It’s vital that travel management companies react to any variables that could affect the industry, to achieve the best experience for their clients and business travellers. We take a look at the global trends that currently have an impact on the business travel industry, and the ways the industry is adapting to ensure it continues to offer the highest standards of service, quality and value for companies and their travelling staff members.
#1 Big Data
The current obsession with data gathering and analytics is huge, with IBM reporting that 90% of the world’s data has been created over just the last two years – a staggering 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day!
When it comes to business travel, data helps companies to build a clear picture of their travellers, bookers and suppliers, and subsequent analytics can help to manage spend, spot patterns and trends, and improve the business traveller experience. Data also gives businesses the means to measure the services provided by their suppliers, including travel management companies, to ensure successful partnerships.
At Good Travel Management analytics are used by account managers to make recommendations for changes that will positively impact a company’s bottom line, the traveller experience and employee productivity, and companies can access this data 24/7 in real-time, for ultimate transparency.
#2 Smarter Travel Tech
Technology is always moving forward, with a massive shift towards online and mobile processes. Many travellers are now utilising their smart technology to simplify travel – using a mobile phone for ticketless travel, for example. This digital approach has also expanded into other aspects of travel such as room ‘keys’ that are downloadable to a mobile app.
It’s essential that travel management companies keep up with relevant technology trends. The Good Travel Trip Check app, for example, allows travellers to view and share itineraries (including real-time details), check-in for flights, and access destination information and travel tips. Travel bookers can also benefit from online tools that allow them to make bookings at any time, from anywhere – with options instantly checked for compliance with the company travel policy.
#3 Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
The trend for virtual and augmented reality really has the potential to shake up the travel industry as a whole, offering business travellers, bookers, companies and travel management companies the chance to ‘try before they buy’ before committing to a supplier or travel option. There’s also the potential to use this technology to recce business travel journeys in advance.
Some augmented reality apps are already moving into the travel market by overlaying data about destinations and attractions onto landmarks and streets, with the next logical step being augmented live travel and transport information. This is a technology trend that is only just getting warmed up – with a potential combined market expected to be worth up to $150 billion by 2020 – and travel management companies need to start considering how it could benefit their users.
#4 Embracing Disruptors and Innovators
Fresh thinking innovators such as Uber and Airbnb have completely shaken up the travel industry by giving travellers exciting – often lower cost – accommodation and ground travel options. And it’s a similar story in the skies with the rise of the low-cost airline, which is now expanding into long haul routes with the likes of low-cost airline Norwegian launching ten new transatlantic routes from the UK and Ireland, and new low-cost long-haul carrier Level due to launch from Barcelona this summer.
Travel industry disruptors often have a knock-on positive impact, forcing their competitors to essentially ‘up their game’. For example, the recent London launch of the MyTaxiApp is adding value for black cab users as they are now able to use smart tools to note their favourite drivers and share their real-time journey information with others.
There’s a big buzz around bleisure, which is essentially the combination of business and leisure travel to boost traveller well-being and productivity. It leads on from the increased importance being placed on work/life balance and staff welfare and has the potential to be a growing consideration for companies and the business travel industry. We’re already seeing a consumer and corporate market crossover with the trend for integrating leisure travel services such as Airbnb and Booking.com into business travel, and travel management companies should be looking at ways to add value for the traveller, with the end goal of increased traveller comfort and enjoyment.
Hotels are quickly cottoning on to the ‘added pleasure’ trend among business travellers, swapping out more traditional delayed gratification loyalty perks for instant perks that appeal to a younger workforce. Hilton, for example, runs a scheme allowing members to spend loyalty points on Amazon purchases. Travel management companies will need to negotiate similarly appealing ‘leisure-style’ perks i.e. free coffees, Wi-Fi, gym access and instant upgrades to compete with hotels that are keen to appeal to businesses directly.
#6 Focus on Safety and Security
With the threat level from international terrorism currently set at severe, the world has never been more fearful of a terror attack. Airports, public transport systems and busy city centres are seen as prime targets, which puts the business traveller in a potentially dangerous position.
Companies have a duty of care towards their employees, and safety and security are now a huge concern. Thorough risk assessments are essential, and those using travel management companies will expect safety tools and processes in place as standard. At Good Travel Management, GT Assist includes all the essentials a business with travelling employees needs to fulfil its duty of care responsibilities, including 24-hour emergency assistance, real-time traveller tracking, travel disruption and risk alerts and crisis management.
In many companies, safety concerns will directly influence business travel plans and policies, with increased questioning of the necessity of every trip. Communications technology such as Skype and developing areas of technology such as virtual reality will be considered as viable alternatives to non-essential travel.
Companies are quickly realising that it’s not a case of ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to managing their staff. Flexible working hours, unlimited leave, remote working and job sharing are all initiatives that are on the rise, with businesses benefiting from increased productivity, staff retention and a happier workforce.
We also see increased personalisation in our online experiences, with targeted ads on social media and other online channels. The rise of the chat bot also means that companies can connect with customers on their preferred platforms – airlines such as KLM and Lufthansa are using Facebook Messenger to talk to passengers, for example.
Clever companies will use the insights gleaned from gathered data, together with improvements in technology, to support a more personalised approach to business travel. This has the potential to improve communication between travel manager and traveller, increase awareness of and compliance with company travel policies, and improve the traveller experience.
#8 A Global Marketplace
Advancing communications technology and improved transportation links make it easier than ever to do business abroad, and the predictions for a post-Brexit Britain are that reduced UK-EU trade will encourage more international partnerships and global business expansions. This all points towards a potential boom in business travel – especially to further flung destinations and emerging markets such as South America and the Middle East – as companies seek to learn more about these unfamiliar markets, the cultural nuances, and the business rules and regulations.
#9 Financial Caution
The modern business world is undeniably a cautious place. Since 2000 there has been a string of financial crises across the globe, including both the US and the UK going through periods of recession. Brexit is currently causing economic and political uncertainty, and controlling costs is crucial for businesses if they’re to survive the crashes and crises that are now part of our global economy.
This tightening of the purse strings approach has naturally led to companies questioning their business travel spend and seeking ways to either reduce costs or add value. Companies are implementing travel approval policies, creating a need for smart approval tools, and business travel managers will need to negotiate competitive corporate rates and discounts for their clients.
Businesses are also likely to be looking at online alternatives to face to face meetings, aggregating meetings or events to cut costs, or considering more cost effective and cheaper destinations to host their events and meetings.
#10 Focus on Ground Transport
The ground transport elements of business travel have long been overlooked as an untrackable ancillary spend, but with increased importance being placed on controlling costs, companies are likely to value whole journey cost transparency, including rail travel, taxis and hire car expenses.
This may lead to price comparisons and some preference changes in business travel policies. For example, train travel can be a cheaper option than air, particularly if avoiding the ‘anytime travel’ ticketing options. And as business travellers are usually able to make calls, use Wi-Fi and work from a table seat, time spent travelling by train can be utilised as productive work time. Add to this less ‘dead time’ waiting in airports, a typically less stressful travel experience, substantial investment in electrified routes, digital railways and high-speed rail development, and a much-reduced carbon footprint, and travelling by train could quickly become a viable alternative to air travel.
In an ever-changing world, the business travel industry needs to adapt to the effects of global trends constantly. At Good Travel Management we strive to lead from the front as a forward-thinking travel management company, using the latest technology, tools and insights to make your business travel easier.