The past year has transformed the work experience. What are the most prominent business travel trends to emerge from this pandemic-influenced transformation?
There’s a lot of uncertainty around business travel in 2021. Many companies were grounded in 2020 due to the pandemic, but more and more Travelers are hitting the road and taking to the skies this year. What are the most prominent and important business travel trends that will emerge from the uncertainty?
First and foremost, know that business travel is on the cusp of a boom and that the future will be filled with opportunity. But what specifically should Travel Managers be thinking about as their Travelers leave the office for trips. Here’s a brief summary of the 5 most prominent business travel trends this year.
1. Risk Management Takes the Spotlight
Risk management has been a growing concern for Executives in the 21st century. As the business world becomes more globalized, companies have a duty of care responsibility to look after their employees — no matter where they are located. Risk management is the collection of strategies, tactics and approaches companies use to live up to that duty of care responsibility.
As a Travel Manager, you are now a risk specialist, too. Due to the pandemic, travel policies will now need to consider and anticipate risks of all kinds. In addition, Travel Managers will be charged with creating systems that allow their companies to monitor team members’ locations and to maintain communication — again, no matter where they are in the world. For example, Executives will lean on Travel Managers to help consider the COVID-19 risk at their employees’ planned travel destinations. Travel Managers will need access to real-time COVID-19 data in cities, counties, states and countries to help make those important travel-related decisions.
Travel Managers will be forced in 2021 to answer questions like:
- What constitutes essential travel?
- What risk scenarios will my employee groups face?
- How does COVID-19 and other risk affect compliance and policy enforcement?
The return to travel we will see in 2021 should be accompanied by great care and understanding with Travelers. If companies can effectively manage risk and support employees as they return to work away from the office, travel programs will be successful now and into 2022.
2. Balancing Revenue and Travel Spend Management Concerns
The COVID-19 shutdown brought a difficult question to the forefront: Do we need business travel? After a year of limited travel, the answer came back as a resounding “yes” — we do need business travel.
The most successful Travel Managers in 2021 and in the future will be the ones who connect the return on business travel with reasonable, responsible budget decisions
In 2021, businesses will necessarily increase travel spend in pursuit of their objectives. But Travel Managers will have an additional task: managing travel spend in an environment where there are also COVID-19-related financial implications to consider. Many businesses struggled with revenue during quarantine, meaning that budgets in 2021 remain limited. This creates tension and places a greater focus on the relationship between business travel and spend management. The most successful Travel Managers in 2021 and in the future will be the ones who connect the return on business travel with reasonable, responsible budget decisions.
3. Quality Technology Becomes Essential
During the pandemic, businesses have realized that they need a “complete picture of travel activity.” Unfortunately, few companies have in place technology platforms that allow for that level of detail. This year and moving forward, Travel Managers will need to implement and maintain tech platforms that are:
- Cloud-based: We live in a business world powered by software-as-a-service (or SaaS). For travel-related platforms to be successful, they need to live in the cloud and be easily accessible via user-interfaces on computers, tablets and mobile devices.
- Integrated: Platforms should be built around hubs that pull all needed information into a central place. If travel platforms are not integrated, operation by Travel Managers and adoption by Travelers will be nearly impossible.
- End-to-end: Travel-related tech platforms should walk Travelers through the entire process, from searching for flights to gaining approvals to managing in-trip disruptions to filing expenses. There can be no gaps.
These tech platforms should also support a company’s risk management strategies. When you create an end-to-end platform, you’re much better able to get a clear, real-time picture of travel activity when needed.
4. Activity Will Increase as Travelers Experience Cleanliness
While COVID-19 curtailed business travel in 2020, there was a slight uptick in leisure travel. This increase in leisure travel is likely to make your traveling team members much more comfortable with the travel experience and much more willing to get back on the road for work.
The thinking goes like this: Once Travelers, whether flying for business or leisure, see and experience the great lengths airlines (and others) are going to in pursuit of cleanliness and sanitation, they will be much more comfortable flying again in the near future.
United Airlines is just one of the companies leading the way with its commitment to cleanliness. It has partnered with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic to develop and a program that ensures its planes are as safe as possible for Travelers of all stripes.
5. Remote Work Will Drive More and More Business Travel
The past year has been difficult for the business travel industry in the short-term. But, in the long-term, expect business travel to experience a significant boom. The reason is simple: remote work.
Remote work was already becoming a new normal before COVID-19 arrived. The pandemic has only accelerated the move to remote work. But, even in remote work settings, teams and companies still need to gather from time to time. Without being able to meet at a central office, they will need to travel for these corporate meetings. Expect new incentives for business trips to emerge a world dominated by remote work (including team building, strategy sessions and professional development). These new incentives will lead to an overall increase in business travel.
Navigate the New Business Travel Trends With Ease
Given the 5 trends listed above, Travel Managers will find themselves heaped with new responsibilities, duties and concerns. At JTB Business Travel, we exist to make the lives of Travel Managers easier — helping them optimize spend while creating comfortable, rewarding, productive experiences for Travelers. Behind everything we do is a common-sense approach to business travel.
Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for your business.