May 26, 2024

What’s in store for ‘24

TripStax CTO Scott Wylie shares three predictions for the year ahead, and makes a bold New Year's resolution

Well, that’s another Christmas wrapped. Our cat Rocky has been coaxed down from the top of the tree, the tasteful glowing Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer jumpers have been packed away, and the new year has rung in. It’s at this point a young, lean, hungry CTO like me (stop sniggering at the back) turns his mind to forecasting the 12 months ahead.

I’ve got three dogs, so, having spent plenty of bone-tastic time with Bow, Ozzie and Reggie over the festive period, I am thinking a lot in threes at the moment. Therefore, let me offer you a trio of business travel trends I expect for 2024.

Trend 1 – this will be the year of Generative AI development but not full delivery

Investment in artificial intelligence – especially Generative AI, which allows computers to engage with humans in natural language – is going to skyrocket in 2024. This is the first year that many companies are carving out a specific line in their budgets for AI development. Yet although Generative AI is developing very fast, it still has a long way to go before it can routinely handle most travel bookings and traveller servicing. 

Don’t get me wrong: a very promising start has been made, and at TripStax we have built a proof of concept chatbot you can book flights on. But so far it only offers booking on one airline – in this case, British Airways. There’s other interesting work going on, like a large airline that’s testing a digital assistant which sits in the background of group chat for a group travel booking and makes reservations as the arrangements are decided. 

However, it’s going to be a while before AI chatbots can handle bookings across multiple suppliers, and even longer before other crucial tasks are added, like supporting passport and visa needs. That’s why, sticking my neck out, I reckon it will be 2025 before we see truly meaningful business travel AI products – although this technology is evolving so rapidly it could be earlier.

Trend 2 – business traveller wellbeing will become even more important

I once flew to Sydney to spend 36 hours cabling an office before flying home again. That kind of trip will become less common in 2024 as businesses think harder about duty of care towards their travellers. It’s becoming clear many companies are permanently travelling less than pre-Covid. Some will use part of the budget saved to upgrade the journey experience for those who do travel.

At the same time, travel intermediaries will invest more in supporting wellbeing for clients. In particular, more intelligence is needed to audit travel patterns and raise flags if employees, for example, are travelling too often or on too many red-eye flights. There are big lakes of data that can help with this, and they will be put to better use this year.

Trend 3 – we’ll hear much more about carbon removal

Developments in how carbon dioxide can be removed from the air and stored safely will be a big focus. I believe we won’t reach net zero without fully utilising the power and capabilities of technology. I think carbon removal is much more useful than trying to plant trees or promoting sustainable aviation fuel. I would like to see a big shift towards investment in carbon removal to tackle aviation emissions in 2024.

And finally, here’s my own new year’s resolution – which isn’t about carbon removal but alcohol removal. I’m going to abstain until the end of March. There, I’ve said it in writing. No going back, which I expect I will bitterly (see what I did there?) regret by about January 23rd.