The business travel sector is expected to increase by 3.7% per year over the next decade, a new report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and Travelport has revealed.
According to the report, the fastest growth in the business travel sector is expected in emerging markets. For example, in Asia-Pacific, it is expected to increase 6.2%/ year through 2027.
The fastest-growing market is China with 9.5% growth, followed by Myanmar at 8.7%, Rwanda and Gabon at 8.5%, Hong Kong at 8%, Tanzania at 7.9%, Cambodia at 7.4% and India at 7.2%.
The largest business travel markets remain the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.
In this context, some business travel trends are clearly making their way into 2018.
Chatbots for business travel
In the summer of 2017, Texas-based travel technology company Sabre developed an AI-powered chatbot for the travel and tourism industry based on Microsoft’s intelligent and natural language services.
The chatbot leverages Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services, including Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS). Organisations can use the set of tools to add intelligent and conversational features to their applications.
Two Sabre-connected travel agencies will test a white-label version of the product with travellers. They will use the Facebook Messenger chatbot for common service and support requests, such as changing an existing flight reservation.
Many believe that 2018 will be the year when chatbots really take off – from ‘Edward’, the artificially intelligent service available at Edwardian Hotels-owned Radisson Blu locations, that is able to report on hotel amenities, give directions and tips, and even receive guest complaints on the spot to Lufthansa’s “Mildred”, who helps you find the cheapest flight.
KLM’s chatbot lets you know when it’s time to check in, sends you a boarding pass and changes your seat. KLM passengers can also ask for directions to the nearest restaurant, ATM, taxi rank and more by sending an emoji to this Messenger chatbot.
Team business travel
Last summer, Uber for Business launched a revamped version of its business travel platform, allowing companies to set specific rules for how employees can use the service.
The self-service approach to travel management allows Uber’s clients to set rules for specific groups of travelers, without a limit to the number of riders that can be placed in one of these groups. The move allows big companies to more easily scale and track their Uber usage.
Thanks to the revamp, managers can create “set it and forget it” rules. For example, they can grant workers rides home from the office after a certain hour, or segment out various advantages to specific types of employees.
In 2016, the IBTM Trends Watch Report predicted 2017 would see a “continuing rally in demand for incentive travel”, with budgets expanding for group incentive trips. In 2016, per-person spending was US$3,165.
The team business travel trend is set to maintain the growth curve in 2018 as well.
Rising safety concerns
According to July 2017 research on duty of care from American Express Global Business Travel and ACTE, 37% of travel managers saw a rise in inquiries related to traveler safety even after taking action to address those concerns. The research also found that 36% of respondents have seen an increase in the levels of information on immigration and border crossing being requested or provided in the last six months.
As technology advances and the geopolitical landscape is still dominated by uncertainty, safety concerns are likely to remain a trend throughout 2018.
It’s true that tracking technology and tightened security policies could improve things but unfortunately the utilization of these tools is still rather low, and many programs lack traveler-education and safety-training programs.
Remote workers trigger remote-first businesses
We see more and more businesses giving up their big headquarters in favour of being remote-first. This allows people to travel far more than before and this is where the concept of “digital nomad” comes in.
Digital nomads run their business from their laptop from anywhere in the world, following an agile working methodology. In 2018, flexible working is believed to reach a tipping point with more employees working outside of an office than inside one. A report by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation predicted that over 70% of UK organisations will have adopted flexible working by 2020.
Travel programs set to grow
As competing for talent becomes a top priority for businesses in 2018, travel programs are set to grow as a key part of businesses’ retention and recruitment strategies. Employers are expected to seek travel programs and use them as benefits for employees and, ultimately, as a way of differentiating themselves from their competitors. The line between traveling for work and leisure will become blurry and coming up with programs that offer a more flexible work–life balance will be a smart move.
More localized programs
According to the 2018 Global Meetings Forecast by American Express Meetings & Events, meeting planners will see a significant industry shift towards more localized programs. In this context, global programs will need to be more flexible to meet traveler expectations based on country-specific needs and characteristics.
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