Travel is back, and the question now weighing on the minds of travel managers and business leaders everywhere is: How will it be different?
We tackled this question and what it means for road warriors in our guide to the New Traveler Journey, but for those managing corporate travel programs, the answer goes beyond changes to safety protocol and a revamped traveler experience. As travel rebounds, buyers and suppliers alike are putting together the pieces of a fast-approaching, post-pandemic future by focusing on new goals and renewed priorities. Below we’ve rounded up five trends in policy and program management to watch as corporate travel resumes.
1. A Renewed Emphasis on Sustainability
Sustainability has been a talking point in the travel industry for years, but it has reemerged now with new significance after the pandemic forced travel to a stop and reduced CO2 emissions worldwide. After years of discussing what the world would look like with less greenhouse gases, businesses finally got a glimpse.
This is reflected in a recent survey from Business Travel News, which found that more than a third of businesses are not only maintaining their sustainability measures but actually increasing their efforts to go green post-COVID. Likewise, travel suppliers have upped their commitments to reducing their impact on the environment. This includes investing in new aircraft and forming corporate partnerships, a topic we discussed recently on the blog along with the carbon offsetting options Direct Travel offers our clients.
2. The Importance of Trip Approval
Prior to the pandemic, depending on which individual or company you asked, trip approval was on its way out. Now, trip approval has resurged in relevance, backed by tech-savvy automation techniques.
Particularly for international travel, new elements like whether or not a traveler has been vaccinated or whether quarantine is required can be factored into the trip approval process and ensure that the traveler is properly prepared. While trip approval does not eliminate the risk itself, it plays a key role in evaluating and mitigating risk where possible.
Automation makes this entire process more streamlined and convenient for organizations as restrictions change and evolve. Direct Travel’s own Christine Sikes, EVP of Customer Experience, will share her insights on this topic during an upcoming on-demand session at the SAP Concur Travel Industry Summit, which you can register for free here.
3. Improving Mobile Offerings and Technology
It’s no surprise that touchless tech has surged in popularity, with everyone from hotels and airlines to third party apps and travel providers stepping up their technology game. Minimizing traveler touchpoints is not only hygienic but also a step towards a more streamlined traveler experience.
Beyond touchless tech, companies are making significant investments in their products and offerings to keep travelers safe and informed. This includes aspects like enhanced duty of care, more dialed-in risk management tactics, and an increased suite of tools available to travel managers.
Direct Travel made headlines earlier this year for our partnership with Sherpa Intelligence. This partnership has continued to provide new ways for travelers to access real-time intelligence, where and when they need it. Mobile apps, which revolutionized the industry years before COVID-19, have since evolved even further and provided a critical platform for reaching travelers on the road. Our newest version of the Direct2U mobile app does this through direct messaging capabilities, traveler intelligence, trips monitoring and alerts, and an optional check-in feature for more robust duty of care capabilities.
4. Higher Adoption of Virtual Payment Cards
As touchless technology soars in popularity thanks to safety and hygiene concerns, it’s also making waves behind the scenes with companies looking to maximize organizational efficiencies. Virtual payment cards—or v-cards—are being embraced by both buyers and suppliers for their ease of use, highly programmable parameters, and enhanced cashflow properties.
While v-cards had already gained significant traction in past years, the heightened awareness around contactless payments is pushing the benefits of v-cards further to the forefront. A study from Amadeus revealed that 76 percent of airlines think virtual payments benefit both travel providers and sellers. Transaction data also shows that more than 98 percent of v-card payments are now accepted by airlines.
5. Savings through Market Volatility
The pandemic shook traditional metrics and continues to reshape ongoing discussions between buyers and suppliers. Hotels closed, reopened, and then—in some cases—closed again. Similarly, airline routes have been subject to last-minute cancellations and route changes. This has made the 4 S’s of travel (spend, supply, savings & security) all the more important.
As business travel picks up again with new resurgence, the market is stabilizing and presenting buyers with an opportunity to take advantage of low rates, which are already on the rise. Rate assurance is perhaps the simplest and smartest way to make the most of this market volatility. Rather than shopping around for the best rates, more and more travel buyers are relying on rate assurance technology to monitor for the best rate and rebook when available.
We’ve made the case before for why now is the best time to implement this technology. Ultimately, with leaner teams and less resources available to most corporate travel programs, it is important that your business maximizes both time and money.
Is your organization staying ahead of the trends to anticipate the next stage of business travel? Contact us to schedule a free travel program consultation and get your travelers back on the road.