We’re almost past the pandemic and all forms of travel are bouncing back. Despite the many predictions of virtual communication technologies and work-from-home models becoming new standard, corporate travel has remained as relevant as ever. Despite the many advancements in VR and other technologies, recent business travel trends indicate that it is crucial aspect of a business and that there’s no substitute for direct, personal interactions. It also supports business initiatives for networking, skills development, and recruitment.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had its impact on the travel and tourism industry, and has brought about some major changes such as need for risk assessments, access to up-to-date info, importance of better planning, etc. These and other pandemic related rules and regulations are now shaping new trends and possible changes in the travel industry of the future. In this article, we’ll examine some of the major trends and the possible direction the industry will take in 2022 and beyond.
1. Emergence of New Travel Markets
New destinations are now taking bigger shares of business travel market in terms of spending. More business travelers are flying to developing countries like India, Malaysia and Indonesia as they are better rates in market growth. While the west and more developed Asian countries like South Korea and Japan struggled to contain their share in business travel spending, others like India are expected to break into the top 5 business travel markets by 2022 as per reports by GBTA and others.
Recent WTTC report (2021) and other surveys suggest that Asia has now become the world’s largest market for business travel, even though the United States still outpaces everyone in spending by a wide margin. In Europe, 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.
2. Slow But Steady Rebound of Business Travel
Business travel rebound has finally started after a serious downturn in 2020 due to the pandemic and the many travel and related restrictions that were forced by governments around the world. Many experts now expect the travel and tourism industry to make a full recovery in 2022. However, certain technologies and practices brought about by the pandemic, such as video conferencing, and other remote alternatives, will likely stay for a while as some organizations find them to be a way of reducing costs. Add to that the complexities and challenges like vaccination acceptance in various countries, health checks, etc.
According to a survey by Forbes in 2020, 43% of business travelers expected less travel post the pandemic. Besides financial reasons, the pandemic had ravaged economies and not all countries had shown a proper response to the spread of the Covid-19. Besides, at the time the rollout of vaccines were concentrated in developed nations, and strict travel bans and restrictions were the norm everywhere. Things are, however, rapidly changing now and recent surveys show that over two-thirds now expect more travel in the coming years.
3. The Return of the Travel Advisers
A few years before the pandemic, people including corporate travelers were increasingly turning to book travel options and accommodations online on their own. Many employees used to even book business travel through tools not approved by the company instead of seeking the services of a travel agent. But the continuous changes in the travel regulations and document requirements with various countries have brought back the travel agents. Even in cases where the corporations push for self-enablement and provide OBTs, we see the corporate travelers continue to rely on travel agents when these self-service tools fail, like in case of flight cancellations, new travel restrictions, or other emergencies.
Although there are plethora of self-booking tools available to choose from, travelers are increasingly turning to travel advisers for their expertise. The trend towards self-booking that saw more adoption from millennials has taken a dip. Although they surf the rates, many now understand the value that traditional agents can bring in compared to online travel agents – whether it’s the negotiation power they bring to table or the fact that they got you covered even in the most challenging time like a new travel restriction that may popup anytime these days.
4. Bleisure Gets More Takers
We all witnessed the heavy suspension of travel in the beginning of the pandemic, that later pushed the business travel community in general and the frequent and millennial travelers in particular to add components of leisure to whatever travel opportunities that they got. This mix of business and leisure – bleisure for short – has become one of the most significant outcomes of the demographic shift in corporate travel. The trend continued in the midst of the Covid-19 vaccinations, and is only expected to further strengthen among other segments of travelers.
With the corporate workforce becoming more younger, the employees are looking to do more than work during their trips away from the office. The average business traveler is expected to go on trips once every two to three months, and currently more than half of such international business travelers plan to extend business trips to accommodate leisure activities at their destination. Most corporates are also welcoming of this trend and it helps them provide their employees with better work satisfaction at minimal additional cost. Its also been helping them with the return to office and return to travel programs.
5. More Flexible and Secure Travel Policies
For too long corporate travel policies have remained largely just on paper and without major reviews. The recent events including the different government and corporate responses to the pandemic has prompted those managing the travel programs to reconsider and revamp the corporate travel policies. Changes include more focus on traveler safety and security along with greater flexibility in terms of choosing the trips. There is also this trend of moving away from online booking tools towards contracting travel management companies.
While considering ways to improve on their Duty of Care (DoC) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), organizations are equally concerned about cost control and policy compliance as most struggle to get back on track after economic crisis created by the pandemic. Corporates are also increasingly investing in technologies that allow them to better manage their corporate travel program. The business travel procurement processes are overwhelming when there is no clarity in their design and things need to be done manually. But this doesn’t have to be how it is – by preparing a clear workflow, communicating it well, and using an automated, centralized system to implement and organize their business trips, organizations can be in charge again.
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We hope these predictions will help corporate travel managers and decision-makers to prepare for the travel rebound. By streamlining and organizing your travel program and the procurement process with a flexible and secure system like BizTripz, you can ensure the best savings almost every time. Want to learn more? Get in touch with us at biztripz.com/contact and we’ll help you with free consulting sessions to get you on the right track.