Why Business Travel Is Broken – and What the Industry Is Doing About It
Traveling for business can be frustrating at the best times and exhausting at the worst. Whether it’s a lack of availability for rooms, tricky cancellation policies, or just locational and logistical headaches, travelers are usually braced for some sort of dilemma.
Thankfully, players in the travel industry understand that, and they’re evolving to mitigate and prevent these problems. Advancements on the horizon point toward a future of business travel that could make the road warrior grind not just tolerable, but actually pleasant.
What’s Not Working
So what makes business travel such a stressful experience?
Often, corporate portals and loyalty programs lie at the heart of the problem. When a company is loyal to a particular brand or chain, it limits employees’ choices. Employees may have to book a hotel that’s not close to their meeting location, for example, simply because it’s their company’s preferred brand.
Currently, only half of all corporate hotel bookings go through approved channels. And as consumer-facing websites make the booking process more and more streamlined, employees will become even more reluctant to use outdated, complicated business portals.
Additionally, consumers are coming to expect more from airlines and hotels during their trips. On-flight and in-room Wi-Fi are no longer seen as premium amenities, and bag fees and esoteric reward programs with expiring points further strain tight travel budgets. Airport security is another point of stress. Though programs such as TSA Pre√ have taken some of the headache away, travelers around the globe are still less than thrilled to go through the process.
Once the trip ends, travelers report tracking receipts to be one of the biggest pain points for business travel — often because companies’ reimbursement policies remain antiquated. Fifty-eight percent of organizations still reimburse road trip expenses via checks.
With so many issues, how are players in the travel industry evolving to alleviate the strain on businesses, their budgets, and their road warriors?
Luckily, the efforts of those working to change the system are beginning to bear fruit.
Right now, the RFP process for corporate buyers is a resource-intensive, laborious process with too many opportunities for error. But thanks to GBTA’s new tool kit for airline RFPs, which is available for all regions and budgets, that may be about to change.
Startups and other disruptors in the corporate travel space are also starting to change the way business travelers think about the road. A new company called Bird Office is attempting to do for meeting spaces what Airbnb did for lodging. It allows buyers to select destinations, times, and other specifications to view a range of venue options and prices. This new nonstandard method of finding areas to meet could solve some of the more pressing logistical and budgetary nightmares corporate buyers face.
Other companies are taking advantage of the potential opportunity in the ground transportation space. One such company, Hailo, is calling itself the Uber of licensed taxis. It’s bringing the convenience of the Uber app to the taxi world, which is still struggling to match the simplicity of the ride-sharing giant.
Many of these innovations rely on data. As companies get better tools and find new ways to read and utilize their existing pools of massive data, solutions for corporate buyers and business travelers will continue to get smarter, more streamlined, and more cost-effective.
Big data in this space doesn’t just handle big numbers, however. As travel entities learn to wrangle their data more effectively, technology will not only be able to manage business travelers’ needs, but also predict them and adjust accordingly.
Corporate travel buyers rarely get a moment to settle down and look ahead, but with new innovations around the corner and some disruption already happening in the industry, it would be a misstep to ignore the potential advantages of a shift in strategy. If you want to streamline your travel processes and make life easier on your travelers, take the time to research new and upcoming options. The better prepared you are to shift to a more efficient way of doing things, the better positioned you and your company will be moving forward.
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