Global business travel spending is expected to reach over $1.7 trillion by 2020, according to the Global Business Travel Association.
Now is a good time to look ahead and see what’s in store for the business travel sector in 2020 and beyond, both as a way to optimise processes and improve cost efficiency.
If the previous decade is anything to go by, then we could be looking at a continuation of the pace by which technology is reshaping the industry.
Automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence have made it faster and easier than ever for business travellers to plan and book trips. Think of how 10 years ago, you couldn’t ask Siri or Alexa for directions to a hotel.
Meanwhile, for the decision-makers overseeing corporate travel policy and spending decisions, new technologies promise to improve compliance while improving the overall travel experience.
With all that being said, we look at five key trends that will shape the business travel sector in 2020.
1. Comprehensive selection for enterprise travellers
For many enterprises, flight and accommodation options are limited to full-service carriers and chain hotels, especially those that partner with travel management companies (TMCs). This is quickly changing, especially as modern business travel platforms like Travelstop continue to improve their business travel offerings.
We expect options to become more comprehensive in 2020 and beyond. Think of it as a shift towards a super app tailored for business travel – one that benefits both companies and employees.
For example, business travellers can be given the option to book flights on both low-cost and full-service carriers, as well as accommodations on preferred hotels, home-sharing platforms, or entry-level lodging options like OYO or RedDoorz.
TMCs are also driving this trend. Last year, for instance, New Zealand’s largest TMC teamed up with Airbnb for Work to offer its clients savings on properties that have been rated as highly conducive to business trips.
We can also see a rise in corporate travel platforms that include services like travel insurance, ground transportation, data roaming, to name a few. This shift reflects new modes of travel that technology has made possible in recent years.
Providing an assortment of options will help curb travellers’ practice of making bookings outside of the policy – something that 32% of Singapore business travellers are likely to do.
2. An end-to-end travel management experience
The growing abundance of travel-related apps has, unsurprisingly, resulted in business travellers desiring a complete, end-to-end experience.
While the user-facing side of business travel platforms (e.g., transport and accommodation bookings) tends to get the most attention, a lot more happens behind the scenes, encompassing not just the Traveller, but also the Approver, Travel Manager, Human Resources, and Finance Department.
By providing an end-to-end business travel experience, you can improve productivity and efficiency across your entire organisation. We predict that 2020 will see an increase in adoption of business travel management apps with integrated features, such as expense tracking and reporting, accounting integrations, and virtual credit cards, among many others.
For example, Travelstop allows companies to book flights and hotels, upload receipts, track expenses, and analyse data—all within the app.
Apart from the obvious backend benefits, end-to-end travel experiences also keep employees engaged and more likely to comply with your corporate travel policy.
3. Corporate travel policy will allow more flexibility
Several different factors are driving organisations to make their travel policies more flexible.
For one, as more Millennials and Gen Z employees enter the workforce, we’re seeing a shift in company culture, where things like ‘people-first’ and participatory environments have become the norm. Largely thanks to millennial employees, enterprises are now accommodating trends like taking bleisure trips and using apps to manage business travel.
Similarly, the war for talent has also forced companies to focus on employee satisfaction. And, according to a GBTA survey, employee satisfaction over their business travel experience is correlated with overall job satisfaction. That means corporate travel policies will evolve to become more employee-friendly.
Two technologies are giving enterprises peace of mind in relaxing their travel policies. One is the rise of modern business travel management apps which allow companies to keep bookings within their own system even while providing a variety of choices.
Using apps like Travelstop, companies can set pre-approved budgets for accommodation and flights, and allow employees to make their own bookings within those limits.
The other technology is artificial intelligence. As AI and machine learning continue to mature, they’re getting better and better at predicting travellers’ preferences and making suggestions based on user data.
An AI assistant can suggest a boutique hotel based on an employee’s travel history and preferences, the company’s criteria, and current events that may be affecting prices, traffic, and safety in a given location.
As a result, these data-driven recommendations may reduce the need for complex, restrictive travel policies.
4. Increased efficiency with AI-driven solutions
The overall business travel experience will improve, thanks to AI-driven solutions. As mentioned above, platforms equipped with machine learning capabilities will provide better recommendations and budgets based on data on previous trips. Some apps, like Hopper, even claim to predict flight prices for up to a year in advance, reducing travel costs.
AI travel tools will also help companies fulfil their duty of care. For example, during a delay or cancellation of a train, bus, or flight, an AI-driven system can immediately assist to reschedule to the next available transport.
For administrative support, chatbots will be in play to touch base with travellers at all times. Predictive analytics can also assess potential risks, such as inclement weather in a location, ensuring that employees are kept safe at all times.
And when the travellers come home, they will no longer have to spend hours filling out forms, thanks to automated expense reporting.
5. Analytics will improve the targeting and tracking of KPIs
Finally, we expect cloud-based business travel tools to continue to be instrumental in helping you gather data on all of your corporate travel activities. With enough data, companies will be able to analyse travel-related spending and set KPIs for 2020.
This allows them to treat corporate travel not as an expenditure, but as a strategic investment that adds value to the organisation.
Other metrics you can track with business travel platforms include:
- Spending per department or individual
- Policy compliance rate
- Frequently booked flights and hotels
- Correlation with employee satisfaction and retention
- Traveller tracking in high-risk situations
Planning for 2020
While there’s no way to definitively predict the future of the corporate travel sector, what’s true is that travel will continue to serve a vital business function for many companies.
If you have frequent business travellers, paying attention to these trends will go a long way towards giving them an enjoyable and productive travel experience.
The information in these trends will also be useful to travel managers, who can adopt new business practices to reduce travel costs and wastage, and improve compliance with travel policies.
Pay attention to these trends and plan accordingly to improve your corporate travel experiences and results in 2020.