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.

Traveler Well-Being

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.

Artificial Intelligence

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.

Motivational Traveling

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.