Driven by emerging technologies and shifting habits, corporate travel is experiencing a fundamental change in the way the traveller is served. Here are some forecasts and predictions, provided by WorldHotels, which will shape the business travel sector this year.
Corporate travel is mainly about complying with company policies. But a new mindset is emerging when it comes to traveling for business: Standard traveling processes are not enough anymore; a personalised approach is expected. Hotels must put people, not policies, first. Data, business intelligence and analytics will help to improve the customer experience this year and need to be applied at every step of the customer journey. It starts with recognising corporate travelers automatically when they dial in from a known number. Using past traveller behavior makes it possible to offer truly unique travel products and services.
Business or leisure? Both.
As workforces fill up with millennials and Generation Z workers, business travel expectations and habits are changing. The newer generations are interested in blending business and leisure travel. The lines between work and life are increasingly blurry and the so-called bleisure trips are on the rise and are likely to continue growing in popularity. Improved travel policies will give the possibility to combine business with leisure this year. This trend will come with the benefits of increased satisfaction and a reduction in stress for travelers.
Along with the growing focus on bleisure travel, there is a spotlight on experiences this year. Not only leisure but also corporate travellers want to soak up local culture. Experiential travel is the buzzword; today’s travellers appreciate a local experience instead of sitting in a meeting room all day. Staying active, exploring the area and making the most of their time instead of rushing their stay and leaving as soon as possible is the business travellers’ motto of 2019.
Business traveller well-being
In 2019, health and productivity of employees on the road will have top priority. Today’s corporate travellers need more flexibility and personalisation when they travel. Hotels often don’t let people check in until late afternoon, which makes it impossible to freshen up and prepare for a meeting. Sometimes travellers even have to head back home at night, because the company did not book an overnight stay. That is why more hotels will start offering day-rates for corporate travellers. Whereas in the past the focus was only on costs, now it is also on traveller satisfaction.
In the past years, the travel and hospitality industries have been introducing robotic technologies. Today’s travellers demand convenient and fast self-service opportunities. In the hospitality industry, robots greet guests, offer check-in and check-out, perform room services, show guests around, provide information and deliver luggage. Robots can work 24/7/365 without holidays and breaks, they don’t demand salary. However, they cannot adapt to unanticipated situations and cannot replace human sympathy and emotions.
Corporate travellers have started to demand a sense of autonomy; they would like to choose their own flights and accommodation in accordance with their preferences. With mobile booking and accommodation such as Airbnb, corporate travellers can plan their own trips hassle-free. 2019 will see an increase in demand for flexibility. Millennials will account for nearly half of travel spend in the next years and will emerge as a pre-eminent force in travel consumption. Corporate travel policies need to accommodate their travel needs and attitudes and expand self-booking options.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
With the ability to streamline processes, optimise and personalise experiences, AI will create a more guest-centric hospitality this year. AI will be used more frequently for customer support. More and more companies will use chatbots to interact with customers and deliver responses. AI draws conclusions based on behaviour and feedback and the more it works the smarter it will become. It helps to analyse preferences and requirements of corporate travellers and then provides personalised recommendations. This year will bring a lot more innovation in the field of AI.