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6 Trends that are Transforming the World of Business Travel

Published: 18/05/2018 - Filed under: Home » News »

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Business travel is an essential part of the job for many professionals, but the days of inflexible travel packages, expensive transportation, and rigid itineraries that are all about work are numbered. The latest business travel trends are redefining the way we travel, do business, and relax while we’re away from home. Here are six of the biggest trends that are having a major impact on the world of business travel. 

1. The Future of Business Travel is Mobile 

As the world population of business travellers shifts, younger travellers are choosing to book, check itineraries, and find the best deals using mobile devices. While Baby Boomers and some Gen X travellers may not have embraced mobile apps to serve their travel needs, the majority of Millennials have already adopted mobile technology for booking flights and hotels, arranging transport (with rideshare apps like Uber being very popular), and finding leisure activities to enjoy after the day’s business is done. 

For travel and tourism professionals, catering to a new generation of business travellers who pass up traditional booking agents and demand the best deals on accommodation, food, relaxation packages and cultural experiences - with the ability to find them with the swipe of a finger - is a unique challenge. Services are becoming increasingly personalised as hotels cater to the exact needs and unique personality of every customer. 

The closer integration of travel review websites like TripAdvisor with hotel booking websites is also affecting the industry, as customers pay more attention to fellow-travellers’ reviews than to hotel advertising. The trend for reading reviews and only clicking “book” when the hotel looks to have satisfied travellers they relate to is increasing among business travellers. Social proof or online credibility has never been more important for tourism businesses, with social media management becoming as important as hotel management for the establishment’s success. 

2. Big Data is Unlocking New Insights about Business Travellers

As business tourism goes online, mobile, and on-demand, a huge amount of data is being accumulated by hotels, travel websites, transportation providers and other entities. Privacy concerns aside, the main benefit of this new wealth of information is the insights it can give us into the preferences, habits, and requirements of travellers. 

Six trends shaping business travel

Apps like Uber and Google Trips have gone beyond on-demand services, tracking customers’ preferences and suggesting deals and itineraries to them. As data allows companies to understand and anticipate the needs of customers, apps are going beyond instruction-taking and are starting to sell packages and persuade their users to try new services. Considering how intimate the relationship between Millennials and their devices has become, some users may end up trusting Uber’s recommendations more than those of a human taxi driver - especially in a foreign country where language and cultural barriers make trust and communication difficult. 

With access to big data, companies serving business travellers are now able to track information about their preferences to offer smooth, convenient service with a personalised feel. Hotels know what type of room their guests prefer, what floor they like to stay on, what their ideal aircon temperature is, and whether they like to dine out or enjoy room service - vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, halaal or kosher preferences included. 

3. “Bleisure” is the new way to travel and experience the world 

The old stereotype of the lonely business traveller, ordering room service and channel-flipping in a spartan hotel room while their family is hundreds of miles away, is officially a thing of the past. Millennials are increasingly combining business and leisure travel - so much so that the word “bleisure” has been coined to describe the trend.

Business trips often include family travel, with spouses and kids coming along and enjoying the hotel facilities and local attractions while the business traveller attends meetings or conferences. Professional couples and families who own and run their own businesses are especially keen on bleisure trips, offering hotels and other tourism businesses the opportunity to secure repeat business and referrals from entire families instead of just one business traveller. 

The hybrid nature of bleisure also means that travellers are more likely to choose the hotel that appeals to them most and provides the comfort and facilities that their families require. This trend is great for dynamic hotels and flexible service providers but poses challenges for traditional business hotels and travel companies that have traditionally catered to less-demanding customers. Going the extra mile, flexibility, and personalised service is the key to success as Millennials shape the future of consumer behaviour. 

4. Connectivity is Key 

Today’s business travellers aren’t only more likely to book their trips online using mobile devices - they fully expect to use their devices throughout the trip. Traveller surveys carried out over the past few years point to an increasing demand for reliable, fast Wi-Fi in airports, hotels, restaurants, leisure facilities, and even transportation vehicles. With international data roaming charges remaining high in some parts of the world and families joining business travellers on their trips, access to the internet has become a necessity. 

WiFi is a service that has become commonplace around the world, but the fact that a facility offers internet access isn’t necessarily enough anymore. The ease of connecting to the Wi-Fi network, the signal strength - both in hotel rooms and common areas like pool decks and restaurants - and the generosity of daily data limits (with unlimited access being ideal) are all key factors in satisfying Millennial travellers. 

Business travellers may need to check email, prepare research and presentations, or Skype conference with colleagues, while their families may want to browse the internet, watch YouTube videos or play mobile games - all of which require high-speed uncapped data access. Hotels and other facilities that offer this will enjoy a distinct advantage over their competitors and increase their chances of favourable online ratings. 

5. Duty of Care is Critically Important 

There is always some level of risk associated with travel, and while incidents like plane crashes, terrorism, and personal accidents can’t be avoided, hotels and other service providers are taking enhanced steps to protect their guests and ensure swift assistance in the case of an emergency. From airlines offering discounted travel insurance to hotels providing guests with complimentary safety orientations and emergency preparation - especially in countries affected by crime, terrorism and natural disasters - the safety of customers has never been a bigger priority than it is today. 

With the trend for Duty of Care becoming stronger, guests are becoming increasingly sensitive about their own safety and the level of caring they perceive in tourism establishments. Hotels, in particular, need to ensure that they make guests aware of the safety measures they are taking and involve their guests actively (but not annoyingly) in the safety process. Service providers need to strike a fine balance between scaring guests unnecessarily and coming across as unprepared or uncaring. 

From easy-to-understand fire and earthquake procedures and prominently displayed emergency numbers with signage in multiple languages to staff who have completed a CPR certification online, leisure facilities have many options when it comes to Duty of Care. Guests who feel cared for and confident in the facility’s emergency preparations are more likely to enjoy their stay and become repeat or referring customers. 

6. Budget-Conscious Business Travellers Expect the Best for Less

Today’s business traveller has access to a world of information about prices, special deals, sharing services like Uber and Airbnb, and budget transportation providers. Many of these services offer near-premium services at a considerable discount compared to more traditional companies, and their online visibility and mobile accessibility are almost always high. Travellers who open their email, check their social media accounts, and use apps several times a day are exposed to the best prices for practically every service, and they expect great value for money. 

Travel agents and business travel companies that are used to dealing with corporate accounts and block-booking premium airline seats and five-star hotels for their clients are starting to take notice of the budget-conscious trend that is sweeping through the industry. While executives may still be ideal customers for this type of premium service, they are fully aware of the great deals that can be found online. The challenge for traditional travel companies is to provide seamless, budget-conscious travel packages that require absolutely no extra work from their customers. If travellers end up having to confirm bookings, change flight details or experience service failures, they’ll simply book their own trips in the future. 

Technology, generational shifts, and the on-demand, sharing aspects of today’s economy are all having a strong effect on the business travel landscape. As customers demand personalised service, quality, unique experiences, and value for money, tourism businesses are re-thinking their management, marketing, technology and social media strategies as they deal with a new generation of guests. 

Conclusion

Overall, the coming months and years should see an increase in a mobile presence, excellent deals, and friendly competition between companies as they try to grab the divided attention of multitasking Millennial travellers. We should expect to see a more personalised, caring, and value-driven industry develop as younger business travellers continue to enter the market over the next decade. 

Ross Atkinson

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