Today’s emerging new breed of corporate travelers require something different from the cookie-cutter policies provided to their counterparts of the past. Customizable itineraries, increased choices, and travel policies reflective of individual company culture are just some of the factors currently coming together to form the kind of people-first dynamic that a growing number of corporations are adopting for business travel in the coming year. Here are the top, emerging trends in business travel this year.
Allowing for Alternative Lodging and Transportation Options
Corporate travelers of the past were usually put up in generic hotels and provided an expense account that covered taxi services to and from business meetings and other necessary activities. Today’s corporate travel options are far more likely to include lodging alternatives such as Airbnb and HomeAway are also expanding their transportation options to include Lyft and Uber. As a greater number of Millennials enter the corporate arena, personalized options will undoubtedly continue to increase.
Blending Business with Leisure
Another Millennial-driven corporate travel trend is the marriage of business and leisure travel to create a hybrid known affectionately, if unofficially, as bleisure. As its name implies, Bleisure combines local experiences with taking care of business. For instance, someone traveling on business to Colorado during the winter may choose to extend their stay through the weekend in order to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy some of the best downhill skiing in the U.S. Travelers visiting a region renowned for its culinary and wine scene may choose to hold business lunches and dinners in establishments featuring locally sourced fare rather than in generic hotel restaurants. As one of the results of this emerging trend, more travel managers and booking software are allowing for simultaneous booking of leisure and corporate travel.
Business travel also has the potential to create stress as well as put a strain on personal lives. Customization options help take the edge off by allowing travelers more control over the situation and the process. Improved traveler satisfaction means streamlined booking processes are replacing their more cumbersome counterparts, technology is making it easier than ever to book a trip on a app or handle bumps in the road such as last-minute schedule changes and airline delays.
Healthier employees have higher productivity levels, so companies are executing a number of new initiatives to improve traveler well-being. Many now offer wellness programs, encourage ideal flight times, or offer easy strategies on how to stay fit and active on the road with mobile apps. Furthermore, corporate travel departments now team up with other departments to develop holistic risk mitigation programs in an effort to find a delicate balance between enforcing travel policy while ensuring traveler safety and comfort.
Not exactly in its infancy yet nowhere near being a fully-fledged adult, AI technology might be best described as a very intelligent 8-year old child. It’s popping up everywhere, and the business travel sector is no exception. We see AI most prevalent where automation can easily replace human interaction. Such is the case with self-service check-ins at airports or hotels, chat bots fielding support requests, or in pre-travel authorization where Trondent eliminates the need for manual intervention by integrating AI technology to automate pre-trip approvals. AI technology is also being used by airlines to personalize exclusive content offers based upon travelers’ previous purchase patterns and behavior in the New Distribution Capability(NDC). From these examples, we can see how emerging AI customization and automation improves efficiencies to better meet the needs of corporations and their business travelers.
A Resurgence of Face-to-Face Business Meetings
Video conferencing was a huge corporate trend that’s still widely represented on today’s corporate landscape, but a growing number of companies have discovered that building business relationships depends highly on face-to-face interactions. This means that business travel will likely increase as more corporations jump back on board. Even though technology has almost perfected video conferencing to the extent that it provides an acceptable virtual experience, closing deals and other essential transactions require a personal element that faces on a screen simply can’t provide.
Closely related to employee well-being, motivational travel is meant to provide inspiration and promote creativity. This type of travel combines old-school corporate retreat principles with 21st century values and technology. Traditional corporate retreats were more about team-building and employee bonding than experiencing a new place.
Motivational travel is centered on the travel experience itself as a way to expand individual perspectives and stimulate the senses. Departing from an everyday norm by experiencing a new destination provides an excellent way to shake up intellectual and emotional ruts, and corporations are discovering that this approach results in increased performance and productivity among employees of all levels.
Expect More Personalization Overall
We expect the travel trends outlined herein will continue to evolve along with rapidly changing technology, the modern corporate culture of the 21st century, and the Millennial generation assuming its place on the global business stage.
The travel industry used to lag behind other verticals in adopting new technology. Now, it is front and center as companies recognize the value in saving time and money by implementing more advanced systems to manage travel. The introduction and evolution of new resources like AI will shape a more personalized experience for travelers, while reducing error and saving companies more money. Overall, the future of business travel will involve continued customization, bleisure travel, and a committed level of regard for employee well-being.
New Distribution Capability (NDC) is a hot topic right now! We’ve heard our customers voice concern over what it means for them. We thought we’d tackle the issue head-on and diffuse some of the confusion around it.
What is NDC?
Introduced by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 2012, the New Distribution Capability (NDC) Standard allows airlines to provide customers more relevant choices, greater personalization as well as unique, ancillary product and service offers. It’s not a program or platform. It is a standard that revolutionizes the way airlines previously sold their services. By moving away from legacy systems to a more digital merchandising model similar to other online retailers, airline companies hope that it can better meet the needs of its customers.
You’ve Seen NDC Before
NDC is a lot like what you’ve already seen from online retailers; a great example is Amazon. In order to shop on Amazon, you are first required to set up an account. This allows the retailer to track and evaluate every purchase you make. It uses a type of filtering algorithm to identify your purchases, and then rate those purchases to similar items available through their online marketplace. Thus, Amazon is able to deliver a list of product recommendations tailored to your unique shopping history. Simply put, because you previously purchased X, you might like Y.
This is exactly what the airlines are attempting to replicate. Legacy systems lacked the ability to follow or understand their travelers’ behavior nor were they able to show them unique content offers. Now through NDC, airlines are able to create targeted content (more flight amenities) and dynamic pricing (fare options) most relevant for its audience. When travelers book their trip, the online booking tool or travel agency provides the travelers’ frequent flyer number to the airline. Based upon the travel history and preferences associated with that code, the airlines can generate unique content offers.
The Push for NDC
Airline companies say that the GDSs are a more expensive distribution option than their own, direct channels. Airlines want NDC in order to gain more control over their distribution strategy and deliver special promotions directly to individuals thus reducing reliance on third-party distributors.
They seek to generate revenue from selling ancillary products and services this way and, ultimately, increase traveler engagement with their brand by delivering custom offers.
The decision on how airlines will distribute their product offers is a strategic decision based on individual airlines’ business objectives. The first set of offers will probably be very basic but content will evolve and grow over time.
Timeline for NDC Rollout
This is just the beginning of the story. GDSs are working with a select number of travel agency partners in beta testing with their NDC connections. They say this is a challenging undertaking because there is so much to be done. GDSs must also wait for airlines to release NDC integration schemas they need to build connections.
Some sources suggest that the airlines aren’t ready for the number of users they will get as a result of NDC. That said, the IATA Leaderboard (21 out of 300 IATA airline companies including United Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Lufthansa Group, British Airways, Air France and KLM) hope to complete 20% of their indirect bookings through NDC by 2020.
With this objective in place, you can expect airline-driven NDC activity to increase over the next two years. Currently, most of the airlines are either testing or live with at least one NDC application.
By 2021, airline distribution will change from legacy systems to dynamic, traveler-driven technology. Each airlines’ NDC offer will vary as it evolves over time. As it does, its impact will become clearer for corporate travel. While it could be disruptive, its impact on the landscape of corporate and leisure travel is yet to be seen.
Trondent’s Position on NDC
The fact is NDC is a moving target, evolving by the day. No one can articulate with any degree of certainty about what its final outcome will look like because its assimilation is so fluid. We expect that each GDS will have a different reaction to NDC. Trondent is following the topic closely and we are in constant communication with our partner GDSs, OBTs and TMCs in order to ascertain how implemented changes would impact our services.
We do not anticipate that much would change in the way we work since our solutions revolve around PNR content. That said, we are prepared to make all necessary technology updates required to facilitate NDC content and provide our clients with the best possible solutions, regardless of where the bookings originated.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions and concerns on this matter!
With 2020 just around the corner, the business forecast is far from sunny. The political scene is chaotic, and economic factors are spiraling out of control with the trade war between the United States and China and the fate of Brexit still up in the air. Add that to the shifting dynamic of the workforce thanks to millennial employees, and talk of a recession is growing.
Preparing for a recession requires a multifaceted approach for businesses. While various measures to save money can be implemented, one of the first places to look is the travel budget. If you are looking to prepare your travel department for hard times ahead or simply want to increase savings for your corporation, then here are some cost-saving measures for your business travel program.
Clarify Your Corporate Travel Policy
One reason that travel expenses balloon out of control for most businesses can be traced to a lack of clarity around travel policy. Basically, most companies fail to develop a clear policy for travelers to refer to when arranging travel plans.
A concise travel policy should include detailed information on booking flights, meal allowances, hotel and ground transportation costs and any extraneous expenditures, as well as instructions on how to handle extraordinary circumstances. The policy should explain procedures for getting costs approved while outlining how expenses are processed.
The more specific you are, the less room for error. Create a policy that standardizes the approval process while setting clear guidelines. This helps keep employees on budget, and it also prevents employees from booking expensive trips without approval.
For greater cost savings, invest in an automated pre-trip approval software like Authorizer PRO which optimizes the trip approval process and serves as a tool to control various travel costs. An advanced pre-trip approval software helps facilitate company policy compliance and high level of efficiency in the approval process.
The system monitors policy rules such as advance purchase, air, hotel and car rates, preferred vendor and seat selection, etc. and allows for the application of various policy rules based on traveler type, flight length, cost center, etc. The use of these advanced rule types, as well as the ability to minimize the need for manual approval, provide companies with ability to implement the most effective policy and process and secure significant savings in result.
Recovering Unused Airline Tickets
It is unfortunate, but true, that business travelers often change itineraries after booking. This can cost companies up to 20% of total travel spend. Non-refundable tickets tend to be cheaper upfront than flexible tickets which can cost nearly four times as much. Unused airline tickets usually cannot be donated or transferred, and expire within a year.
That is why monitoring unused tickets and utilizing it as soon as possible is an essential tool in controlling travel costs. Utilizing an e-ticket recovery platform like eTRAK PRO helps corporations recover most of the ticket value which would otherwise be lost.
Pre-trip notifications remind the traveler of the upcoming trip so they have a chance to make any necessary changes early. Identified unused tickets are posted to the traveler’s profile making it easy to identify who has unused ticket segments left in order to redeem or exchange them upon said traveler’s next business trip. Unlike GDS’s, eTRAK monitors unused tickets for a full year and alerts of tickets expiring in the near future. So if you don’t currently have a tool to keep track of unused tickets, we highly suggest you implement one.
Be Smart About Airfare
Set guidelines that require travelers to fly Economy, especially on short flights. You can set seat type restrictions based on trip length and traveler type. Restrict access to flexible tickets and encourage employees to book tickets on less expensive days whenever possible.
In business, last-minute travel is often unavoidable. As soon as you know about a trip, start booking it. Costs like airfare, hotel fees and more are all much lower when you book in advance. In fact, the prices can skyrocket at the last minute, exponentially impacting your travel budget.
Advance purchase options are ideal because they allow travelers to book and pay at a discounted rate so long as the ticket is issued a certain number of days before departure or within a fixed time from the date of booking. This can be determined in your contract negotiation with preferred carriers.
Save Money on Hotels
In the face of a recession, travel managers can re-evaluate existing vendor contracts as well as established contracts with new, preferred vendors to secure rates that will help the corporation maintain budgeted spending.
By promoting the use of those preferred vendor programs through your travel policy and pre-trip approval process, employees know what hotel chains they should book to redeem special corporate rates. Be sure to set a rate cap for most employees but allow for exceptions in certain situations.
Control Extraneous Charges
Just when you think you have corporate travel expenses under control, the auxiliary charges start rolling in. Therefore, be realistic about the needs of your employees on the road. Set a daily meal allowance instead of a per-meal allowance, giving travelers the flexibility to pick and choose how much they spend on each meal.
For transportation, encourage employees to use cost-effective methods like shuttle bus services or shared ride services like Uber. Again, you can create vendor relationships with Uber and Lyft for special rates.
Your travel department must also prepare for indirect expenses related to traveling like Internet access, parking fees or tips for service personnel. Setting a budget in advance can ease the potential for unexpected hikes in spending.
Don’t Be Afraid of Travel During a Recession
Recessions can be challenging, but it is important for your business to keep moving. With these tips, you can actively maintain your business travel within a set budget in order to stay on top of the competition. Implementing certain software solutions can have a great impact on improving efficiencies and provide significant savings. The future may be uncertain, but your travel expenses do not have to be.
Corporations often require that their employees travel for overnight or more extensively to stay competitive. Although business travel may be good for the corporation, it can be taxing on the traveler. Frequent corporate travel has been shown to cause high degrees of stress as travelers must forego quality time with family or friends, disrupt their routines and skip full nights of sleep.
It’s a proven fact that healthier employees have higher work performance, so it is important to support your corporate travelers by promoting healthy travel habits and wellness programs. Here are some ways to ensure that your employees sustain optimal health on the road.
Encourage Ideal Flight Times
Avoiding fatigue is one of the main difficulties with which your frequent travelers must contend. Red eye flights, sleepless nights and absurdly early mornings deplete them. A recent study conducted by GBTA showed that more corporations now allow business travelers the choice for flight arrival/departure times that match their needs. This increases business traveler satisfaction and performance levels.
Offer Wellness Programs
Keeping employees happy and healthy on the road pays big dividends. Interestingly, one of the best ways to support traveler health is back at the office! Corporations have begun to recognize that wellness programs offered in-house can decrease employee turnover and yield a highly sought-after talent pool. Wellness programs help travelers to feel valued, and, in turn, their performance improves. Successful examples of wellness programs include:
- Flexible work hours
- On-site fitness classes
- Healthy office snacks
- Remote working days
- Screenings and health assessments
- Employee lounge
- Reward for loyalty, performance, or meeting a physical goal
While some of these ideas are great, they may not be appropriate for all businesses. Travel managers can survey employees for suggestions to begin a wellness program or to revamp one that is already in place.
Promote Exercise on the Road
It is especially challenging to stick with any kind of a work-out schedule when travelers are suffering from jet lag, balancing a hectic schedule, and adapting to different time zones during business travel. Emphasize to your travelers how important it is to exercise even on the road and make it accessible for them to do so by selecting hotel suppliers with fitness centers onsite. If the hotel is located in a well-lit and well-traveled area of the city, travelers might be inclined to take a walk or a run outdoors for exercise as well.
Travel Hacks to Stay Fit
When people are sufficiently motivated to look after their health, they will stick with it even during business travel. Travel managers can prevent travelers from backsliding while on the road by providing a list of helpful fitness and nutrition apps in the corporate intranet portal for their travelers to download.
Apps like BeachBody and Les Mills On Demand offer fitness routines that travelers can do anywhere without gym equipment. Headspace has meditations to reduce stress. Nutrition apps like the CDC food app, GF (gluten free app) or Happy Cow (vegan-friendly app) help travelers identify healthy restaurants nearby.
Frequent business travel wreaks havoc on travelers’ diet. A change in types of food, food preparation, water and environment often play a role in how we feel.
Offer your travelers tips like these to stay healthy on the road:
- Pack healthy snacks to avoid grab-and-go at the airport
- Exercise (even if you do not feel like it)
- Remain hydrated
- Eat breakfast
- Get enough sleep
- Plan ahead whether it is for a dinner with clients or snacks in the office.
- Partner with a colleague to help you stay accountable.
- Utilize fitness & nutrition apps
Precautions While Traveling
Most corporate travel managers consider both safety and well-being bundled together as a part of their Duty of Care. Your employees must understand how to stay safe in strange neighborhoods and hotels by using certain precautions. Business travelers should always have a smartphone with emergency contact telephone numbers, and a manager should know where employees are located at different times of the day or the night.
Traveler Health is in Best Interest of the Corporation
Because decreased productivity often is the result of deteriorating physical and mental capacity, it behooves the corporation to ensure, as much as feasible, that their employees remain as healthy as possible when they are away on business trips. We hope these tips and strategies will help you promote healthy habits for your business travelers.
Duty of Care risk mitigation is a migraine headache for corporations to manage. Why? Because corporate travel considerations are as diverse as the travelers themselves: gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, religious observances, etc. Something as simple as having one of your business travelers snap a photo of a government building could get him arrested. No joke.
There are countless risks or threats from seen and unseen sources. There are obvious risks for auto or aircraft accidents, natural catastrophes or terrorism to contend with. But, there are more subtle threats too. For example, it might not be wise to send an employee from your Saudi office to Europe during Ramadan where it is not practiced. Nor would it be wise to send one of your employees from the LGBTQ community to any of the 70 countries that still consider it a crime.
To say it’s merely “a challenge” to manage corporate travel risk is an understatement. We all know that corporations have the moral and ethical obligation to keep their employees safe when they travel for business. But what exactly can be done? Where do you start? Once you have a risk mitigation program in place, how do you refresh and refine it?
Rally the Troops
Travel is one of the few departments within an organization that affects everyone. As such, it is critical to get as many voices in harmony as you can. Human Resources, Security, Legal, IT and Finance need to collaborate with the Travel department for a holistic perspective on risk mitigation. Each party brings an invaluable contribution to identify risk, alleviate it, insure against it or decide what actionable steps meet traveler safety and security.
How to Prepare Travelers
The biggest issue with corporate travel risk is lack of traveler awareness. Remember that guy who got arrested simply for snapping a photo of a government building? Nobody warned him that was illegal.
Think hard about what information you can provide in advance for your traveler. Pre-travel advisory at the start can address issues before a traveler winds up in sketchy situations on the road. The traveler has to be aware of exactly what they’re getting into.
Communicate safe travel practices, ensuring employees receive appropriate vaccinations, and ensuring the traveler has an understanding of their responsibility as identified in your formal travel risk plan.
In addition to equipping your travelers with information in advance, some corporations have taken to offering highly niche training such as pre-travel trauma training and self-preservation training to teach women how to identify threatening situations and how to back away from it pre-travel trauma training.
Business Travel Risk Mitigation
It is the travel department’s responsibility to be proactive and find out what special needs exist among their travelers. One person might feel perfectly comfortable flying to Russia, while another may not. It is an objective balancing act between policy and people’s feelings.
Establish a method of communication between business travelers and the corporate travel department. Make sure you have a form for business travelers to complete or a method for them to communicate their special considerations with the travel team, be it gender, sexual orientation or disabilities. Perhaps a designated email address that allows travelers to directly communicate with Travel like email@example.com.
When you are contracting with hotel vendors, select those that have non-discrimination policies in place. Build the dangerous regions and their risk levels into pre-trip authorization technology like Authorizer PRO so that corporate travel requests are evaluated before they get ticketed. Workflow systems can incorporate alerts to other departments within the organization who need to be in the loop about traveler safety and security.
Utilize travel intelligence available from companies like World Aware. They provide reports on neighborhood safety ratings and incidents alerts/warnings. Companies engaged in third party risk management can offer pre-travel awareness and advisory for travelers traveling abroad down to a list of immunizations required to travel to certain regions of the world. They can also give you information specific to women and LGBTQ both legal and cultural implications.
Make it a priority to consult online resources that identify dangerous regions around the globe. The US Department of State divides countries into certain risk levels as well have offers sections that explain certain local circumstances and cultural considerations for free. Sign up for free alerts from Overseas Security Advisory Council (US-centric) to find out where tensions are high around the world). Even if you’re an international organization, you still have access to some of the OSAC information. For example, in early August 2019 Saudi Arabian law changed to permit women to travel without male accompaniment, so OSAC alerted its subscribers. Alerts like that are helpful.
Refresh and Refine Your Travel Risk Mitigation Plan
Over 80% of GBTA members surveyed said they have not revisited their risk mitigation plan since its implementation. While there are no “official” guidelines for corporate responsibility of risk management, corporations must protects themselves from liability by protecting their business travelers. In addition to the suggestions and sites presented in this article, here are a few more sites to bookmark as you revisit your travel risk management program:
UK Foreign Commonwealth Office – www.fco.gov.uk
Government of Canada – travel.gc.ca
International LGBTI – ilga.gov
International Association for Medical Assistance for Travelers- iamat.org
European Union Airline Safety Ban List – ec.europa.eu/transport/modes/air/safety/air-ban.en