June 15, 2024

10 trends to watch in 2024

Take note of these trend predictions for next year from business travel experts

1. Team travel

Linda McNairy, Global Vice President, Strategic Meetings, American Express Global Business Travel

As reflected in the Amex GBT 2024 Global Meetings & Events Forecast, and in conversations with our customers, we are expecting to see continued growth in internal meetings, with customers wanting to keep their distributed teams connected.

In some organisations, workforces are now more dispersed, with increased remote and hybrid working, leading to a rethink of how these teams need to interact and meet. In our Forecast, internal meetings are where respondents most expected to see growth in the coming year.

We believe this reflects how customers are re-evaluating the importance of internal connections to support and accelerate team cohesion, productivity, innovation, and employee engagement – in ways and at speed that cannot be accomplished via virtual meeting formats. 

These changes can mean that how people connect is increasingly central to business strategies and policymaking – supporting company culture, talent attraction and retention, employee experience and wellbeing. This has implications for travel and meetings programme owners and their role in driving successful outcomes for their organisations.   

2. Multi-modal generation

Stefan Cars, CEO, Snowfall

The generational shift of the workforce, hybrid working patterns and the sustainable travel groundswell will continue to drive growing demand among corporates for multimodal forms of travel, and seamless tech to book all those options in one place. Gen Z is reaching professional maturity and these digital natives, and in time their successors, Gen Alpha, will be instrumental in driving the ‘digital first’ transition within business travel and the wider travel industry.

2024 is the year to truly start acting on the future, and see business travel through the lens of next-gen travellers. Modern, convenient and user-friendly travel shopping and booking is a must. These travellers will not tolerate outdated tech that hinders, rather than enhances their work and travel experience. Ride-hailing and shared mobility are the norm for this generation, it’s not new or innovative, so they expect access to cost-effective, flexible and seamless travel at their fingertips.

We’re seeing integrated digital offerings and the growing numbers of SuperApps from the likes of Uber, who are expanding into new travel verticals, including flights and rail. And rail operators, such as Deutsche Bahn, are increasingly recognising the value of multimodality, striking up first-and-last-mile partnerships.

3. GDS disintermediation

David Chappell, Chief Product Officer, TripStax

NDC will drive GDS disintermediation further up the agenda for TMCs in 2024. The steps that airlines took during the pandemic to get their NDC distribution channel into the shape it is now have led to major challenges for corporates accessing full airfare content, and TMCs being able to fully service it.

Alongside that challenge, you have the other two parallel strands of a corporate’s sustainability and risk requirements, both of which need good clean data sets to function properly. All these different strands are starting to push against the TMCs’ existing technology stacks, at such scale that they are at serious risk of coming apart at the seams. If 2023 was the year when NDC came of age, then 2024 is the year when the need for change will be a driving force in TMCs disintermediating from the GDS.

4. Permacrisis burnout

Sally Llewellyn, Global Security Director, International SOS

The global permacrisis is set to continue to take its toll in 2024 as extreme weather events continue to impact organisations and global instability deepens. This situation is giving rise to concerning levels of employee burnout.

According to the latest International SOS Risk Outlook Report 2024, 80% of surveyed global senior risk professionals predict burnout will have a significant impact on businesses in the next year, whilst only 41% of them feel that their organisations are equipped to deal with it. Three-quarters of organisations report increased employee expectations for Duty of Care. A similar number are now also shouldering duties previously seen as government responsibilities, including two-thirds who acknowledge extending responsibilities to support workers’ families in times of need.

This underlines how the era of offering only basic occupational health services for work-related conditions is over. While still essential, occupational health provisions must be enhanced with diverse support and interventions to safeguard and nurture employees globally.

5. Sustainability action

Johnny Thorsen, Spotnana VP of Partnerships

During 2023 we saw the usual soft focus on sustainable travel with a lot of announcements but very little action. But 2024 is likely to be very different as travel buyers will start introducing internal carbon tax models at scale which in terms will increase focus on selecting the greenest travel option whether it means the newest plane, rail replacing air or the trip simply not happening.

This development will be further accelerated by the introduction of the EU CSRD as a mandatory requirement for about 50,000 companies As the travel industry comes under increasing pressure to find ways of reducing the overall carbon footprint, we will probably see an fast-accelerating shift away from air to rail or road for short-haul travel.

Companies will introduce the concept of no-fly zones designed to eliminate air travel within a given distance from a major city when there is a credible rail alternative. Importantly, the booking of rail will become as easy as air as new multi-modal display rules are introduced in Europe primarily

6. Bleisure blur

Emilie Dumont, Managing Director Digitrips

From January 2024, when new EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directives come into force, around 11,500 ‘public-interest’ companies across the EU will have to start applying  new rules related to monitoring travel in order to be able to report on them publicly during the following year.

The evolving ‘bleisure’ trend could make sustainability reporting difficult. How does a company determine which parts of an employee’s trip was for work and which were for leisure? An employee might take a long-haul trip through their company but might tag on a holiday and, as a result, book one less leisure flight than they otherwise would have. It’s going to be a logistical challenge and companies need to develop strategies and calculations that take this into account.

This could open up a whole new sales market, though, or at least provide opportunities for tech providers to develop tools to respond to this need, which could be exciting.

7. Domestic boom

Guy Snelgar, Global Business Travel Director, Advantage Travel Partnerships

Next year we will see an increase in domestic travel for UK based business travellers. The pandemic moved many work forces into working from home and now employers have realised it can work very well and bring economic advantages. Home-working employment contracts were issued and suddenly going to the office is no longer classed as commuting but has become expensed business travel.

Data and anecdotal reports show it’s growing faster, and group company travel also plays a part with businesses looking to bring the company workforce together to meet with homeworking now more common. This brings potential good news for that company’s TMC, with new opportunities, especially around ground transport, rail, taxis and so on.

8. Content challenge

Scott Davies, CEO ITM

OBTs and access to full content, especially for air travel, will be the dominant issues for travel managers in 2024. Indeed 75% of buyers, who completed ITM’s latest Trending Survey said that access to full content/NDC will be the biggest challenge they face in managing travel in 2024. Furthermore ‘ensuring access to full content’ moved into the top five buyer priorities for this year, sharing equal second place with duty of care, budget control and sustainable practice.

Ranking as the top priority for the second-year running is ‘OBT optimisation.’ Last year, the reason was primarily due to the challenges buyers faced managing the return to travel post-Covid. This year it’s because most buyers are dissatisfied with their OBT’s delivery and fulfilment of several content-related areas. But we recognise this is not an easy fix and the OBT is the manifestation of a lot of issues in a complicated ecosystem. Yet buyers are still so reliant on their OBT to support their programme in terms of user experience, content, compliance and sustainable travel options.

It’s not surprising that booking tools will continue to be a cause for concern in 2024, but we all need to work together to find a solution.

9. User interface make-over

Ilan Twig, CTO and co-founder, Navan

In 2024, web and mobile applications will be completely rethought and we’ll start to see a new trend emerge in the way we interact with these apps — a combination of chat with UI elements that show up and disappear. For example, adding a loyalty club to your profile will not require navigating through complex menus to finally get to what you want to do. You only see what you need to see when you need it.

Generative AI models will continue to become smaller, more portable, and with faster inferenceThis will lead to hyper-accelerated development and implementation into ever-more specific applications. Imagine a mini-ChatGPT powering your phone; third-party apps could integrate into that and enable a magical user experience.

These changes will enable solutions to anticipate users’ needs based on known traveller patterns and proactively complete tasks. This will remake the traditional user interface, which will soon have an entry point of voice or text chat.

10. Supplier response

Penny Munn, CTM Chief Partnership Officer EMEA

Sustainability considerations along with inflationary pressures are set to continue influencing traveller choices regarding flights and accommodation and travel suppliers are responding to these evolving booking behaviours by adapting their offerings. For example, American Airlines has become the latest airline to unveil plans to phase out first-class seats on international flights in 2024 in response to corporate travel policies and traveller preferences.

Furthermore, in its Annual Review, IATA notes that while oil prices have stabilised from their peak levels, they remain elevated, prompting airlines to recalibrate their operational strategies and invest in more fuel-efficient aircraft to reduce their carbon footprint.