Even during the pandemic, business travel has remained present. Yes, the pandemic did increase the use of technology and video for certain meetings that don’t require an in-person presence. However, it also proved that many things still require those in-person interactions. To help you map out your company’s future travel plans, we’ve listed down the travel trends we have seen in 2021. With these trends, you’ll know what to look forward to in 2022.
What We’ve Seen in 2021
The 2021 Business Travel Trends Report from Motus unsurprisingly found a decrease in travel spend in favor of videoconferencing. The report indicates that, as of the second quarter of 2021, less than a fifth of companies reached 25% of their 2019 quarterly spend on travel. This falls in line with an overall estimate. Specifically, that as of November, U.S. business travel spend had dropped $192 billion in 2021.
By the end of 2021, most employees felt safe enough to travel. However, travel managers were reevaluating their policies. As a result, August 2021’s travel spend was 11% less than the equivalent level in 2019. The reduction in flight travel comes with an increase in driving. By March 2021, driving activity in the United States was 30% higher than the levels before the pandemic.
Based on the data from 2021, the Motus report also found the ideal cap for driving on business trips. They say that drives should not be greater than about 600 miles or 10 hours. After that, the cost of the drive would start to become larger than the cost to fly. These additional costs include meals, accommodations, and travel time. Some of these trends from 2021 are likely to continue into 2022, and there will also be some other noteworthy trends.
The Decision to Fly or Drive
In 2021, many companies focused on driving on business trips instead of flying. As such, many companies are likely to continue considering it. But this will not always be a practical option. Companies have to consider the value of their team’s time and the preferences of employees. This is even true on trips less than 10 hours or 600 miles.
Pushing for Flexibility
The Motus report also found that 72% of employees prioritize flexibility for their business travel. This will continue to be a trend in 2022, as employees require that flexibility to feel safe in the pandemic and post-pandemic world.
Incorporating Leisure into Business Travel
The requirements for traveling during the pandemic have increased. As such, employees want to get more out of their business travel than before. Even prior to the pandemic, 90% of business travelers who are millennials added some leisure activities to their travel. This ties closely into the idea of flexibility with travel. Employees follow the mindset that if they are going to spend time to travel to a destination, they want to also be able to appreciate the city they are in. This is true even if it requires some out-of-pocket expenses for them.
Considering Accommodations Other than Hotels
Hotels remain a popular choice for business travel accommodations. After all, they are familiar and have loyalty programs. However, there is also an increase in companies booking accommodations that are less traditional. Airbnb and similar accommodations that offer the comforts of home are becoming more popular. These are particularly popular among employees looking for leisure activities on business trips. When planning business trips, travel procurement teams should consider using the accommodations as an incentive. It can motivate employees to return to business travel.
Self-Booking is More Popular
There is also an increase in companies allowing employees to book their own travel or accommodations. This is done within a set of restrictions and policies. It is also done without eliminating the role of travel bookers. This option can reduce labor costs for the travel booking team and gives employees an element of control. It does, however, come with a caveat. It takes time out of the day of those employees. After all, they are less likely to be able to book efficiently compared to someone dedicated to that role.
Even when companies do not offer self-booking for their employees, they can provide some of the benefits. One example is by offering employees several choices for flights or accommodations. This ties back into the trend of flexibility mentioned above.
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Seeing Business Travel as a Perk
There is a trend toward viewing corporate travel as a perk. This comes through with some of the previous points, such as flexibility and ability to add leisure activities to business trips, Millennials strongly report viewing business travel as enriching. International business travelers of all generations also highlight the value for their personal and professional growth. Savvy companies are using this idea to incentivize employees as well as to attract and retain talent.
Automating Processes that Were Previously Done Manually
As technology advances, one trend in business travel has been the automation of time-consuming tasks that used to be done manually. One example is comparing flight prices or reshopping flights via an airfare saver. This can now be done easily and automatically by services like FairFly to optimize the travel program. Another example is the use of travel insights. Companies increasingly use programs that can automate analytics to glean the relevant insights.
Other Technology-Related Travel Trends
The automation of travel-related processes is far from the only business travel trend related to technology. The simplest examples include passengers’ ability to automatically check in for flights and download boarding passes onto phones. In some cases, travelers can also automatically check in and out of hotels. The improved efficiency that travelers experience at the airport is another major trend. Employees expect airport lines to be shorter and faster. This comes thanks to facial recognition technology, other biometrics, and automated kiosks at immigration. The improved speed and reliability of in-flight Wi-Fi is another growing trend. This allows employees to be more productive on flights. Wi-Fi connections also helps reduce the amount of wasted time associated with travel.
The Bottom Line
In 2022, you can expect to see a demand for corporate travel that is flexible. Businesses now give employees more control over at least some decisions. This may mean selecting between several accommodations or the ability to add leisure activities. The use of technology has also improved, more and more companies are using automation platforms like FairFly that to deliver significant business travel cost savings.