9 Business Travel Trends to Watch

Business travel is set to undergo significant transformations in the coming year. From blending work with leisure to the changing role of travel management companies, various trends are influencing the future of corporate travel, affecting operations, finances, and technology. Understanding these trends helps travelers, planners, and executives to prepare and respond strategically, ensuring maximum efficiency, cost savings, and effective travel policies. Here’s an overview of the key business travel trends propelling the industry forward.

 1. Digital Transformation in Business Travel

Technology has always been integral to travel management, and its role is only expected to expand in 2024. Online corporate booking portals and cloud-based travel management programs are simplifying business travel, making it more efficient. Trip disruption technology is becoming more prevalent, monitoring flights and trains and alerting travelers and their employers about delays, cancellations, and alternatives. This helps minimize disruptions and downtime and facilitates the quick creation of backup plans.

Improved in-flight internet access is also on the horizon, as airlines and mobile carriers collaborate to provide high-speed connections, allowing employees to remain productive while flying. Virtual queuing, which allows travelers to reserve a place in line at various airport touchpoints instead of waiting physically, is gaining traction.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are advancing, helping virtual assistants understand traveler preferences and deliver more personalized search results. AI-powered tools also provide live updates on flight statuses, virtual check-ins, touchless checkouts, and alerts.

 2. Bleisure Travel: Combining Business with Leisure

Bleisure travel, the practice of blending business trips with leisure activities, is gaining momentum, particularly among younger professionals. This trend reflects a shift in attitudes towards work-life balance, with employees leveraging flexible travel arrangements to explore new destinations and immerse themselves in different cultures. By extending business trips to include leisure activities, bleisure travel offers a refreshing approach to corporate travel.

This trend also enables employees to work from anywhere, whether it’s checking spreadsheets poolside or attending meetings at a mountain resort. A recent Ernst & Young survey of 16,000 employees found that:

– 90% of employees want flexibility in when and where they work

– 54% will quit if not given the flexibility they desire

– 65% believe a hybrid work arrangement can increase productivity and creativity

– 54% believe it will positively impact problem-solving abilities

 3. Sustainability Initiatives: Integrating Eco-Friendly Practices in Travel Programs

With increasing awareness of environmental issues, sustainability has become a crucial consideration in corporate travel. Organizations are adopting eco-friendly practices, such as opting for alternative modes of transportation, choosing accommodations with green certifications, and implementing paperless travel policies. By prioritizing sustainability, companies not only reduce their carbon footprint but also demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility.

For instance, some travelers are looking at alternatives to air travel when feasible to reduce their carbon footprint. Others are requesting paperless travel itineraries and confirmations, seeking hotels that practice sustainability, or renting electric cars for ground transportation. Corporate travel departments are also producing annual reports to quantify and highlight their commitment to sustainability.

 4. Safety and Well-Being: Enhancing Traveler Security

The aftermath of the pandemic has highlighted the importance of traveler safety and well-being. As travel gradually resumes, stringent safety protocols are being implemented to ensure the health and security of travelers. Technologies such as self-service passenger screening and biometric identification are revolutionizing airport security, enhancing efficiency while minimizing contact. Moreover, companies are prioritizing employee wellness, offering resources and support to address physical and emotional health concerns during travel.

Biometrics are expected to play an increasing role in screening, ultimately replacing physical identification and speeding up the screening process. In a post-pandemic travel reality, employers’ duty of care obligations are becoming more complex, focusing on both protecting employees on the road and addressing physical and emotional health needs.

 5. Budgeting and Savings Strategies: Optimizing Without Compromising Quality

In an era of economic uncertainty, cost optimization remains a top priority for organizations. Integrated travel and expense management solutions are enabling companies to streamline processes, reduce administrative overheads, and achieve significant cost savings. By consolidating travel-related expenses and leveraging data analytics, finance professionals can gain valuable insights into spending patterns, identify areas for optimization, and negotiate favorable deals with travel suppliers, all while simplifying and streamlining the corporate travel process.

 6. The Evolution of Travel Management Companies (TMCs)

As business travel dynamics evolve, travel management companies (TMCs) are adapting to meet the changing needs of travelers and organizations. Digital-first approaches, sustainability initiatives, and flexible booking options are reshaping the TMC landscape. TMCs are also leveraging advanced technologies to enhance user experiences, streamline booking processes, and provide personalized services tailored to individual preferences.

The digital-first approach, coupled with a focus on sustainability and hybrid work, means TMCs must be versatile and capable of delivering multiple transportation and lodging options to meet diverse traveler expectations. They also need to be agile in addressing weather-related disruptions and reducing corporate carbon footprints. Self-scheduling and booking are on the rise, prompting TMCs to refine user interfaces on web and mobile applications. Simplifying the booking process improves efficiency for travelers and leads to better adoption rates.

 7. Collaboration across Departments: Aligning Travel with Organizational Goals

In an increasingly interconnected business environment, collaboration across departments is essential for aligning business travel with organizational goals. Finance, HR, and travel management teams are working together to develop cohesive travel policies, optimize travel budgets, and align travel initiatives with strategic objectives. By fostering cross-functional collaboration, organizations can ensure that business travel serves as a strategic enabler rather than a logistical burden.

 8. Corporate Incentives to Attract Business

As business travel gradually rebounds, travel providers are offering enticing incentives to attract corporate clients. Cashback offers, loyalty rewards, and exclusive perks are being used to entice companies to choose specific airlines, hotels, and rental car agencies. While these incentives can yield significant savings for organizations, they also present challenges in terms of brand loyalty and traveler satisfaction.

 9. Adapting to Multi-Channel Travel Realities

The proliferation of booking channels has transformed the way travelers plan and book their trips. From online travel agencies to direct bookings with suppliers, travelers now have access to a variety of options, each offering unique advantages. As the traditional corporate travel model gives way to a multi-channel approach, organizations must adapt their policies and technologies to accommodate diverse booking preferences. By embracing flexibility and transparency, companies can empower travelers to make informed decisions while ensuring compliance with corporate policies.