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10 Future Business Travel Trends & Predictions for 2020 and Beyond

Category: B2B News

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.

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. 

business travel trends main web

The business travel industry continues to grow, with experts saying that global business travel spend will reach $1.7 trillion by 2020. One of the major changes to anticipate is the rise of a new type of corporate traveler. Millennials and members of Generation Z are taking over the workplace, and predictions point to millennials making up more than half of the world’s workforce by 2020. 

Business Travelers by Generation

38%

Millennials

23%

Generation X

8%

Baby Boomers

Source: Hipmunk

Designed by

On the same note, Generation Z continues to become more valuable to the travel and tourism industry. The demographic is predicted to be worth upwards of $200 billion to the industry by 2020. 

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 continuing rise of bleisure travel proves to be one of the most significant outcomes of the demographic shift in corporate travelers. With the workforce becoming younger, more employees are looking to do more than work during their trips away from the office. 

Sixty percent of business trips in the US have a component of pleasure, and 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 with 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.

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, 63% of employees used an online booking tool instead of seeking the services of a travel agent. 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. 

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.

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.” 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. 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.

Why did you book accommodations outside of approved channels?

47%

Better direct rates

38%

Better rates on OTA sites

36%

Desired property unavailable on approved channels

Source: Expedia, 2018

Designed by

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. These numbers will probably grow with the upcoming upgrade to 5G wireless internet. 

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 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. 

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

The coming years also pose many possibilities for intelligent assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Google Now. By 2020, these assistants may be able to handle more complex tasks, 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.

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 2020. Blockchain’s built-in security protocols make it the perfect technology for making travel as convenient and seamless as possible. 

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 – 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.

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. 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

A business travel growth forecast reveals slower movement in the coming years, even with the health of the global economy. Political and trade tensions all over the world have affected this shift in corporate travel spending, with companies erring on the side of caution. The lower demand has slowed down travel pricing for airlines, hotels, and rental car companies. 

This ‘era of uncertainty’ in global business travel spending is particularly evident in Europe, due to political tensions surrounding Brexit as well as protests about labor and climate change. Likewise, the trade war between the US and China and rising oil prices have affected corporate travel. Though airfare and hotel prices in North America will see some growth in the coming years, the US’ GDP is expected to continually slow down over the next couple of years. 

Despite political issues, economic experts say that the slowdown may not last long. Gradual improvements in the political landscape should positively affect economic growth and support weakening prices in the tourism industry. 

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

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

Top 10 Countries by Total Business Travel Spending

(in Millions USD)

China

USA

Germany

Japan

United Kingdom

France

India

South Korea

Italy

Brazil

Source: GBTA, 2017

Designed by

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. 

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.

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.

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