Indeed, when it comes to these business travel trends, technology is shaking up the way companies sell travel and service travellers.
Holographic check-ins, anyone? Robots delivering your room service?
And then there are they the ways SMEs book and manage that travel.
For travellers, these business travel trends can only be a good thing.
(1) Business travel trends – Apps
Technology – specifically smartphones and apps – is mostly to thank for this revolution of new business travel trends. Travel businesses can now sell to and communicate with consumers directly thanks to apps.
And travellers have the power to book flights, hotels, lounge passes, train tickets, airport parking, taxis, travel expenses, room service – you name it – at their fingertips.
More importantly, they do make these bookings. They love apps. Why? Because the profile of business travellers is changing. Wave goodbye to the middle-aged road warrior, and say hello to the millennial traveller: younger, undoubtedly a smartphone (or two) owner and very much tech-savvy.
The next generation business traveller knows what technology can offer them away from the office, thanks to the likes of Amazon, Netflix, Uber and Airbnb.
And they know what to expect from booking leisure travel on their phones. Now, they want the same experience, the same level of personalisation, interaction, convenience and immediacy in their corporate lives and business travel brands are having to sit up and take note.
(2) Business travel trends – Personalisation
In terms of business travel trends set to rise up, we’ve seen that personalisation is huge in the leisure industry. This can be anything from choosing your seat on a plane and advance ordering from the menu, to wearable devices that allow you to programme your preferences before you set sail on a cruise.
And now business travellers can expect the same level of personalisation to start creeping through to corporate travel.
Especially as more and more people purchase wearable devices, so they will no longer have to keep asking for soft pillows, access to a personal trainer, a forward-facing train seat or Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc in the mini bar – it will just happen automatically.
(3) Business travel trends – Traveller-centricity
For SMEs booking travel for employees other than themselves, personalisation is still key – though this time it’s called being traveller-centric – i.e. focusing on what’s good for the employee based on the understanding it will also (eventually) be good for the bottom line.
That could be as small as giving travellers a day off after a long-haul flight home, or it could mean, rather than booking trips for them, they are given control over the entire budget and can book the trip that suits them, whether that’s a 5-star hotel and a budget flight, or vice versa.
The idea behind a traveller-centric approach is a simple one: happy employees are more productive, loyal employees.
(4) Business travel trends – Duty of care
It’s impossible to underestimate the importance of duty of care and traveller risk given the awful terrorist attacks and natural disasters effecting travellers in recent years.
Some 83 per cent of travel managers responding to the Business Travel Show survey accept that the safety of travellers is their responsibility and, in the last 12 months alone, 79 per cent reviewed their traveller risk strategies to ensure they provide greater duty of care, which – for some – included scenario training.
(5) Business travel trends – The B word…
And finally – there is one more thing that will affect business travel trends and the way we travel over the next few years… That is, of course, Brexit.
For many businesses, travel to Europe has already become more expensive and what happens when we finally leave the European Union is anyone’s guess.
David Chapple is portfolio director at The Business Travel Show, which takes place on 22-23 February 2017, Olympia London. It runs alongside Travel Technology Europe, which is packed full of travel technology innovation. Buyers can register for a free visitor pass at www.businesstravelshow.com.