Business travel has bounced back—now what?
Business travel has bounced back more quickly than expected and organisations are seeing the value of bringing people together again. ‘Whether it’s your colleagues, or your customers, or seeing prospects, or tending to the supply chain, the importance of face-to-face connection is really coming back to the fore,’ says Mark Hollyhead, President of Egencia.
As our customers get back on the road for business trips, we’ve been seeing some interesting trends in the business travel industry. Here’s a snapshot of where business travel is heading.
Seeing business travel as a cultural force
Business travel is being used for more than just getting people from A to B nowadays. ‘Of course, businesses have to consider the economic value of bringing people together,’ says Hollyhead. ‘But organisations also have to consider the social impact as they develop their company culture.’
Impromptu meetings in the hallway, chats by the water cooler, even the design and vibe of company headquarters—these were all big parts of forging company culture. Now, with so much of the workforce remote or hybrid, companies need to find different ways to foster company culture and nurture relationships. Business travel is emerging as a key way to do that.
(Read why business travel is the new centre of company culture)
Committing to sustainability
Across the board, we’re seeing more and more customers committing to sustainable business practices. And that includes their travel programmes. ‘We’re starting to see customers creating travel policies and setting up their travel programmes around sustainability and emissions,’ says Nour-Eddine Zaoug, Senior Director of Global Account Management for Egencia.
While there is not a direct relationship between the pandemic and sustainability, ‘the shake-up has led clients to rethink, reboot and reset their travel programmes,’ according to Manuel Brachet, Vice President of Multinational Global Strategic Accounts for Egencia.
‘One thing we’re seeing with this reset is the attribution of a carbon budget to internal departments, in the same way you’d attribute an expense and travel budget. Along with optimising overall travel spend, clients are now looking to optimise a whole other set of spend—carbon spend. And we’re investing heavily at Egencia to enable that for our customers.’
Recognising the importance of data
A key benefit that comes from working with a travel management company (TMC) is having consolidated travel data from across your organisation. The critical nature of data became even more pronounced during the pandemic.
‘Whether it’s enabling duty of care or helping with overall programme management, data is something that’s seen as even more important now,’ says Zaoug. ‘Because of that, as with the role of the travel manager, the impact of a TMC on a company’s ability to do business has been emphasised.’
As corporate travel comes back from a halt and nears pre-pandemic levels, we’re seeing companies strongly encouraging their travellers, bookers and arrangers to engage in self-service online as much as possible. The pandemic put a fine point on how essential it is for travellers to be able to take care of their needs the moment those needs arise, especially when circumstances are changing by the hour.
‘Over the last two years, we’ve put significant investment towards empowering bookers, arrangers and travellers,’ says Brachet. ‘So, enhancing the mobile app with online ticketing modification, cancellation, credit redemption, chat functionality. All of those have been significant investments that were not necessarily born of the pandemic, but were accelerated because of it.’
Amping up support
On the flipside of self-service, we’ve also seen an increasing need for agent support. ‘As we see corporate travel restarting, we see volumes increasing and more pressure on the oil industry. Airlines are cancelling more flights, prices are increasing and the overall supply environment is in flux,’ says Zaoug.
In response, Egencia is hiring 1,300 new travel agents in 2022 to help customers work through bigger issues. We’re taking a leadership role in empowering our customers’ teams, too. ‘We’re investing heavily in education and communication to travellers, travel managers and the overall booker community,’ says Zaoug.
Looking ahead to the future
‘I’m just excited about bringing people back together again in all forms,’ says Hollyhead. ‘That’s such a powerful thing we’ve missed. Whether it’s the laughs we have, or the in-person meetings we have, or the impromptu sessions. When we bring people together, we’re driving forward progress economically, socially and responsibly. Those are the things that really matter about face-to-face contact, and bringing people together to do those things is key.’
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