Business travel is constantly in a state of flux as technology progresses and companies reassess their travel spend. The face of the workplace is changing rapidly, and the COVID-19 crisis has only accelerated this change, with solutions like Microsoft Teams and Zoom becoming a part of the national lexicon. It’s hard to predict from year to year what the world of travel will look like – just look at what happened to the global travel industry in 1 month. What we can say is that once this storm passes, the future of business travel is bright. The need for face-to-face interaction isn’t going away, and while video conferencing is gaining prevalence, its limitations have been exposed as well.
With the travel industry projected to lose hundreds of billions of dollars in 2020, we do anticipate the situation to have stabilized by Q4 and business travel to begin to return to normal. The world will bounce back from this. When it does, we expect to see the following business travel trends in play at that time.
The State of Business Travel
Airlines today have done an excellent job maximizing seating capacity. This means upgrades are harder to come by. At the same time, they are devaluing miles programs and eliminating frequent flyer perks. Across the board, business travelers can expect value per dollar spent on business travel to trend downward as compared to previous years. Not what you want to hear as a frequent flyer.
COVID-19 will not change this; as airlines cut supply to meet demand and extend frequent flyer statuses for an additional year, don’t expect airlines to start treating you any better.
That said, there is lots to look forward to in the space of business travel. With millennials continuing to grow as a percentage of the global workforce, we should see continued implementation of more employee-friendly travel policies in the business sector. Studies are showing that the younger generations – both Gen Y and Z – trend towards preference-based travel experiences. While consulting firms haven’t implemented these kinds of policies – and we don’t see that happening anytime soon – the modus operandi of business travel is changing. You can expect less-essential trips to be cancelled in an economically distressed environment.
In addition, technology will be a key factor in global business travel trends this year. We look forward to more user-friendly travel management and booking programs to AI-driven automation to mobile playing an even more prominent role in making business travel as pleasant as possible. Travelers have much to look forward to in the latter half of 2020 and beyond. Let’s dive into three business travel trends for 2020.
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3 Business Travel Trends for 2020
Preference-Based Business Travel Experiences
Today’s business travelers want control over their travel experiences. For example, millennials and Gen Z increasingly prefer unconventional accommodations like Airbnb – even for business. While we prefer the perks of hotel loyalty programs, sometimes the allure of a full house/apartment is too much to resist (these can also be cheaper options for the company).
Most employees today see travel as an opportunity for growth, in addition to the obvious benefit of seeing new places. Amazingly, 90% of employees see business travel as a perk (they obviously haven’t spent 100+ nights per year on the road). Corporate travel gives employees a feeling of being empowered and engaged in their work. It can be a highly effective tool for improving employee retention, satisfaction and engagement.
Have you heard of ‘bleisure’ travel? Bleisure is the practice of mixing business travel with leisure, and it’s seen an uptick in popularity in recent years. On the road Mon-Thurs? On a wraparound weekend, you can stay in that city for the weekend or head off to another location for a mini vacation. A young consultant might be on a project in London for the week, but instead of going home, takes a train to Paris for the weekend. Bleisure trips allow employees to extend business travel at a significantly reduced price and see the world. As stated before, business travel continues to move toward preference-based travel – and we only see that picking up in 2020.
Technology-Driven Business Travel
Business travel continues to be more and more driven by technology. Millennials use smartphones to research and book flights and accommodations, something that was rare with previous generations. When traveling internationally, we expect to spend less time waiting in lines. This is being made possible with facial recognition technology, fingerprint scanning, and biometric-enabled self-boarding (get CLEAR, seriously).
Further disruption to the global business travel industry will come through Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and automated travel booking processes. Business travel technology trends are evolving along with the ever-changing landscape of business travel, and the way forward looks compelling!
Business travel today is in an intriguing – if uncertain – era. While the post-coronavirus era will see inevitable consolidation in the airline industry and a slow rebound in revenues across the travel sector, preference-based travel experiences will be a major factor in the rebound of the business travel industry.