When it comes to corporate travel, using a crystal ball to make a handful of vague predictions about what is likely to happen over the next 12 months is a little like making a resolution that you know you can keep – pretty pointless. It’s much more worthwhile to shun crystal balls in favour of the crystal clear opinions of the travel buyers...
Although new innovations are constantly making an entrance into the corporate travel space, as do new initiatives, regulations and drives, it’s an industry that is ultimately led by the travel buyers – whether that’s procurement, travel managers, finance, HR or, in most cases, a hearty mix of all four. Here’s what they had to share about their expectations for 2019:
More or less: Frequency of travel
Despite constant mumblings about Brexit, 50% of the organisations that ATPI spoke to predict that there will be no significant change to how frequently they travel for business in the new year. In fact, a further 32% actually predicted that their organisations would be travelling more often in 2019.
So with no significant changes in frequency of travel predicted by corporates, let’s turn attention to their travel programmes and what they’re awaiting, debating and deliberating in 2019.
Biggest corporate travel concerns for 2019
1. Creating a flexible travel policy
Flexibility is top of mind for the organisations that ATPI spoke to, with 41% of organisations sharing that creating a flexible travel policy is their biggest concern in regards to managing business travel in 2019.
Whereas once a travel policy was a strict set of rules that almost all employees were expected to abide by, changes to the culture of the workplace have taken their toll on dusty documents. More advanced technology, relaxed dress codes and the ability to work from home mean that the humble travel policy has had to be dragged up to date. Strict and restrictive policies are now rarely the right fit and so organisations are looking to craft a more tailored policy that works for their travellers whilst also protecting important interests, like cost and duty of care.
Travel buyers are often concerned that a more flexible policy will lead to a spike in spend and a dip in duty of care fulfillment, but this doesn’t have to be the case in 2019, particularly when marrying travel policy with newer, more advanced booking tools that can integrate your specific policy within its search results – keeping everyone happy.
2. Incorporating the use of technology into a travel programme
Second in travel buyers’ list of concerns for the coming year is how to better incorporate the use of technology into their travel programme, with 32% of the organisations that ATPI spoke to expressing concern over how best to use technology to build a more successful corporate travel strategy.
It’s no longer the case that an online booking tool is merely a way of making a booking – an alternative to picking up the phone. One of the most exciting ways in which technology in travel is set to benefit corporates in the new year is through the increasing provision of artificial intelligence (AI) by advanced online booking tools and all of the strategic benefits that this can bring.
Online booking tools will use AI to provide personalised itinerary recommendations and enhance the booking experience by recalling travel preferences, such as favourite departure airport, preferred hotels and even streamline loyalty programmes.
However, incorporating technology into a corporate travel programme isn’t just about added bonuses and easy suggestions – adding more advanced solutions can actually increase control and achieve travel goals more quickly. For example, a powerful data analytics tool can allow organisations to manipulate data to support their travel management decisions in a way that they have not previously been able to. Add to this the advancing field of predictive analytics and this data can be used to predict in what direction strategy should move towards in the future.
3. Improving traveller satisfaction
There’s been increasing conversation around traveller-centric travel programmes within the industry and the discussions have clearly been taken note of by travel buyers, with 19% of the organisations that we spoke to sharing that improving traveller satisfaction was high on their priority list for 2019.
Not only can improving traveller satisfaction make for a more harmonious atmosphere all round, it can actually advance corporates in achieving their travel goals – whether that’s curtailing spend, reducing leakage or increasing duty of care obligations.
One of the most significant ways that travel buyers can improve traveller satisfaction in 2019 is to prioritise convenience by finding solutions that mirror the consumer sites that they’re used to by offering a quick booking process and personalised suggestions.