Seven key trends are set to shape business travel in 2024, according to a report out this week from Globetrender and Cytric Easy by Amadeus.
Under an underlying theme of ‘discernment’, the trends identified in the report are:
1. The emergence of AI PAs – intelligent, 24/7, solutions to help with everything from advising on itinerary options, to using natural language to guide travellers on their company’s travel policy. Output is “friendly and helpful” in tone so easy to continue the dialogue with follow-up questions.
2. A rise in executive field trips, or strategic getaways, thanks to the shift towards longer trips away, often in nature, and the need for camaraderie to “cement positive relationships between employees, boost company loyalty and motivate people to work towards a common goal”. Corporate off-sites are being taken to the next level with an ever-greater array of “immersive, surprising, and sometimes even extreme experiences”, such as white water rafting or tropical bushcraft.
3. A focus on ‘objective stacking’, which is a new term, coined by Globetrender, for trips that are planned to fulfill multiple goals. In response to sustainability goals and higher costs, these will become the default way of operating to maximise efficiency and value, so instead of flying in and out for one meeting, sales pitch or event, business travellers will be required to build in time to meet clients, forge deals, investigate expansion opportunities, conduct competitor analysis or tag on a holiday.
4. Blended itineraries take centre stage, thanks to a relaxation and personalisation of once rigid corporate travel policies with employee experience increasingly placed at the heart. Combined with automated systems, this will enable blended itineraries that go beyond simple ‘bleisure’ trips.
5. A more serious approach to sustainability goals, with a survey of 896 senior decision-makers commissioned by Amadeus revealing that 90% of travel companies have a strategy in place to reach environmental sustainability objectives or are planning to implement one in 2024. As pressure grows to justify the environmental impact of business travel, companies will increasingly embrace ‘objective stacking and ‘blended itineraries’ to meet these objectives.
6. Automatic reconciliation moves a step closer, propelled by the transition to digital expensing and virtual cards for on-the-go expenses. The shift marks the end of an era dominated by cumbersome manual management of expense forms and the constant juggle of paper receipts. Digitised Expenses will boost personalization and enhance the user experience, while ensuring data security and travel policy compliance.
7. ‘Power networking’ at global events takes off as desire for connection surges. “Gone will be the days when delegates sneak off early from conferences or hide in their hotel room to avoid making small talk,” says the report. “In 2024 and beyond, every opportunity will need to be maximised, which means crafting richer itineraries with multiple meetings outside of the core agenda.”
Jenny Southan, CEO and Founder of Globetrender, said: “When looking at the future of business travel in 2024, it’s clear that two macro shifts are happening in parallel. Technology is making the planning and execution of trips ever-more seamless but there is also a desire to ‘go back to basics’, which is manifesting in nature-based corporate retreats and the revival of ‘power lunches’.
“This highlights the enduring value of human connection in building good business relationships. Ultimately, every journey needs to be optimised to justify the return on investment, and the subsequent carbon impact of flying.
“If there is one word to sum up business travel in 2024, that will be ‘discernment’. Employees no longer want to sacrifice areas of their personal lives to be constantly on the road, and companies need to balance the fulfilment of financial and ESG targets, which will mean all parties need to be more selective about what trips they commit to.”