to do and a limited time to complete it.
Today this problem is mostly eliminated through the use of GPS and navigation apps.
3. Bleisure Culture
This is something that is especially difficult to grasp for the older generation of entrepreneurs who are used to clearly delineating their business and personal lives. Of course, there wasn’t anything unusual about doing a bit of sightseeing or engaging in interesting local activities when going on a business trip back in the day, but for millennials, the line between business and leisure seems to be increasingly blurry.
Today, business trips are often extended to include entire days of leisure experiences, and nobody sees it as unusual – which is hard to swallow for those of us who are used to taking a flight, doing business as fast as possible and catching a flight back the same day.
4. Greater Flexibility
Back in the day, your options were pretty standard and limited whenever you went, whatever you did. If you needed a place to stay, you had to book a hotel. If you wanted transportation at your destination, you booked a car.
Today you are much freer as to your choice. You are free to use Airbnb to find places to stay, services like Uber can help you get around an unknown city without bothering to take care of a car, and so on.
All in all, technology changed the face of business travel completely over as little as two decades – and one can only wonder how different it will be another twenty years later.