Where is business travel going over the next few years? What about the next decade? What kind of innovative technologies and practices will become commonplace?
According to Carlson Wagonlit Travel, the five following trends will shape the future of business travel: customization, mobile technologies, fresh booking practices, the sharing economy and digital payment solutions.
What does all that mean, though? If we break those concepts down into simpler terms, where is the future of business travel headed?
It’s tough to imagine a world without laptops and smartphones, but once upon a time many a business trip were made without these conveniences.
Laptops definitely helped revolutionize travel, especially in the business world. You can fold up the computer, shove it in a messenger bag, briefcase or carry-on and lug your work with you everywhere. Not that you couldn’t do it in the past; just now it’s available at the press of the button. You’re not limited to your personal work either, but have access to the entirety of the Internet.
Take those ideas and multiply them tenfold, and you can better understand how smartphones changed the game when they arrived. Those same conveniences offered by a laptop are now crammed into a device the size of the average candy bar.
Thanks to mobile applications, you have access to remote hotel check-in systems, flight and boarding info, vehicle rental solutions and even a personal room key in select hotels. You know the saying, “there’s an app for that?” Well, it’s true.
Even better, you can store your business-related documents in the cloud through Google Docs, Evernote, Dropbox or many other services. You can access them from anywhere too.
Gone are the days where you have to lug around tons of paperwork and bags. These days, seasoned travelers rarely have bags that need to be checked and it’s largely thanks to modern tech.
New Booking Practices
There will always be a need to have some form of manual interaction in travel. However, thanks to modern tech, most of the hassle when it comes to arranging and booking trips has been eliminated. Today, you can book a trip in minutes via a mobile device, without ever speaking to a travel or booking agent or customer service rep. Your flight and hotel information will be emailed for you, and that’s it.
One such service, called Yapta, even claims to have saved businesses more than US$12-million in travel expenses.
Other platforms like Locomote have begun to make waves in the travel industry, particularly when it comes to business and enterprise travel. The chief information officer and co-founder of the company, Ross Fastuca, says, “You can book your leisure travel online very easily. You don’t talk to anybody and you can do it without too much fuss.
“For corporate travel, for whatever reason, it seems to be way behind the eight ball. You still have manual interaction and there are all these different forms. We also found that the booking aspect of corporate travel is just one element. There’s also financial savings, duty of care, corporate governance and operational efficiency,” Fastuca adds. “Corporates also need their travel and expenses to be managed easily. It’s not as simple as booking a trip to Hawaii — there are all sorts of things that have to be taken into consideration.”
Essentially, these streamlined booking practices are completely changing the future and shape of the business industry. Things can move quicker, are certainly much more efficient and those who travel often will likely find life much simpler this way.
As outlined by Carlson Wagonlit Travel in its report, “big data, social media and IATA’s new distribution capability (NDC) for airline inventory are three main drivers in customizing the traveler experience while supporting program objectives.”
What does this mean if you’re not a tech guru? It means that travel companies and airlines are tracking customer patterns through the collection of big data and social media analytics. Essentially, this allows them to better serve their customer base by customizing the sale, distribution and travel processes.
Long story short, it means a more efficient and well-oiled machine. Hopefully, it will translate to fewer delays and better travel arrangements.
All Aboard Florida, a new high-speed rail currently under construction between Miami and Orlando, will be leveraging this same kind of customization not only while the project is under development, but also once it’s in operation. It’s chosen several necessary stops thanks to local travel metrics – including West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale – that will help remove 3 million vehicles from state roads every year.
The sharing economy
Services like Airbnb, Uber, Lyft and TaskRabbit are considered part of a new trend called the sharing economy. What is the shared economy, you ask?
It’s a socio-economic system that equally distributes human and physical resources, including the trade, creation, production, distribution and consumption of goods or services.
Here’s how services like Uber and Lyft work. They have modernized the need for public transportation and private transportation like taxis. Essentially, you open the respective app, request a taxi service and an Uber driver picks you up and takes you to your destination. The catch is that Uber drivers are not actual taxis.
Uber and Lyft drivers are hired as independent contractors and they supply their own vehicles.
What does all of this have to do with the business travel industry? According to the same CWT report we discussed earlier, 43 percent of travel managers indicated that they believe ground-sharing providers are extremely important to their programs and the future of their industry. In other words, the sharing economy is changing the way we travel.
Digital payment solutions
Thanks to new booking processes, mobile tech and applications, and a more streamlined expectation from travelers, companies are starting to introduce new digital payment solutions. It’s not just about paying with your phone or online anymore. It’s about stretching the convenience even further than that.
Single-use virtual card solutions are now being offered by several travel providers. It provides support for a wide variety of hotels, carriers, services and goods related to travel. It’s like the end-all-be-all of streamlined travel. Imagine only needing to use one platform to book your flight, hotel, transportation and various appointments. That’s where things are headed with this new trend in updated digital payments. It sounds glorious, doesn’t it?