Business Travel Trends for 2020

By Jessica Sillers

Travel has transformed over the past decade. Back in 2010, most of us were combing through multiple websites to find a flight, and the answer to, “Business or pleasure?” was rarely “Both.”

Companies like Airbnb grew from being a backpacker’s favorite to a business-friendly place to stay. Books and movies about finding purpose in travel (Eat Pray Love, anyone?) have helped shape what we want to see and do when we go to a new destination.

So what will the new decade hold for business travel? Time will tell — but we’ve got a good feeling that these trends will play an important role for business trips in 2020 and beyond.

Safety is #1

“Have a safe trip” isn’t just an empty phrase. A SAP Concur report found that business travelers often feel unsafe. More than half of the survey respondents said they’d changed travel arrangements for safety reasons, and 85 percent of LGBTQ travelers had done so (compared to 53 percent of non-LGBTQ travelers)!

What you can do now: Prioritize travel safety training and policy updates that help travelers stay safe. Aligning your company’s focus with your traveler’s top priority is good for morale. You may identify ways to improve your commitment to duty of care for your employees. Finally, reducing the number of cancellations or rebookings (because travelers find safe arrangements the first time) can even save money for the company.

New Business Travel Market Leaders Rising

The Global Business Travel Association projects that India and Indonesia will be the fastest growing business travel markets over the next five years. As business opportunities and partnerships grow, you might find yourself planning more trips to New Delhi or Bali.

That means long flights, if you’re based in the United States! Now is a great time to review your company’s history of short-haul vs. long-haul flights, and your policy on which ticket class employees can book. It’s easy to ride coach for a 2-hour puddle-jumper from Chicago to New York, but not so much for a 17-hour flight to Mumbai. Generally, it’s a good idea to consider letting travelers book business class for a long-haul flight, especially if they hold a senior position.

Travel Tech Is Here to Stay

Ten years ago, small businesses were asking, “What the heck is an app?” Today, it can be hard to imagine how to get through the day without a mobile device! Business travelers make 39 percent of hotel bookings and 22 percent of flight bookings on a smartphone.

The rise of travel management companies has made it easier to build a seamless business travel booking experience. Employees no longer need to wade through flight research before a trip, and complete a stack of dreaded expense reports after (almost 25 percent of business travelers would rather get a cavity filled at the dentist!). Instead, travelers can access company-approved flight and hotel deals in minutes, and submit expenses with a receipt snapshot on their phone.

The SAP Concur report found that some employees feel frustrated by companies lagging behind when it comes to adopting new technology. If you’re still booking trips on a case-by-case basis or relying on tedious paperwork, let the new decade be your chance at a fresh start.

Need help writing a business travel policy or learning how travel management works? Our webinar can help you achieve compliance and beat your budget.

Beauty Is in the Eye of the Hotel Room

Home-like accommodation services (looking at you, Airbnb) have redefined what a hotel stay can look like. Bland, sensible, cookie-cutter hotel rooms might be on their way to becoming a thing of the past.

A Booking.com survey found that international travelers preferred an apartment-style accommodation that let them feel like part of the city they visited. The room’s appearance can matter almost as much as standard perks like central location. Forty percent of travelers preferred attractive accommodations specifically so they could post more eye-catching photos on social media.

What to do now: Consider offering more accommodation options, if you haven’t already. Many sharing economy sites let you view only “business friendly” listings that have amenities corporate travelers need, from safety fixtures to fast Wifi. If you’re browsing traditional hotels, think about perks travelers can enjoy, like late check-out or a photogenic rooftop restaurant.

Employees Are Eager to Travel

Corporate travel managers and business travelers agree: Business travel is powerful. In a Skift report, over 90 percent of both groups said business trips are an important driver for company growth. Employees say business travel builds their confidence, and even teaches valuable life lessons.

In other words, travel is a perk! This is especially true if you’re open to letting employees try bleisure travel, or adding leisure vacation days on either or both sides of a business trip. More than half of business travelers have taken a bleisure trip in the last 12 months. Corporate travel is linked to stronger employee engagement, which can be good for employee retention.

What you can do: Get clear about how and when employees can add their own vacation to a business trip. And feel free to talk up your upcoming business trip plans! Chances are, employees are excited to go.

Want more ideas for how to manage business travel data and design improved travel strategies in 2020? Be sure to check out the rest of our blog for tips and trends travel managers should know.

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