Corporate travel is on the rise in terms of the number of employees who are traveling, as well as the costs of corporate travel. 2017 was a record-setting year for corporate travel, and 2018 has continued to show similar growth.
It’s so important for any business with employees who travel to stay ahead of trends in business travel and expense management and the following are some things to keep an eye on for the remainder of 2018, and into next year.
Efficiency Through Technology
The idea of smart, advanced expense management technology isn’t new, but it continues to grow in its importance. It’s up to employers to ensure they’re providing their employees with the best possible tools to do their jobs. This includes software with mobile functionality on any device, not limited to laptops, smartphones, and tablets.
Employees no longer expect that they’re going to have to keep all of their receipts while they travel and then submit them while waiting long periods of time for reimbursements. If this is something still happening in a business, it can cause frustration among traveling employees.
Instead, modern employees expect modern expense management capabilities. They expect that they’re going to be able to take photos of receipts while they’re still traveling, and submit them remotely. They don’t expect a cumbersome process to fill out and file expense reports, and they don’t believe they should have extended waiting periods for reimbursements.
The U.S. economy is showing major signs of strength, and many economies around the world are as well. This is leading to accelerated global trade and there is once again growth in emerging markets and manufacturing. All of these factors lead to more business travel.
At the same time, since the demand is there, the costs are also rising. Corporations are having to get smart in how they save on travel and expense costs without making their employees feel like they have to sacrifice.
One specific area where there seem to be rising costs, which may be at least partially related to economic strength, is the hotel industry. Hotels are taking away or charging more for a lot of things that were once considered part of the deal, such as the ability to cancel or change a reservation. They’re also providing perks to people who book directly through their website, especially in the form of more enticing loyalty programs. These are things travel managers need to be considering.
The Growth of Blockchain
Really until this year blockchain and bitcoin were seen as obscure concepts, but they’re now starting to be a very real part of the global economy, and the effects are trickling down to business travel as well.
There are more options for business-to-business transactions facilitated through blockchain. The benefit is increased speed of transactions and more visibility, but it’s important businesses are prepared for these shifts. A lot of analysts see blockchain will pretty much wipe out payment issues that occur across borders by the end of the year.
Travel Programs As Benefits
There is a lot of talk about how corporate travel is no longer seen as the chore it once was. Younger employees are embracing business travel as a way to see the world and mix business and pleasure, and employers are embracing similar concepts. In fact, travel program perks are becoming a way to attract skilled talent in a time when it’s hard to find.
As the competition for top talent continues to grow, employers are working with HR and travel managers to promote the blurring of the lines between traveling for work and traveling for pleasure. It’s also a way to promote concepts of work-life balance that are becoming more mainstream. It’s attractive to employees in many cases to think that they’ll get to travel as part of their job.
Cybersecurity and Risk Management
Each year the challenges of cybersecurity and risk management in corporate travel grow more important. Some of the world’s biggest companies have suffered data breaches, and business travelers can be at particular risk, especially when they’re in certain locations. Business travelers may have devices stolen, or they may be using unsecured Wi-Fi, which can put them at risk.
It’s important that employers are providing employees with the tools they need to keep not only their personal data safe when traveling but also the company’s data.
Finally, another relevant trend is the desire of employees to have flexibility when it comes to their bookings and how they travel. Business travelers want to choose their own flights and hotels, particularly as the business and leisure lines are disappearing. Companies who want to stay ahead of this trend should think about offering on-demand, self-booking capabilities and mobile booking option as well.