Business travel trends: 2020 and beyond

Posted: 13 January 2020
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By Rob Greyber, president

A new decade begins.  A lot can change in 10 years. A decade ago, you couldn’t ask Alexa or Siri for directions to a restaurant, much less about trends for the future. Netflix was still shipping DVDs. And 10 years ago, there was no Apple Watch or Fitbit — you had to count your own steps. How did we survive?

Standing in January 2020, it’s clear the future is bright, but also uncertain. Let’s look at some of the key trends we see shaping business travel in the coming year and years ahead.

Business travel grows

Here’s the good news: The long-term trend line is up and to the right. Of course, businesses and analysts everywhere are watching the global economy. According to the Global Business Travel Association, 60 percent of the change in business travel volumes is explained by changes in global trade. So, if there’s pressure on global business activity and trade volumes, it could be rough for corporate travel.

But while there will be ups and downs, this isn’t the first time a bit of uncertainty has hit the headlines. The long-term trend for business travel continues to be growth.

But growth doesn’t mean easy. Business growth can still mean challenges for travel managers — how to support growing teams, how to adapt policy to new locations and functions, and how to maintain cost discipline. Building a strong travel culture, thinking about travel as part of how your company operates and not as a budget line item, can help organisations gain a competitive edge. Organisations that do this see corporate travel as a strategic investment that delivers concrete value.

Technology that works for you, not against you

The impact of technology will grow. But the technology itself will disappear.

Over the past decade, our cameras, calculators and calendars have all moved into our smartphones and tablets. The integration of tasks into a continuity of experience won’t stop.

At Egencia, we’re ahead of that curve. With an end-to-end platform that’s always learning and evolving, we’re taking tasks like shopping for the best prices and merging them into a continuity of what happens in the background. Egencia Smart Mix learns what customers want in air and hotel selection at an individual, personalised level. That means we can predict well enough that 90 percent of the time, you find what you want without ever needing to scroll on a page.  Savings Finder for Air uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to save you time and money. With real-time data we continuously monitor airfares, then rebook tickets at lower prices resulting in millions of dollars of savings for customers. Those savings will double in 2020.

Technology is disappearing, moving more into the background, behind the scenes. Options will be personalised before you see them. And you won’t need to understand machine learning to reap the rewards.

Power to the people

Business travel is about people. It’s personal, no matter how much technology changes our world.

For travellers, this will mean more integrated experiences, spanning the entire trip. The trip as a journey, not a booking. For example, years ago, Egencia integrated with Uber so that from the Egencia mobile app you could hit a button and summon a ride, ready to take you to your hotel — it’s one integrated, seamless experience.

For travel managers, this will mean another step in the exciting evolution of their role in their organisations. Travel managers have evolved from policy publishers to cost controllers and are now emerging as champions of corporate culture. You can learn more about this trend from a series of reports prepared by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, in association with Egencia.

This cultural impact of corporate travel is here to stay. With the right tools and data, travel managers can refine their programmes and grow their influence in the enterprise.

We empower business travellers, and the travel managers who serve them, every day at Egencia — it’s why we get out of bed in the morning.

Take your values on the road

Knowledge is power when the planet is at stake.

Business travellers are considered citizens when they’re on the road or at home. They — and their organisations — want to do business with companies who are mindful of sustainability.

To help business travellers bring their values to work and help travel managers shape their sustainability impact, we’ve added carbon emission reporting for air and hotel to Egencia Analytics Studio. We’ll invest to expand the business intelligence insights, including adding rail to our reporting suite in 2020.

We’re also working to create reliable sustainability criteria to help understand the choices in the market. To get this right, it will take an industry-wide effort to standardise understanding of fuel efficiencies, renewable energy sources and other factors that can carry trade-offs for a given trip.

From there, we can develop ways for travel managers to create policies that incorporate these new sustainable options into their travel programmes.

Sustainability is a clear starting point for personalising travel options even more with the values that travellers and organisations live by. It’s another way we’re working to increase business travel’s contribution to shaping corporate culture.

Happy new decade

Change comes fast. Then it’s the new normal.

Like Deliveroo or HelloFresh? They were launched less than 10 years ago. Are you one of Slack’s 8 million regular users? It was released in 2013. Are you part of BlaBla Car’s carbon-conscious ride sharing network that launched in 2006 and now has 80 million members in over 20 countries?

Welcome to a new year, filled with new opportunities. Welcome to a new decade where technology will continue to change our lives at work, home and everywhere in between.

At Egencia, we’re excited to see what this next decade will hold.

Looking for better business travel solutions? Get in touch with us.