The world of business travel is rapidly changing and keeping up to date with its latest trends and shifts can help startup companies and small businesses alike to identify the opportunities and capitalize on it. Without further ado, here are the top ten trends in business travel you must be preparing for this year.
Top 10 Trends in Business Travel
More Startups and SMBs to Participate In International Travel
Startup companies and small and mid-size businesses are expected to become prominent players in the corporate travel sector in 2019. This is due to the increasing number of employees being employed by these companies – according to the October 2018 Small Business Optimism Index from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) - “small businesses continue to support the 3%+s growth of the economy and add significant numbers of new workers to the employment pool.”
As this sector thrive and flourish, we can expect that more startups and SMBs will increase their investment in business travel in order to support their growth and build relationships with like-minded companies around the world.
Sharing economy to gain traction among C-Level executives
One of the biggest trends that have shaped the business travel landscape for the past recent years is the sharing economy. Sharing economy companies such as Airbnb and Lyft have evolved from niche disruptors into a mainstream leader for both consumers and even companies with C-level business travelers. In fact, the 2018 Business Travel Ridesharing Habits Survey from Skift revealed that a whopping 90.3% of employes now allow their travelers to use ridesharing services for work.
While slower to advance, shared economy lodging options are also gaining measurable traction, especially among the younger generations. According to TripActions 2018 State of Business Travel Report, more than one-third of surveyed travelers said they book Airbnb-type accommodations, along with boutique hotels as a way to fulfill their desire for a unique travel experience.
Personalization as the most important loyalty driver in business travel
Gone were the days when companies only use earned points in flights, hotel stays and car rentals to keep their employees engage with their business travel initiatives. Nowadays, more and more travel managers are shifting their focus from earning points to providing more personalized travel experience for their road warriors.
This is according to the same 2018 survey from TripActions, which found that 21% of business travelers don’t belong to any hotel loyalty program and are less interested in loyalty programs in general. Instead, these travelers seek more hands-on experience with their business trips, with many seeking self-booking capabilities in their hotel, car rental, and flight service companies as a way to ensure they’ll receive services tailored to their business travel needs.
A Mix of Artificial Intelligence and Human Touch to Power Travel Services
Self-booking and automation are without a doubt the biggest disruptors changing the way business travelers fulfill nearly every aspect of their travel needs these days. However, more organizations now realize that while these technologies can be efficient, they can’t solve all business issues without help from a human being.
To address such conundrum, most travel managers are now seeking to achieve a balance between tech-assisted and human-focused services. One of the solutions being eyed to achieve such balance is through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning-powered algorithms. Through this solution, companies will be able to make sound decisions fast about when to provide assistance and will help them prioritize the most pressing issues facing their travelers by predicting their needs.
More Travel Managers To Focus More on Comfort of Travelers
While ever-changing, the issues facing business travelers in 2019 will remain the same – canceled flights, jet lag, adapting to a foreign culture, and security and safety risks. Countering these issues, therefore, will be the utmost priority of most travel managers as they plan to revise their travel policies in order to cater for more enjoyable, healthier, and more productive trips.
Corporate Travel as a Major Employee Perk
Another new trend in business travel is the greater collaboration that is taking place between travel managers, HR managers, and recruiters.
Travel is fast becoming a perk new employees are working for - according to TripActions 2018 survey, 92% of all business travelers said they want to travel for work, 90% said they see traveling as a perk of their job, while 80% feel more excited about their job after traveling. A separate study from Hilton Hotels and Resorts also revealed that 39% of respondents would not join a company that did not offer travel as part of the job.
With these statistics, we can expect that more organizations will take advantage of this trend to attract new talents in 2019.
Bleisure As the New Norm
Mixing leisure and business travel has become a widely-adopted practice among most corporate travelers nowadays.
Recent research from Expedia revealed that on average, bleisure travelers take more than six business trips per year, and more than 60% of business trips in 2017 were extended for leisure purposes. In the U.S., the number of business travelers opting for bleisure is on par with the multi-national average of 60% - a nearly 40% increase in bleisure travel since 2016.
Interactive Solutions as Key To More Simplified Experience
According to a 2017 survey by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), program simplification is a strategic priority for corporate travel managers heading into 2019.
The rationale behind simplification includes the benefits that both the organization and employees can gain, including improved traveler satisfaction, reduced cost, and time savings. This growing demand for simplified travel experience is leading to more request for interactive tools which enable travelers to book, manage, customize, and monitor their trips all in one place.
Managing Cost to Continue as the Major Challenge
As the costs of airfare and hotel lodging across popular business travel destination continue to increase, we can expect that managing travel cost will remain a hard issue to tackle for most organizations in 2019. According to a recent GBTA Forecast Report, hotel prices can be expected to rise by an average of 3.7% in 2019, and flight costs will increase by 2.6%.
Face-to-Face Meeting To Become More Critical
Despite the rise of new communication platforms such as video calls that allow virtual interaction, many organizations still say face-to-face meetings will continue to play a critical part in their organization’s success. While virtual communication has significantly improved, most executives are still seeking the authentic human connection present during face-to-face meetings, as it enables them to build lasting business relationships.
In fact, according to Harvard research, face-to-face requests were 34 times more likely to garner positive results than emails. A global survey also revealed that 67% of senior executives and managers also said their organization’s productivity would increase if superiors communicated face-to-face more often.
With all these trends taking place nowadays, it is more imperative than ever for both travel managers and employees to keep an open eye on the shifts that are most likely to impact the efficiency of their business trips this year forward. Above all, startup company owners and managers should continue focusing on ensuring the safety, productivity, and comfort of their travelers each time they hit the road.
This is a guest post by Reza Choudhury who runs an international chauffeur company that helps facilities managers, travelmanagers, event managers, executives assistants, c-level executives and office managers, arrive at their destination on-time and stress-free. He does this by providing an app & online platform that allows users to schedule multiple bookings while watching chauffeur’s arrive in real-time. His passion is spending time with his family and playing table tennis.