The year 2020 shook the entire corporate travel industry. With the global pandemic nearly every stakeholder—including suppliers, business travellers, business travel platforms, and travel managers had to rethink and reassess their old habits for the coming future to make the business travel industry move forward.
The growing acceptance of remote working arrangements , a new focus on minimizing risk for traveling employees had all made it more challenging.
But what next ? How to recover and grow should be the focus. Here are some trends that will or can define the future of business travel.
Travel managers to risk managers
Covid-19 changed the risk estimation for business travel going forward. According to the findings of a 2020 survey by Skift and TripActions, more than 60 percent of travel managers around the world said their company’s willingness to let workers travel for work last year had either “decreased” or “significantly decreased” as a result of Covid-19.
One emerging trend is an increasing need for better real-time data on the status of Covid-19 outbreaks in possible travel destinations. Citizens around the world have grown accustomed to monitoring the real-time county- and city-level data on Covid-19 in their own communities; similarly, businesses would need to follow a data-first approach going forward.
One more important best practice relevant to business travel risk assessment is creating two-way dialogues with staff, in order to better understand their needs. Ultimately, no matter how good the design of a travel policy, it’s not going to be effective if the employees don’t feel comfortable
One solution for creating a new risk assessment policy, detailed in a recent feature in HR Director magazine,focuses on three key actions:
- Decide what constitutes essential travel.
- Develop scenarios for different employee groups, such as high-risk individuals or departments that travel frequently.
- Rethink policy compliance procedures. Now is not the time to crack down on an employee who makes an out-of-policy purchase to stay safe.
Business travel and spend management
According to the 2020 Skift and TripActions business travel survey (conducted in the midst of the pandemic), more than 80 percent of program managers agreed or strongly agreed that business travel is important for driving company growth.
The attitudes toward travel expenses and corporate spend management are evolving. The economic shock caused by Covid-19 forced many companies to make difficult decisions about their cash flow, long-term investment plans, and employee retention as they made every effort to remain solvent.
As the short-term emergency of Covid-19 fades, more business decision makers are recognizing two things. First, they need more insight into how—and how much—they’re spending. Second, they need to more carefully evaluate how the importance of these practices relates to the organization’s wider business goals
New generation of integrated, end-to-end solutions
“Companies’ travel managers and executives are going to need tight controls in their managed travel programs,” said Finkel. “That ensures they have all the different levers and approval processes to provide peace of mind to their employee base while traveling.
All stakeholders—travellers, managers, and company decision makers—can make smarter and safer decisions for their organization. Thus the future of travel management is likely to combine all of these tools into a single solution, like TripActions, which includes travel management support, online booking tools, and expense management.
This latest generation of end-to-end business travel tools will also go a step further in simplifying and streamlining the entire business travel process. Through using tools like artificial intelligence and employee-level personalization, travel managers can also rest assured that these end-to-end solutions have the right context to meet the specific needs and circumstances of each individual traveller.
Even after Covid-19, new types of disruptions can take its place in the business travel industry. The only way to survive in the future is by relying on a new generation of integrated, end-to-end solutions.
A small noticeable uptick in consumer travel as a hope for business travel
2020 proved to be a challenging year for many organizations that depend on business travel. But, According to data company Adara, the volume of domestic leisure flights in the United States increased at the beginning of summer and fall, as well as at the start of 2021. This can play a more critical role in business travel recovery than previously thought, helping reset behaviors and habits for the hybrid working climate that’s likely to emerge post-pandemic.
Even before 2020, innovations like remote work and trips incorporating work and leisure were already helping to reshape corporate policies related to expense permits, trip-booking rules, and employee benefit packages.
Now, as business travel continues to recover, many corporate travel stakeholders on the management and supply side hope that helping to promote and incorporate leisure travel alongside business travel would help them stimulate demand more quickly.
It also helps to reduce the anxieties of employees who are unsure or hesitant about starting to travel again.
TripActions’ enhanced personal travel booking experience, makes it easier for traveling employees to add leisure itinerary details for themselves and their family members to a pre-existing work trip.
According to Skift and TripActions’ 2020 business travel study, more than 70 percent of travellers said earning loyalty points gave them the highest levels of satisfaction of any business travel perks.
Now, it seems that travel suppliers are taking this experience to heart. Many hotels and airlines are adjusting their loyalty redemption packages during Covid-19 to help inspire more people to use their high reward balances.
Remote work leading to more corporate travel
Of all the habit changes that took place in 2020, one of the biggest shifts was the transition by many organizations toward remote working arrangements. One 2020 investigation from Gartner found that 82 percent of companies plan to allow employees to work remotely at least some of the time. According to a 2020 FlexJobs survey, 65 percent of workers preferred to stay remote until the pandemic is over.
But for all the positive changes associated with remote work, the debate about the effect on business travel persists. After all, why would employees need to travel at all if they can meet with co-workers and clients virtually? Although this may seem like a rational solution, the belief is that remote work may inevitably lead to more business travel, not less.
One of the reasons to stay optimistic about the industry outlook is that workers and managers continue to believe business travel is more effective than meeting digitally. According to the Skift and TripActions survey, more than 80 percent of business travellers and close to 80 percent of managers agreed or strongly agreed that meeting in person was more effective than meeting virtually.
Beyond the simple need or desire to travel, remote work is likely to also create new incentives for business trips. New trends are likely to appear. Organizations of geographically dispersed workforces, for example, would need to put together workers for partnership and team building and training, as they won’t have the advantage of informal and in-person interactions around the office.
“Those who are off site by default are always going to want human connection,” said Darren Murph, head of remote for GitLab, at the 2020 Skift Global Forum. “What ends up happening is travel becomes a core part of culture building. Business travel should get a lot more dynamic.
Some travel suppliers are already responding to the increasing demand for remote-friendly business travel by testing new products and services. United Airlines, for example, is testing a new subscription that bundles flights with remote work space. And hospitality company Selina made waves in October 2020 by acquiring the popular “Remote Year” coworking program
The changes induced by the Covid-19 pandemic presented the corporate travel industry with new challenges, but also new possibilities. 2020 pushed business travellers and travel managers to change their habits in significant ways. But whether these changes end up being a net positive or negative for the industry is an outcome that can only be decided by the actions those in the industry take in response.
A variety of business travel strategies—including product innovation, company investment, risk management, and policy—will need to evolve to address the industry’s emerging realities. But if approached with the right mindset, as well as a willingness to innovate and experiment, it’s possible that the whole business travel ecosystem will emerge from the current crisis stronger, more robust, and more innovative as a result.
- No similar blogs