First things first: what happened in 2017?
The good news: the global economy grew by 2.6%. Technological innovations reflect this positive growth. The travel sector further experimented with machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots and virtual reality (VR). At the same time, global uncertainties arose. U.S. politics, Brexit, Catalan separatism, large-scale computer hacking and ongoing terrorist threats led to increased stress for governments, companies and business travelers alike. What will 2018 bring?
2018: how to… fly for business
In the first six months of 2017, air traffic grew by 8% compared to the same period in the previous year. This strong demand, combined with occasional frustrating (and time-consuming!) security measures, like the laptop ban, make it even more important to plan ahead when traveling for business. In the meantime, the business traveler experience will become more important than ever. Time in the air will play an increasingly important role in that experience: Wi-Fi access in the sky will soon be available on over half of the world’s aircraft, and networking in the sky will become common practice. But companies will continue to face challenges in making sure their travelers get access to all of the airfares they need.
2018: how to… sleep for business
Bleisure (combining business travel with leisure) is becoming more popular, especially among Gen Y & Z business travelers. At the same time, the distinction between leisure and business travelers continues to fade: we’re all consumers in the end. Business travelers expect the same booking experience, accommodation options and hotel service for both private and business travel. Apps like TripSource® offer business travelers just that while enabling travel managers to track spend, negotiate with hotels and provide for their employees’ safety and security.
2018: how to… use travel technology for business
The combination of AI, machine learning and travel managers’ expertise will make business trips more efficient and relevant. A tool like Freebird empowers business travelers to skip the line and instantly book a new ticket after a flight cancellation, significant delay, or missed connection. Mezi provides an AI-powered virtual assistant that keeps dynamic profiles on each traveler, allowing agents to offer them a more personalized service with every conversation. And solutions like Rocketrip and TripActions are using reward systems as an incentive to motivate employees to spend less on business travel. Developments in VR can help travelers to discover hotel rooms and meeting rooms, giving them a feel for the place before going there. Paying for travel will become increasingly simple with the rise of mobile payment solutions.
2018: how to… secure data privacy of business travelers
In the wake of several well-publicized cyberattacks in 2017, data privacy and security will stay top of mind for travelers and companies. Suppliers across the travel sector will focus on evaluating and tightening information security programs. Tighter privacy rules, like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), will give travelers new control over how their personal data is collected, used and stored. We’ll continue to see battles about privacy between governments and big companies like Facebook, with consumers in the middle.
2018: how to… travel for business responsibly
Even though people are adopting a more environmentally conscious lifestyle and are becoming aware of their carbon footprint, air traffic is still on the rise. With alternatives to business travel becoming more and more accessible to business travelers however, airlines will have to work hard to keep travelers’ confidence and innovate to limit greenhouse gas emissions. With videoconferencing technology becoming more reliable and very accessible, people rediscovering the train, and virtual reality becoming, well, a reality, we might see a decline in the number of simple business trips starting next year.
2030: how to… prepare for the future of business travel
Looking at the possibilities that AI, machine learning, chatbots, Internet of Things, blockchain technology, VR and Augmented Reality (AR) have to offer, it’s hard to imagine what business travel will look like in 2030. Climate issues suggest that we’ll rely more on virtual collaboration to reduce non-essential trips, so the savings from that can be invested into more important trips. Paying will become ‘painless’ and ‘invisible’ with technology like fingerprint payment being developed. Automation will make travel managers’ lives easier so they can rely on providing their business travelers and company with the best possible experience. Stay tuned.