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Hoping to get a better grip on the large and fast-growing population of business travellers, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and Concur released a study this week that segments the population into five types of travellers, based on their goals, characteristics, technology usage and demographics:

  • The veteran
  • Road weary
  • Wide-eyed and anxious
  • Passionate high-tech
  • New recruits

The study goes into detail explaining the characteristics of each type of traveller. But what I found most interesting is that, after spending the last 25 years travelling on business, I could see a little of myself in every single category, and I remember some of the lessons I’d learned at various stages of my career.

Where do you fit in?

The veteran
Average of 12 trips per year; 88% are older than 35

These “smooth operators” cruise through business trips relatively unruffled, even under stressful circumstances. They enjoy business trips, value the importance of face-to-face meetings, have learned the rules of the road and don’t let the occasional bump ruin a trip. While receptive to new technology, one of their biggest gripes is getting tripped up by poor, complicated or expensive internet connections that hinder communication with family or the office. At least we seem to be winning the war against free hotel wi-fi.

Road weary
Average 15 trips per year; 74% are older than 35

Too much travel has a downside, so in this category of super frequent travellers you’ll find a lot of burnt-out business travellers who take most of their trips by car, don’t think that face-to-face meetings are important and see business trips as a hassle. It’s a sad lot, but I’ve been there. The reason I quit one of my first jobs (as a management consultant) was because I travelled too much and had a very unhealthy work-life balance. Since there were few positions at my company that offered lighter travel schedules, I made the decision to resign — which was probably one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made because it ironically led to a more fulfilling career writing about business travel. 

Wide-eyed and anxious
Average of 11 trips per year; 89% are less than 55 years old

This group travels less frequently than the others, so business trips are more disruptive to their routine. They enjoy travel, but their lack of experience on the road makes them more anxious and uncertain. I hear frequently from this type of traveller -- they are typically the ones that complain loudest about the “hassle factor” of airport security, the occasional surly flight attendant or a noisy hotel room. After a few more years on the road, they will adopt the more accepting view of the veteran traveller.

Passionate high-tech
Average of 13 trips per year; 91% are less than 54

This category loves to travel for work and looks to technology to increase productivity and stay in touch with friends and family. They embrace new devices like tablets, and many say that videoconferencing has actually reduced the number of trips they take.

In-flight wi-fi has completely changed the way I travel on business, and there are a few other fees worth paying to improve comfort or productivity while in the air.

The new recruits
Average 14 trips per year; 98% are less than 54 years old

This group, most likely travelling for training and development, prizes seeing new destinations more than getting work done. Since they are so early in their careers, sticking to a budget, following corporate travel policies and filing expense reports are relatively new concepts.

These young bucks remind me of my past training boondoggles to New York, London and San Francisco, where the lure of the nightlife frequently affected my business performance the following day. Eventually, they’ll learn that the reason they are there in the first place is to work.

What kind of business traveller are you? Leave a comment on our Facebook page. If you aren’t a business traveller, what type of traveller do you think you’d be?

Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel

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