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10 Future Business Travel Trends & Predictions for 2022/2023 and Beyond

Corporate travel remains a crucial aspect of a business. Despite advancements in technology, business travel trends indicate that there’s no substitute for face-to-face interactions. Travel can also support business initiatives for networking, skills development, and recruitment. However, the presence of COVID-19 has thrown a wedge at some of those travel plans, which prompts the importance of risk assessments and possible changes in future travels.

In this business travel forecast, you can read all about the direction the industry is moving in. We’ve also included some business travel statistics so you can make data-driven decisions in your company’s business practices.

key business travel trends

The business travel industry experienced a decline of 52% during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the recent rollout of vaccines, business travel spending is expected to rise to $842 billion in 2021, which accounts for a 21% increase (Reuters, 2021). The majority of businesses have even reported that they are considering resuming their corporate travel plans for 2021, although there are no definite plans yet (GBTA, 2021).

Source: GBTA

One of the major changes to anticipate is the rise of a new type of corporate traveler. Members of Generation Z are taking over the workplace, and predictions point to this age bracket making up around 40% of the workforce by 2021 (Connecteam, 2020). At the end of 2024, business travel spending is expected to reach $1.4 trillion and make a full recovery from the pandemic in the succeeding year (Reuters, 2021). By this time, millennials and Gen Z-ers will be doing much of the traveling given their respective shares in the labor force.

This shift in the demographics of corporate travelers has influenced the global business travel forecast in the coming years. Many business travel trends center around technology and its abilities to enable self-service and make travel seamless.

1. Business is almost always mixed with pleasure

The rise of bleisure travel proves to be one of the most significant outcomes of the demographic shift in corporate travel, and this trend is expected to continue in the midst of COVID-19 vaccinations. With the workforce becoming younger, more employees are looking to do more than work during their trips away from the office.

Although 92% of organizations suspended business travel during the early months of the pandemic, pre-pandemic figures suggest that 90% of millennial business travelers added components of leisure to their affairs (National Geographic, 2020). This could very well occur within 2021 as COVID-19 vaccines are now available.

Bleisure travelers go on these trips once every two to three months. More than half of international business travelers plan to extend business trips to accommodate leisure activities at their destination.

Companies in the tourism industry can capitalize on this trend by focusing their marketing campaigns on local tourist attractions and events. If you’re more concerned of your employees not doing enough business, though, time tracking software can help ensure sufficient productivity.

Key takeaways:

  • More employees are taking bleisure trips.
  • Bleisure travelers go on trips at least every quarter.
  • Business travelers are also willing to extend business trips for leisure activities.

2. Unconventional accommodations are in

Another business travel trend influenced by the new generation of corporate travelers is the growing popularity of unconventional accommodations. Business travelers have become more open to considering staying somewhere other than traditional chain hotels. More are opting to stay in apartments and other accommodations that have a more homey feel.

Smaller boutique hotels and home-like accommodations, like those offered by Airbnb, enjoy increased popularity among business travelers today. For instance, over 70% of millennial corporate travelers had stayed in a vacation rental during business trips (American Express, 2019).

These non-traditional accommodations provide opportunities for exploring the destination in new ways. More travelers also stay further away from the city center, as comfort and proximity to leisure activities are prioritized.

Unconventional accommodations are in

Key takeaways:

  • More business travelers opt to stay in home-like accommodations.
  • Small boutique hotels and home rentals have the edge over traditional chain hotels.
  • Additionally, more corporate travelers prioritize comfort and proximity to leisure activities.

3. Self-booking is becoming the norm

More corporate travelers opt to book travel options and accommodations on their own. According to recent surveys, 68% of employees book business travel through tools not approved by the company instead of seeking the services of a travel agent (Expedia Group, 2021). After all, there are numerous self-booking options that business professionals can leverage. This trend towards self-booking may also be another offshoot of the generational shift in corporate travelers. After all, millennials prefer self-booking when they travel so that they can find flights and accommodations that meet their preferences.

In some cases, corporations push for self-enablement and provide tools that help employees resolve issues. When these self-service tools fail, though, corporate travelers will continue to rely on customer service from an agent. This is particularly true when emergencies arise, like in cases of canceled flights. Corporate travelers also tend to want to rely on a human for support in more complex issues like visas.

Key takeaways:

  • Business travelers, especially millennials, prefer the self-booking process.
  • However, business travelers will continue to rely on human support for complex issues and travel emergencies.

Most Popular Online Booking Software

Here are some of the best online booking software that you can choose from:

  1. YouCanBook.me is an online booking software that connects customer bookings right into your Google or Microsoft calendars. It also allows you to personalize your booking page and display your availability for multiple locations.
  2. Acuity Scheduling provides a user-friendly online booking platform to help your clients self-book their appointments. It lets you create branded and customized confirmations, reminders, and follow-ups to drive more client bookings.
  3. Bookeo is an industry-leading online booking software perfect for service providers, schools, and tour companies. It provides you with advanced marketing tools to help you maximize profit.
  4. SimplyBook.me lets you build your own personalized and mobile-optimized booking website. It allows you to integrate the system with your existing site or with your Facebook and Instagram pages.
  5. Checkfront easily handles customer bookings in a unified toolset. With its advanced rule system, it lets you enforce and set your own booking rules.

4. More flexible corporate travel policies

When was the last time you looked at your company’s corporate travel policy? There’s a good chance that some of these policies need tweaking. Recent business travel trends indicate that more corporate travelers are “going rogue (RateGain, 2019).” This means travelers are now more likely to go outside employer-approved channels when booking properties and transportation for their trips.

Corporate travelers need a booking process that provides better availability and allows them to choose from more property and rate options. Combined with emerging preferences for unconventional accommodations, the need for more varied booking options pushes corporate travel policies to become more flexible.

The good news is that companies that offer a plethora of travel options enjoy higher adoption rates for their corporate travel programs (TripActions, 2019). Allowing employees to make choices that align with their needs and preferences encourages a culture of transparency and reinforces trust between employers and employees.

Worried about reining in travel spending while empowering business travelers to make their own choices? Technology now allows companies to adopt a dynamic travel policy. A dynamic business travel policy adjusts according to available options at the time of booking. This way, business travelers will still be able to make their own choices while complying with company policies.

As far as flexibility is concerned, video meetings and teleconferencing have also become alternatives during the pandemic, with 31% of employees stating that remote setups are just as effective as business travel (Forbes, 2020).

Why did you book accommodations outside of approved channels?

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Source: Expedia, 2018

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Key takeaways:

  • More corporate travelers are going rogue, i.e., not using employer-approved channels, during the booking process.
  • Corporate travel policies are becoming more flexible.
  • Dynamic travel policies also have a higher adoption rate.

5. Technology continues to revolutionize corporate travel

Technology plays a central role in the global business travel forecast. Mobile technology currently accounts for 39% of hotel bookings and 22% of airfare bookings (FCM Travel Solutions, 2019). These numbers will probably grow with the upcoming upgrade to 5G wireless internet. Also, once the COVID-19 travel restrictions ease up, this technological trend will likely continue.

International business travelers can expect to spend less time waiting in airport lines, thanks to facial recognition technology that speeds up immigration protocols and border control procedures. Other biometric technologies seeing increasing use at airports include fingerprint and retinal scanning.

Trip disruption technology (CWT, 2019) is also evolving to minimize the hassle caused by delayed flights and trains. Travel technology providers can now deliver real-time trip updates to travelers’ mobile devices. This way, business travelers can adjust their plans accordingly and minimize downtime.

Faster in-flight internet access is also in the works. Travel suppliers and mobile network operators are working together to bring high-speed internet into the cabin. With this technology, employees can stay productive even during long-haul flights.

Technology has also moved beyond airports and train stations to make business travel easier. Business travelers can now enjoy automated check-in and check-out processes. These technologies allow travelers to pick up their room key upon arriving at the hotel and head straight to their room. Centralized billing can save travelers from the hassle of having to compute expense costs separately.

Key takeaways:

  • Upcoming upgrades to 5G wireless internet may result in more mobile bookings in the future.
  • Facial recognition and biometric technologies will also reduce waiting time for international travelers.
  • Trip disruption technology helps corporate travelers adjust to delays in the journey.

6. The rise of AI, virtual reality, and intelligent assistants

More advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality are poised to bring more changes to the business travel industry. Travel suppliers can use these technologies to discover business travelers’ preferences and take advantage of upselling opportunities. Virtual reality is also predicted to enable personalization, allowing guests to adjust rooms based on their taste (FCM Travel Solutions, 2019).

The coming years also pose many possibilities for intelligent assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Google Now. These assistants are able to handle more complex tasks (Wishup, 2019), like provide updates to itineraries during disruptions and recommend services. All these technologies will greatly benefit business travelers looking to maximize their time during the journey.

Want to learn more about artificial intelligence? Here are some artificial intelligence statistics you may find interesting.

Key takeaways:

  • Artificial intelligence and virtual reality can be used to discover travelers’ preferences.
  • Siri and Cortana will soon be able to provide itinerary updates.

7. Blockchain: the future of business travel

Blockchain is also expected to improve security for corporate travelers by 2021. Blockchain’s built-in security protocols make it the perfect technology for making travel as convenient and seamless as possible (Revfine, 2020).

The technology makes data storage and access easier. The constant availability of information is crucial since the travel industry relies on the information exchange between companies. For instance, travel agents pass customer information to hotels and airlines.

Blockchain makes it possible to collect every bit of information involved in the travel process (Amadeus, 2019) – from traveler preferences to flight prices and hotel rates – into a file that’s duplicated across multiple computers. And since the technology decentralizes data and arranges it into permanent blocks, blockchain offers more security. Travel information is always available and safe from user errors or cybersecurity attacks.

Businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry can also take advantage of blockchain technology for luggage tracking, identification services, and customer loyalty schemes.

Outside the realm of travel, blockchain can even be leveraged for other complex tasks like COVID-19 vaccine distribution (Mobi Health News, 2020). Technology this flexible will probably have niftier applications for business travel in the near future.

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin may also soon be accepted as payments by travel companies. If you’d like to learn more about cryptocurrencies, you can check out our guide and FAQs on Bitcoin.

Key takeaways:

  • Blockchain can greatly improve the security of travel information
  • Blockchain can also ensure that every bit of travel information is always accessible.
  • Likewise, this technology can ease luggage tracking and support customer loyalty plans.

8. Business travel is a perk

Another important aspect of the business travel forecast is the fact that most employees now see corporate travel as a perk (TripActions, 2019). According to surveys, international business travelers consider travel as valuable to professional and personal growth.

Making up the largest segment of the workforce, millennials are also more willing to travel, as they consider it an enriching experience. Similarly, employees who travel often feel more empowered and engaged. Travel can even help improve confidence and interpersonal relationship skills.

More companies are acknowledging these effects and seeing the link between business travel. A robust, dynamic corporate travel program can be used as a tool to encourage employee engagement, improve employee retention, and drive organizational growth.

Business travel as a perk

Key takeaways:

  • Most employees consider corporate travel a perk.
  • Millennials consider business travel an enriching experience.
  • Frequent business travelers also feel more empowered and engaged.

9. Slower years for corporate travel and business tourism

Business travel growth can finally begin after a serious downturn in 2020 due to the pandemic (Reuters, 2021). And the industry is even expected to make a full recovery. However, certain practices in the age of COVID-19, such as video conferencing and other remote alternatives, will likely stick since 31% of organizations find them just as effective as actual trips (Forbes, 2020) with much lower costs.

In fact, 43% of business travelers already expect that they will travel less post-pandemic (Forbes, 2020). Besides financial reasons, the pandemic has ravaged economies and not all countries have shown an adequate response to the continuing spread of the coronavirus. Furthermore, the rollout of vaccines is concentrated in developed nations (BMJ, 2020), thus development projects in developing nations would likely be canceled or at least met with stiff travel restrictions.

As such, 61% of employees would rather leverage video conferencing platforms than physically venture out to other lands (Forbes, 2020).

Key takeaways:

  • Global business travel spending is growing, but not as much as during previous years.
  • Political tensions and trade issues have also contributed to this slower growth.
  • Improvements in political issues will support weakening travel prices.

10. New travel markets are emerging

New countries are taking bigger shares of the market in business travel spending. More corporate travelers are flying to India and Indonesia, with these countries showing 11.3% and 8.7% in market growth, respectively. Surpassing South Korea in business travel spending in 2017, India is expected to break into the top 5 business travel markets by 2022 (GBTA, 2018). A report suggests that Asia has become the world’s largest business travel market (Hospitalitynet, 2019), even though the United States outpaces everyone in spending by a wide margin (WTTC, 2021).

Sweden and Norway, with respective market growth rates of 6.8%  and 6.6 %, are quickly becoming popular business travel destinations as well (GBTA, 2018). China, however, will continue to dominate the business travel market, with a projected annual business travel spend of $129 billion by 2022.

Source: WTTC 2021

Key takeaways:

  • India and Indonesia are becoming popular business travel destinations.
  • Moreover, India will most likely be in the top 5 business travel markets by 2022
  • Despite new markets, China will continue to be the top business travel market in the next couple of years.

Take advantage of these business travel trends

Travel remains an important business aspect for many companies today. If your employees are frequent travelers, it will be helpful to stay ahead of these business travel trends. This way, you can prepare for these changes and adjust your corporate travel policy accordingly, especially with COVID-19 still looming.

Information in these trends is also useful to travel management companies and businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry. Hotel owners or rental car companies can use these travel trends to gain insights into their customer base. These trends also present an excellent opportunity to adopt new business practices.

Many of these travel trends center around technology. It definitely won’t hurt to look into new software and applications that will give you that technological edge.

Want to get cracking on modifying your current business processes? Check out our article on the benefits of using business process management software.

 

References:

  1. Amadeus (2019). The Future of Business Travel. Retrieved from Amadeus
  2. American Express (2019). Trends on Business Travel’s Biggest Generation: Millennials. Retrieved from American Express
  3. BMJ (2020). Covid-19: Many poor countries will see almost no vaccine next year, aid groups warn. Retrieved from BMJ
  4. Expedia Group (2021). Business Travel Trends: How TMCs are keeping up with the corporate traveler. Retrieved from Expedia Group
  5. FCM Travel Solutions (2019). Business Travel 2020: The Trends & Tech that will Shape the Future of our Industry. Retrieved from FCM Travel Solutions
  6. GBTA (2018). GBTA Forecasts Seven Percent Growth in Global Business Travel Spend, Potentially Signifying End to Era of Uncertainty. Retrieved from GBTA
  7. Mobi Health News (2020). Blockchain could be the key to vaccine distribution, says IBM. Retrieved from Mobi Health News
  8. Pundora, D. (2019). 30 Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Travel Assistant. Retrieved from Wishup
  9. RateGain (2019). Delivering Duty of Care in the Age of Corporate Rogue Travel. Retrieved from RateGain
  10. Regan, R. (2020). Everything You Need To Know About Generation Z In The Workplace in 2021. Retrieved from Connecteam
  11. Reuters (2021). Global business travel to grow 21% in 2021, trade group forecasts. Retrieved from Reuters
  12. Revfine (2020). Blockchain Technology within the Travel Industry. Retrieved from Revfine
  13. Statista (2021). Business tourism spending of G20 countries in 2019. Retrieved from Statista
  14. TripActions (2019). 7 Business Travel Trends to Watch in 2020. Retrieved from TripActions
  15. Wallin, B. (2020). How the death of business travel will change your next vacation. Retrieved from National Geographic
  16. Wyman, O. (2020). How Videoconferencing And Covid-19 May Permanently Shrink The Business Travel Market. Retrieved from Forbes
Jenny Chang

By Jenny Chang

Jenny Chang is a senior writer specializing in SaaS and B2B software solutions. Her decision to focus on these two industries was spurred by their explosive growth in the last decade, much of it she attributes to the emergence of disruptive technologies and the quick adoption by businesses that were quick to recognize their values to their organizations. She has covered all the major developments in SaaS and B2B software solutions, from the introduction of massive ERPs to small business platforms to help startups on their way to success.

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