2019: the Year of the Traveler

(and the Year of the Pig!)

We’ve looked at recent economic growth, technological developments, corporate decisions and sociological trends—and we’ve declared 2019 the Year of the Traveler. Forget “one size fits all”: As consumers, we’ve come to expect personalized offers and tailor-made solutions while at home and on the road. Why should business travel be any different?

Read more to find out what 2019 has in store for business travelers.

But before we dive into 2019, let’s have a look back at 2018

2018 paved the way for change

Moderate economic growth and a decline in terrorist incidents has had a positive impact on business travel1. More travelers are on the move, and airlines and hotels continue to add new planes and properties to existing supply. During the first half of the year, air passenger traffic was up 7% and aircraft deliveries to European airlines were up 27% over last year. And in Asia, both budget and luxury hotel chains are growing fast.

The growing economy has sparked investments in travel innovation. What “first time” experiences came travelers’ way in 2018? We’ve highlighted three cool firsts.

1 Source Industry Forecast 2019

The global economy is predicted to grow 3.1% by the close of 2018.

First time:
Taking control of your personal data

Security and privacy

Consumers are in control. They decide what and how much personal information to share. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect May 25, increased privacy standards across the globe and forced companies inside and outside of travel to become more creative when reaching consumers. But what about business travel, which relies on the efficient transfer and use of personal data?

We called out 9 ways GDPR is changing traveler’s data privacy.

First time:
Asking Alexa if your flight is on time

Voice-enabled searches

What time do I need to catch my flight? What’s the weather like where I’m going? How long is my connection in Frankfurt? Will my mom’s flight get her home in time for dinner? At the beginning of 2018, one billion monthly searches were voice-based. By 2020, this figure is expected to be over 200 billion1. This year, TripSource®, BCD Travel’s mobile platform, made it possible for travelers to ask Alexa these kinds of questions and more. Other virtual assistants such as Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri are on the roadmap.

1 Source Phocuswright

First time:
Sending a car into space

Little green men, bright red cars

Speaking of roads…February 6 marked the beginning of a new era for space traffic and travel. SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy rocket into space*—and a cherry-red Tesla Roadster with a dummy passenger, Starman, made its way into orbit around the sun. With the mission safely underway, Cape Canaveral hosted the simultaneous, remarkably elegant landing of SpaceX’s two side boosters. While a business trip to outer orbit might not be in everyone’s agenda yet, our borders are definitely shifting. Where to next?

Image by SpaceXFalcon Heavy Demo Mission, CC0, Link

What to expect in 2019

The Year of the Traveler means customization and ease. The Year of the Pig, in the Chinese zodiac, means abundance and good fortune. Put them together, and 2019 promises to be a great year, with even more firsts in store for business travelers. We’re calling out a half-dozen so-hot-they’re-cool experiences on the horizon.

1. Get what you want (what you really, really want)

Customized recommendations are on the way

Traveler identity will play a much larger role in 2019 in traveler service and satisfaction. After all, business travelers are savvy consumers who expect the same personalized, simple and seamless experience they get from other brands. They’re willing to share information for the sake of convenience and service.

Think about Spotify. Users search for the music they love, create playlists, follow similar users, etc. Next time they log in from any device, they get recommendations based on their previous choices. Most users like this approach, so they’re willing to share their preferences with Spotify. Expect to see this approach replicated with less-sexy companies, such as energy providers and financial institutions.

Business travelers will demand the same convenience and service from industry providers. BCD Travel’s TripSource mobile platform, for example, will gather relevant data about travelers’ brand preferences, booking behavior and travel patterns. Then, we’ll merge the information with their company’s travel policies and use that data to influence positive choices and improve service. Agents will be able to access this profile information and all trip-related communications, so travelers will receive seamless and personal support before, during and after they travel.

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2. Interact with robots

Meet the Jetsons

Artificial intelligence is popping up everywhere in business travel. It’s the brains behind the friendly (bot) chat you have with an airline’s web support or the voice-command assistant that allows you to order snacks at your hotel at any hour. Travelers may be dubious about interacting with robots, but with more suppliers experimenting with bot technology, they will become commonplace. Check the early-adopter airports below:

  • Dusseldorf Airport – Since 2014, they’ve been using a robot, Ray, to help passengers park cars. Ray received an upgrade in 2017 to boost his popularity with travelers.
  • Incheon International Airport – Companion robots are helping travelers find gates and restaurants. When they’re not interacting with travelers, they’re busy sweeping floors at South Korea’s largest airport.
  • Tokyo Haneda Airport – By 2020, Tokyo robots will greet passengers, transport their bags and offer directions. Oh, and the Summer Olympic Games will happen in 2020, too, so you have yet another reason to go!

3. Travel without cash

Money, it’s a gas

We’re moving relentlessly towards a paperless and cashless society. Companies like Uber are leading the way: The taxi alternative moved the entire user experience, including payment, to its app, liberating users from carrying cash or cards. By removing the friction1 of paying to get from A to B, Uber created a user experience and business and payment model that has the power to change the way we transact for good.

When it comes to business travel, we foresee a world in which road warriors and occasional travelers alike may never need to touch coins, bills or cards while they’re on the road. Here are a few benefits they can look forward to:

  • Faster travel – In London2, half of all Tube journeys are now made with contactless payments. The system behind it has been so successful that cities like New York and Boston decided to adopt it too.
  • More secure payments – More companies are turning to virtual payments to not only simplify the payment process, but to protect against data breaches.

1 Source Global Banking & Finance
2 Source Evening Standard

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4. Navigate a smart city

Less traffic, less pollution, less frustration

Sixty percent of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, the urban population is expected to nearly double to 6.3 billion people. Imagine the impact on traffic, our work and business travel1.

What if we stayed the same, but our cities got smarter? The Internet of Things, or IoT, will enable cities (and us) to adjust to the enormous increase in residents. For instance, cars already on the road will deliver data about traffic in real time. What does this mean for us? Traffic light settings will adapt to current volume. Street light cameras will reveal open parking spaces and serve as witnesses to accidents. SpotHero, one of BCD’s SolutionSource® partners, is already well on its way to helping travelers find and reserve parking spots at negotiated rates. The result? Less traffic congestion and, consequently, less environmental burden.

Among the smartest cities in the world today are Vienna, Chicago and Singapore. As the number of smart cities grows, frequent business travelers will have plenty of opportunities to interact with them in 2019.

1 Source Digital Trends

5. Decide where, when and how you work

Coworkers, coffee and collaboration

Gone are the days of the classical 9-to-5 jobs in standard corporate offices where the heating’s turned off at 5:30 p.m. By 2020, one in two Britons are expected to be self-employed. According to the Global Coworking Forecast1, the number of professionals who share informal work spaces (“coworkers”) will grow globally from 1.7 million in 2017 to 5.1 million in 2022. That’s a 24% annual growth rate!

With employees increasingly demanding the freedom to decide when, where and how they work, a booming industry has emerged to cater to that expectation. Enter the coworking space, where smart technology recognizes you when you walk in, configures your Wi-Fi, turns the phone desk into your personal number and makes sure you don’t forget to have a healthy lunch.

The number of global coworking spaces will grow from 14,411 in 2017 to just over 30,000 in 2022. Our future workspace will include professionals who span demographics, cultures and companies, gathering together to plug in, get a fresh perspective and or find a new lunchmate. What will coworking spaces look like? The World Economic Forum suggests that Smart Cities of the future will include more offices that promote health2.

1 Source Global Coworking Forecast
2 Source WeForum

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6. Book a trip to space

When you just want to get away from it all

2019 will bring space travel a lot closer, and fortunate travelers might even consider their first flight into space. A startup called Orion Span1 announced their plan to launch Aurora Station, the first luxury space hotel in orbit. They will begin accommodating guests in 2022. You can reserve your seat to the Aurora station now by placing a deposit in U.S. dollars or cryptocurrency.

At the same time, British entrepreneur Richard Branson recently shared that he expects his Virgin Galactic is “more than tantalizingly close” to launching its first mission to space, departing Earth within “months, not years.”

What once seemed a thing of the future is actually knocking at our door. It’s not too early to start asking the tough (and totally cool) questions: Will space stations have airport codes by the time travel management companies begin booking business air/orbit segments? How will we have to adjust duty-of-care traveler security tracking maps when the territory they cover goes far beyond Earth?

1 Source Orian Span

Check out our 2019 monthly highlights to help guide your travel choices

Happy 2019

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Remember, 2019 will be both the Year of the Traveler and the Year of the Pig. Read Move and:

  • Discover new ways to put more money into your corporate piggy bank
  • Explore travel technologies and destinations that will make you happy as a pig in muck
  • Be the first to know when pigs fly (in space).