How to travel beyond… 2020

2019, the year of no return

This is the world’s reality:

  • By 2050, there will be 10 billion people living on earth.
  • The number of international tourist arrivals worldwide reached 1.4 billion[1] in 2018, two years before it was predicted to do so. Business travel accounts for 13% of this number.[2]
  • Air travel has an impact on the climate.
  • 18 of the 19 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. In 2012, Arctic summer sea ice shrank to its lowest extent on record.[3]
  • 1 in 7 people would choose not to fly[4] because of climate change.
  • 45% of people do not want to stop flying; 45% want reassurances aviation is doing something about sustainability.[5][6]

This is the world’s business reality:

  • Every dollar spent on business travel results in $12.50 in incremental revenue.[6]
  • Face-to-face interaction can be 34 times more productive than email.[7]
  • Prospective clients are 50% more likely to sign a contract after an in-person meeting.[8]

2020 and beyond

So, what now?

Travelers are always looking to travel more efficiently to free up time for working and relaxing. How can we still travel as often as we’d like without further damaging the planet? How can we prepare the world and our industry for the next-next generation? The solution to sustainable mobility systems and fast, clean transportation could be just around the corner. Let’s look at public transport and other travel technologies for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

1. Hyperloop: The fifth mode of transport

Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk described Hyperloop as a “fifth mode of transport” – the others being boats, trains, motor vehicles and airplanes. In theory, Hyperloop will enable people to travel through elevated, low-friction tubes via aluminum pods moving at 700 to 800 miles per hour.[9] It will evolve existing mag-lev (magnetic levitation) systems into extremely powerful (and fast) technology.[10]

This high-speed form of transportation would be:
  • Twice as fast as an airliner
  • A lower power consumer, directly emitting no carbon
  • Weatherproof
  • Collision free
  • Capable of energy storage for 24-hour operations

Hyperloop for business travel?

While Hyperloop presents a realistic alternative to air travel over relatively short distances, it can also integrate with air travel to offer a seamless experience for longer journeys.

British Airways sees passengers arriving at the airport via Hyperloop, with personal pods slotting into an assigned space on the aircraft.[11] On the way to the airport, the passenger’s Hyperloop compartment will automatically enable safety and security screenings.


High-speed testing: 2020.
Most ambitious plans to launch: 2022.

Want to read our report about Hyperloop?


2. Autonomous cars: Productive, stress-free travel

Technological innovations including electrification, connectivity and autonomy are poised to transform the way we travel in towns and cities.[12] Each will be best-suited to innovate ground transportation in different types of cities: dense and developed; urban sprawls; emerging metropolises.

Autonomous cars for business travel?

Autonomous cars can remove strain for road travelers faced with long-distance drives or congested streets. They can spend their time as passengers more productively or relaxing. And when using a taxi or ride-hailing service, there will be no need to employ a driver.


Testing with the aim of providing door-to-door travel without a human controlling the vehicle: happening now.

Mass adoption of autonomous vehicles: close to becoming a reality. By 2030, up to 35% of private journeys could be made in fully autonomous vehicles.

3. Autonomous flying: Why drive when you can fly?

Traffic is worsening in most of the world’s major cities. Between 2010 and 2016, congestion in London rose by 14%; in Los Angeles by 36%; in New York City by 30%; in Beijing and Paris by 9%. Ironically, the attractions of a self-driving car, particularly when electric-powered, may put even more cars on the road, potentially increasing congestion. Congestion can result in reduced productivity, financial losses and increased traveler stress.

Several companies are looking to the sky as a solution for road congestion.

Autonomous flying for business travel?

Boeing, Bell Flight, Volocopter and Sabrewing are among the companies developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) urban air mobility (UAM) solutions. With the support of major automotive and aerospace companies, UAM has a realistic chance of helping resolve increasing traffic problems in the world’s major cities.
Bell this year unveiled its first flying taxi model – the Bell Nexus – designed to carry four passengers as part of Uber’s planned air taxi service, Uber Air.

Germany’s Volocopter is developing an autonomous congestion-busting solution that will use vertical takeoff and landing capabilities to offer short trips between key hubs in some of the world’s busiest cities. Hour-long car journeys could be reduced to minutes. Volocopter trialed its first public flight in Singapore in October 2019.


Testing: Now (Volocopter)
Operational: 2025

Want to read our report about autonomous cars and flying?


4. Space travel: Aim for the moon, land among the stars

Since NASA’s Space Shuttle made its last flight in 2011, the race for space has continued among private companies and investors. Private sector engagement, led by SpaceX and others, has resulted in plummeting costs. The days of space tourism and transport are near.

Traveling for business to a galaxy far far away?

Suborbital or low-earth orbit (LEO) travel will transform long-haul travel[13]. Including take-off and landing, a trip from New York to Tokyo would take 90 minutes instead of 14 hours. LEO travel could also cut the journey time from New York to Sydney by 90%.

The Moon may soon be a business travel destination. Taking it a bit further, NASA’s lunar payload program is designed to put equipment on the Moon ahead of the next human mission. While robots will be the first business travelers to the Moon, humans won’t be far behind. The U.S. government wants to send American astronauts to the Moon again in 2024. As NASA’s lunar interest grows, private companies are keen to share the action.


Testing: now
Operational: 2020

Want to read our report about space travel?


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5. Supersonic flights: Concorde resurrected?

Supersonic flying isn’t new: The supersonic passenger airliner Concorde operated commercial services from 1976-2003. Concorde was arguably ahead of its time, but its technology would fall far short of today’s environmental standards. It had high fuel burn; it made a lot of noise during take-off; and it created a sonic boom. These issues need solving before supersonic services can resume. Recent advances in technology and adjustments to the regulatory environment could make supersonic flight viable once again.

Even before the next supersonic jet enters commercial service, other companies are already looking beyond supersonic flight to hypersonic ones. Engineers at U.K.-based Reaction Engines are developing technology for SABRE engines, which could one day fly at Mach 5 – 3,836 miles per hour. [14]

Supersonic business travel?

At three hours and 30 minutes, Concorde more than halved the London to New York flying time of conventional aircraft; travelers could make day trips from the U.S. to London or Paris. While supersonic flight needs to show it can be sustainable and responsible, Concorde-like travel times could be a blessing for business travelers. A journey between London and Australia would take four hours and 30 minutes.


Testing: now
Operational: 2023

Image credit: Exosonic

Want to read our report about supersonic flights?


6. Electric-powered flights

Sustainability is now top of the agenda for many of the world’s airlines,[15] with some directly backing the development of electric aircraft. Most currently under development will be able to travel no further than the average family car. Aircraft operating at mid-haul ranges of more than 500 miles would need to use a mix of conventional fuel and electric power. Even by only deploying electric power at key points in a flight, these hybrid-powered aircraft could still deliver a big reduction in CO2 emissions. A long-haul solution is still needed, though: Even if it were possible to make today’s batteries 30 times more efficient and “energy-dense,” an Airbus A320 would still only be able to fly one-fifth of its current range and with just half its payload.

Electrified business travel?

With sustainability becoming a No. 1 concern for people around the globe, airline passengers, and especially frequent flyers are demanding a more sustainable aviation industry. For now, the rules for approving even a partially electric-powered civil airliner don’t exist. IATA (International Air Transport Association) will start by helping to develop rules for smaller aircraft to ensure the certification process is manageable. It will also help build confidence in the new technology before it is applied more widely and to larger aircraft. Especially for short- and mid-haul flights, electric-powered flight could be a fast and sustainable option for business travelers.


Testing: now
Operational: 2022

Image credit: Eviation

Want to read our report about electric powered flights?


7. Rise of the robots

Travelers interact with robotic devices on almost a daily basis, perhaps without realizing. Sixty percent of U.S. travelers already using voice-enabled digital assistants or chatbots, like Alexa, to access travel information.[16]

Like chatbots, robots can be configured to offer travelers personalized experiences, but they can also perform time- and cost-saving tasks in the real world. Travelers will need to get used to them, learn how to interact with them and recognize the benefits they offer. For robots to be a success, traveler interactions must be right.

Robots in business travel?

Robots are becoming a common sight in airport terminals, as the technology is adopted to engage with customers and optimize efficiency.[17] Thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, many robots are able to learn and expand their knowledge. They’ll be able to provide passengers with more relevant information and deliver more operational benefits to airport operators and airlines. Business travelers are likely to encounter robots in hotels, too. They’re already widely used in some markets. Robots produced by Beijing-based Yunji Technology are in use in more than 500 hotels across China.[18] They escort guests to their rooms, deliver room service and provide concierge assistance. Yunji robots are also used in hotels in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and North America.


Testing: new features are being tested frequently
Operational: now

Want to read our report about robots in travel?


Back to reality. What can we already do now for sustainable business travel?

A sustainable future for business travel: Travel management takes the lead

We all have a responsibility to protect what matters most: a healthy environment. A lot of companies worldwide are looking at what they can do to help, and the same goes for us at BCD Travel: Not only do we have an obligation to ourselves, our clients and our communities to manage our responsibilities without limiting options for future generations. We also have a role as trusted advisor for our clients to help them being more sustainable. Climate-neutral transport may be around the corner, but we’re not entirely there yet. So, in the meanwhile, we provide tools and solutions to help companies achieve their climate goals, because travel can and should be part of a sustainable corporate strategy.

Leading by example: Ingersoll Rand

Ingersoll Rand wants to create positive sustainability impact through three actions by 2030:

  • Scale technology, innovation and sustainability strategies to enable more efficient customer solutions. This includes reducing the customer carbon footprint by one gigaton CO2, equivalent to the combined annual emissions of Italy, France and the United Kingdom combined.
  • Transform supply chain and operations to have a restorative impact on the environment, including achieving carbon neutral operations, zero waste to landfill, a 10% absolute reduction in energy consumption, and giving back more water than is used in water-stressed areas.
  • Increase opportunity for all, strengthening economic mobility and bolstering the quality of life of its people and those in the communities where the company operates.

Looking for more corporate inspiration? Check the Bosch and Siemens sustainability initiatives.

How to get started?

Climate-neutral production is what more and more companies are writing into their specifications. Travel contributing to that seems like a contradiction, but it doesn’t have to be. How to get started?


Assess your organization’s sustainability efforts, as well as your suppliers. These tools will help:

  • Created by GBTA and BCD Travel, the Sustainability in Travel Self-Assessment Tool, available to GBTA members, allows organizations to measure ten areas of travel program sustainability in order to identify strengths and weaknesses and providing recommendations for improvement.
  • BCD Travel’s annual Sustainability Report details the company’s commitment to sustainability, its external obligations and its efforts to achieve and maintain an Ecovadis gold rating since 2016. It can serve as a guide full of best practices. BCD also published seven steps for greater sustainability.


Find ways to reduce CO2 emissions caused by business travel:

  • Assess whether meeting in person is necessary. Advito’s Sustainable Collaboration team managed to drastically cut a client’s carbon emissions in five months, equivalent to twelve months of energy use in 112 American homes. Read the case study.
  • Adjusting your travel policy could work miracles as well. Rather than reducing business trips, you can stimulate more sustainable business travel, like booking a direct flight instead of an indirect flight, flying economy class instead of business class, taking the train instead of the plane, using public transport instead of taxis, renting small or hybrid cars instead of SUVs. Ask travelers to consider rail for journeys less than four hours. It’s not only more sustainable, but also more productive, efficient and often cheaper too.


If flying is necessary, consider offsetting CO2 emissions caused by travel:

  • Our Carbon Footprint Calculator for Air Travel automatically shows a flight’s CO2 emission on all BCD itineraries, making travelers aware off their trip’s impact.
  • DecisionSource lets you report on your company’s Air Emissions and provides summaries that can be used for CO2 compensation.
  • A local offsetting partner helps our Benelux customers to reduce and compensate their CO2 footprint. The compensation fee supports sustainable energy projects around the globe.
  • Coming in 2020: Expansion of our SolutionSource marketplace with offsetting partners around the globe, giving customers access to BCD-approved technologies that can easily be integrated into their travel program.


Ask your travelers for help! All individuals are impacted by climate change, so why not involve your business travelers in your sustainability efforts? Some examples of how to engage them:

  • Share sustainable tips with your travelers, like:
    • Choosing eco-label hotels
    • Combining several appointments on one business trip
    • Renting electric cars
    • Using public transport
    • Using real mugs, glasses and plates instead of disposable ones
  • Nudge them into making smart decisions. In this video, Advito Vice President Lesley O’Bryan explains how you can use merchandising techniques in your online booking tool to improve the performance of your travel program, by promoting travelers to book e.g. certain airlines, routes or hotels.
  • Use TripSource to share relevant information to travelers before, during and after their trip through company messaging and policy guidance. For example, when travelers arrive at Heathrow Airport, advise them to take the Heathrow Express to London city center. It’s not just cheaper than a taxi, but more sustainable and faster too.

2020 calendar

Check out our 2020 monthly highlights to help guide your travel choices

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[1] World Economic Forum, The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report
[2] Tourism Economics
[3] NASA, Global Climate Change, Nov. 6, 2019
[4] World Economic Forum, Aug. 30, 2019
[5] Phocuswire, Sep. 13, 2019, quoting IATA chief executive Alexandre de Juniac
[7] Harvard Business Review, April 11, 2017
[9] Phocuswire, Aug. 13, 2013

[10] Phocuswire, Nov. 9, 2106
[11] Phocuswire, July 31, 2019
[12] McKinsey, An integrated perspective on the future of mobility, Oct. 2016
[13] Phocuswire, Apr. 4, 2013
[14] CNBC, Apr. 8, 2019
[15] Cirium, Sep. 11, 2019
[16] Phocuswright, the State of Voice in Travel 2018
[17] Future Travel Experience, Jan. 2019
[18] Phocuswire, Jan. 10, 2019