The past few years have been tumultuous for the travel industry, particularly for business travel. In 2020, the global pandemic practically halted all travel for well over a year. However, leisure and corporate travel rates have steadily increased as many countries reopened their borders and lifted restrictions. As a result, travel is expected to fully recover and return to pre-pandemic levels later in 2023.
As tradeshow season gets into full swing, business travelers will be back on the road, although with less frequency than pre-Covid-19 rates. Taking fewer business trips overall is one of the main restrictions implemented during the pandemic that remains. Yet, according to U.S. Travel Association’s Business Travel Survey, 40% of corporate executives believe that fewer business trips negatively impact their company’s financial performance.
Corporate travel will see a few trends take center stage in 2023. Of course, these trends were growing in significance before. However, since the pandemic, certain aspects of travel now have a spotlight on them.
Travel Trend #1: Sustainability
ESG (environmental, social, and governance) initiatives are extremely important to businesses. Reducing the company’s and individual employees’ carbon footprint is a priority, especially where travel is concerned.
Virtual meetings remain a good option as companies contend with cost savings versus the benefits of meeting in person. They save time and money. Also, replacing several trips a year for internal company meetings with virtual meetings greatly reduces a company’s carbon footprint.
However, when travel involves events that cannot be avoided for business purposes, tradeshows, for example, employees should be encouraged to keep ESG initiatives in mind. Corporate travelers could choose public transportation, an electric car rental, or a train instead of a flight. As more hospitality brands offer eco-friendly travel experiences, travelers will have more green or sustainable hotel and transportation options. They will be able to make choices that generate the least amount of CO2 emissions.
Virtual payments reduce the amount of paper needed during travel, which helps ESG metrics. Authorization forms sent via fax and the tedious reimbursement process of matching charges with multiple receipts can be avoided with automated payments. Expense tracking and booking are faster and more transparent with an automated payment platform that integrates with TMCs or booking engines.
Travel Trend #2: Digitization
Another trend that took hold during the pandemic is digital payments in the form of contactless payments. Digital wallets were a novelty pre-Covid-19 but are now in regular use. For business trips, contactless payments provide another level of safety for travelers, helping avoid unnecessary exposure to common-touch areas.
Virtual cards, another form of contactless payment, have many advantages for business travelers and their companies. For example, now that more hotels can process virtual payments, travelers benefit from a minimized workload associated with collecting receipts for expense reports. Business travelers can also easily access their travel plans and make changes from their mobile devices rather than waiting for approval.
Companies benefit by having greater transparency into their employees’ purchases. They also have an added element of security from not having corporate card numbers sitting on faxes or being stolen. Since virtual cards can only be used for specific pre-approved purchases, a stolen card number would be useless. Digital payments also provide enriched reporting data that streamlines the reconciliation process, making them more efficient than other forms of payment.
When there are dozens of business trips each quarter, the efficiency of virtual payments cannot be over-emphasized.
Travel Trend #3: Self-Booking
Self-booking is a trend that is growing in popularity. Though it may make things difficult for businesses, employees prefer to book travel outside of company platforms.
There are several reasons that employees avoid using company booking tools. Typically, the user experience on company booking platforms is not as user-friendly as platforms that employees use for personal travel. User experience is key to most services, including on internal business platforms.
There is also a lack of options and personalization that employees are accustomed to with other booking platforms. Employees will self-book if their preferred brands are unavailable through the employer platform. Sometimes frequent travelers feel they can get a better price on their own. This is one of the main reasons why employees don’t go through the proper business booking channels.
Lastly, when there is too much on their plate, making travel arrangements can be overwhelming. So, some employees would rather have a trips advisor plan their business trips.
If the booking process is complicated, requires additional steps for approvals, or has too many restrictions, employees will find an easier or quicker way to book travel. Companies can avoid this with a corporate booking platform that is user-friendly and automated, making the process faster and easier.
When business travelers use company booking platforms, it benefits the traveler as well as the company.
To improve booking platforms, businesses should have inclusive features that appeal to both the business and the traveler. Allowing for personalized customization, trip updates and quick and easy changes from mobile devices, and the assurance of safety throughout the trip.
Business Travel in 2023
Although 37% of executives see short-term savings from less frequent business trips, it negatively impacts revenue in the long term. In-person meetings are ultimately better for business, leading to increased journeys. As corporate trips resume, they will need to be strategic while maintaining savings to have the best business results.
Companies should take advantage of the innovative processes that have resulted from the pandemic. Improvements to booking platforms to discourage employees from self-booking, keeping sustainability in mind, and having a digitized payment process will improve efficiency for business travel.
Corporate Spending Innovations (CSI) is a global FinTech leader providing innovative payment solutions to world-leading brands across all industries. CSI automates and digitizes B2B payments with a safe and highly secure cloud-based payments platform. For a more efficient way to manage payables, including virtual credit card, B2B Payments Network, ACH, and check, book a demo here.
CSI is an Edenred Company, the global leader in payment solutions for the working world.