As the world seemingly turns ever faster, technology brings us ever closer and cross-border connections become ever more vital, business travel has become a key sector for a range of industries from airlines to hotels. Understanding what drives and enables worthwhile business travel is therefore important not only for those making the decisions on whether and where to send their people and for how much, but also for those carrying, facilitating and hosting the modern business traveller.
The travel trend research company, Skift, in partnership with travel management company, TripActions, has just published a report on the latest trends facing business travellers around the globe, looking at a range of sources, including industry news and experts, and Skift’s own primary research.
Among the key themes they identified were trends relating to the importance of travel to achieving business objectives, more user-friendly corporate travel tools, the emergence of “bleisure” travel — the merging of business travel with leisure time — and the growing imperative to address sustainability within business travel programmes.
They identified a range of trends from a range of perspectives, the most important of which include the following:
The Power of Being There in Person — While technology has made it easy to dial up and speak "face-to-face” with the other side of the world in less than seconds, it seems that real contact is still key. In one report cited, more than 90% of business managers view work travel as “important for driving company growth,” and 80% believe that “when it comes to getting things done, meeting in person is more effective than meeting virtually.”
Business travel and the real contact it brings is still a deciding factor in building relationships, closing sales and negotiating new contracts. And these relationships can be read on the bottom line. Another report found that — in relation to the US economy at least — every dollar spent on business travel generates an additional $1.60 for the national economy.
Winning the Price, Loyalty, and Experience Trifecta — According to the experts, there are three distinct types of business traveller: those who book based on price, those who book based on loyalty, and those who book based on the experience. In the past, each of these travellers was catered to separately, but the industry is now looking at how they can satisfy the needs of all three. From a travel platform management standpoint (covering flights, inventory, lodging, car rental, etc.), this requires providing more dynamic, customised options to travellers. This makes sense, but it can be applied further down the line too. As we strive to achieve at Arunreas, it is possible to offer great, individualised service at the kind of value that generates the holy grail of steadfast loyalty.
Expanding the Sharing Economy — As the sharing economy has gained traction among consumers, it is inevitable that its presence should increase among business travellers who are used to using ride-sharing platforms like Uber (or Grab) in their daily lives. The path isn’t always smooth though, with options such as Airbnb still creating sticking points for business travellers who don’t have the time to deal with, say, heating problems in the apartment during their trip. Ninety percent of business travellers say their first preference is still for a hotel over an apartment.
Bleisure Travel is the New Black — Almost 60% of respondent business travellers said they had combined a work trip with a leisure trip in the last year, a figure that looks set to grow for 2020, creating opportunities and challenges for the companies they encounter along the way. It can no longer be assumed that your business guests’ primary needs are a secure wifi connection, access to transport and excellent dining options. Making sure they get the most out of their trip from a social-cultural as well as commercial point of view may well be the key to ensuring their loyal return.
Business Travel Culture Drives Company Success — Rehashing a little bit of the theme from the first heading (“The Power of Being there in Person”), the Skift report notes that the way corporate travel managers and executives perceive the value of business travel is changing. “What was once viewed … purely as a cost to be minimised will be seen as a strategic company asset that can help boost their organisation’s goals — both in terms of growth and fostering a positive culture”.
In other words, business travel is no longer considered an expense but also as an investment and a “strategic lever to drive [our] business forward and accelerate company growth”. Moreover, it can also be viewed as a “perk” that boosts recruitment.
Taking Care of Business, the Traveler, and the Planet — According to a Skift survey, 80% of travellers are very or somewhat concerned about the impact of business travel on the environment, and 61% thought it was important for their employer to offset their business travel. Global airlines have already created carbon off-set programmes to meet this emerging demand, but the hospitality sector can also do more by investing in and promoting their own sustainability programmes in order to attract custom.
Moreover, business travellers are more concerned with wellness than ever before. This is not just a matter of personal indulgence. As the report says, traveling employees who are able to eat healthily and exercise, and who feel well rested, nourished, and energised, are better positioned to achieve their business objectives on the road. “As a result, the focus on traveler health and wellness will only continue to grow in the coming year and beyond.”
The full Skift/TripActions report is available online at www.skift.com.