Duke Chung, Co-Founder & CEO, TravelBank.
Business travel is poised for even more change throughout the rest of 2023. Demand may be up, but the travel industry is still recovering. Suppliers remain understaffed, resulting in chaotic travel days, long TSA lines and frequent flight delays.
Technology has an opportunity to alleviate some of these burdens and deliver against new business traveler preferences. Likewise, companies have also been adapting to the new habits their travelers have formed over the past few years, including such steps as using contactless payments, working from remote locations and gathering with co-workers in person for social connection and collaboration. With the right business goals, technology and support, employees can hit the road again with confidence. Let’s take a look at some of the travel-related trends of 2023 that business leaders can take into account.
1. Group business travel is on the rise.
Group travel is becoming not only popular but also a necessary component of business operations. More companies have adjusted to support remote work in recent years and are looking for alternative ways to gather the entire team to brainstorm future quarters, set goals, keep company culture strong and benefit from the in-person collaboration that is missing from remote work.
If your company has gone fully remote or hybrid, you may have available funds no longer going toward office space that can be reallocated toward getting teams together more often via company retreats, conferences and events. If your budget is tighter or your team members are too far-flung for coming together in one place, company town hall meetings via online video services can help keep team members up to date and give them a sense of inclusion.
2. AI is being used to discover traveler preferences and take advantage of upsell opportunities.
Virtual assistants provided by machine learning and artificial intelligence have the potential to change the way people manage and book travel. By leveraging AI, travel booking platforms can offer personalized search results, relevant fare bundles and suggested ancillaries throughout the entire travel journey. For air travel, virtual assistants can provide travelers with live travel details like take-off updates, check-in confirmations and touchless checkout. Consider incorporating AI-powered virtual assistants into your company’s travel services to enhance the experience and streamline travel management.
3. Companies will use rewards and points to reinvest back into the business.
With business travel spending still below 2019 pre-pandemic levels, vendors are more likely to entice businesses to spend with them by offering rewards, cash back and points. You may want to focus on these offers even more closely when looking for ways to make your team’s dollars go further in corporate travel.
4. All-in-one applications are being embedded for a seamless user experience.
With the rise of remote work, there is an increasing demand for integrated travel solutions that can handle both work and leisure travel expenses. Fortunately, more banks and financial solutions are giving access to a wider range of finance products for businesses via application programming interfaces (APIs), allowing businesses to create all-in-one applications that integrate with their existing suites of products. For instance, more companies are embedding financial experiences and capabilities directly into the user journey rather than making people switch over to a dedicated financial service provider. Take ride-hailing apps: Payment is already set up when you use the app. This type of integrated experience is being applied to other aspects of business travel and expenses, as well.
In a post-pandemic world, there is an increasing demand for integrated travel solutions that can handle both work and leisure travel expenses. There are also higher expectations for accountability on where budgets are being spent and ROI achieved. All-in-one solutions can allow companies to track and analyze spending patterns more efficiently, which helps ensure better control of company spend and promoting policy adherence among team members.
5. Bleisure travel is back … again!
Employees were doing “bleisure” travel for years before the pandemic. Now, as travel is returning in both the business and personal sectors, the ever-popular combination of business plus leisure travel is resurging. This could be due in part to the small businesses that have maintained remote work cultures, even as larger companies return to the office.
Those who haven’t traveled frequently in recent years may be looking to make the most of their time away from home, while others could be taking advantage of the newfound flexibility that allows them to work from anywhere. As pointed out by Travel Weekly, bleisure looks like it’s back to stay, so if you haven’t already addressed blended travel in your travel policy, now may be the time to do so.
6. Digital nomads are becoming even more mainstream.
We’re already seeing employees combining work and travel, deeming themselves digital nomads. Instead of paying rent each month, they are paying for Airbnbs all around the world and in different cities every few months. For example, in an effort to increase tourism in places like Bali, travelers can live and work tax free in Indonesia with a digital nomad visa. Hotels are even starting to offer clothing (soft PJs) and accessories (yoga mats) to enhance the overall experience and keep travelers coming back.
This seems to be more of a trend among self-employed contractors and small-business employees who haven’t fully gone back into the office. As this trend takes off, executives of in-office teams may want to consider offering more flexible work arrangements that allow employees to work remotely or while on the road, even if only for one month out of the year. You may also want to consider incorporating travel perks, such as company-sponsored retreats, to attract and retain employees. It is always important to try and adapt to the changing work landscape and stay competitive in attracting and retaining top talent.
The reasons we travel and how we do business have certainly changed over the course of the past three years, leading the way for new trends like group travel, AI-powered virtual assistants, hybrid workforces and more. One thing is sure: 2023 has a lot in store for business travelers, business owners and financial advisors alike.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?
Read the full article here