During uncertain times when COVID-19 is spreading around the world, you can be sure of one thing — innovation in business travel.
Challenging moments in world history have often led to dramatic innovation. It’s safe to say that the COVID-19 outbreak is among the most challenging moments in modern history, and we’re likely to see new ideas, inventions and developments in all sorts of different places — including innovation in business travel.
In fact, as travelers start to board planes, rent cars and check into hotels once more, we’re already starting to see innovation on behalf of airlines, rental car companies and hotel chains. Here’s a look at what’s already happening and what to expect in the future.
Innovations in Air Travel
Everyone is ready to get day-to-day life moving forward again. Air travelers, airlines and airports are all open to new ideas that can get us traveling again, even if that means a few hurdles along the way — which makes right now the perfect time for innovation.
First, expect to see increasing flexibility in making, changing and cancelling airline reservations. For decades, airlines have been getting worse and worse about allowing schedule changes and flight cancellations. In the age of COVID-19, they have become much more willing to work with passengers, and they are likely to use big data (to perfect the over-sale of flights) and new technologies (to streamline customer communication and reservation changes) to remain flexible for years to come.
Second, look for changes in airline boarding and seating. The way passengers currently board most airlines is among the most inefficient of travel processes. Passengers seated in the front board first in most cases, which is illogical. And seats are inelegantly crammed into planes to maximize the number of passengers on any given flight. In the future, we may see far more logical boarding processes, as well as seating arrangements focused more on comfort and providing as much personal space as possible.
Finally, look for the airport experience to change. There will be an emphasis on automation and touchless processes, and we’re likely to see more health-monitoring technologies. For example, Face++ is an app that allows for body temperature monitoring at a distance. If and when airports can find a way to ensure personal privacy, they will have greater ability to identify passengers carrying viruses.
Innovations in Hotels
Just like airports and airlines will move toward automated and touchless processes, expect much of the same from hotels. In addition, look for activities that once took place in common areas — like fitness centers — to be made available in private settings. For example, hotels may start offering workout pods or treadmills that can be rented and wheeled into rooms.
Hotels may also look to diversify their business models. Some hotels are exploring the transition of rooms into private dining spaces where restaurants can serve customers without exposing them to others.
And, finally, hotels (and other travel vendors) may become a focus for charitable endeavors. For example, some hotels may invite travelers to donate a room or stay to a frontline health care professional or another essential worker.
Innovation in Car Rentals
The car rental industry has always been at the forefront of innovation. Many rental companies already offer customers the opportunity to go straight to their vehicles without waiting in line or talking to an agent.
Expect these innovative car rental companies to build on what they’ve already accomplished in a post-COVID-19 world. Check-ins should become more automated and more efficient. And expect greater levels of communication when customers need assistance, including the use of highly responsive and helpful chatbots.
Is Your Company Ready for Innovative Business Travel?
At JTB Business Travel, we use an innovative approach in serving our clients. As the industry changes, we offer services and provide guidance that helps you make the most of your investment in business travel — including the complete elimination of transaction fees. Behind everything we do is a common-sense approach to business travel. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help support your travel program.