Now that we’re in the 2020s, it’s time to start thinking about the trends that will make an impact on business travel this year and beyond. And more importantly, what travel managers can do to prepare for the changes that are heading our way. Here’s a snapshot of a few of the major changes we anticipate will impact business travel.
Travelers will rely on their mobile phones for every aspect of their trip
From using it as a ticket to board the plane to hailing a ride to their hotel and now texting travel counselors for booking assistance, today’s business travelers are already dependent on their mobile phones. But expect this reliance to grow as Wi-Fi connectivity improves. This will enable travelers to have more vivid video calls and may even fuel the growth of self-driving cars and smarter transportation systems. Perhaps this year, we will even see fast Wi-Fi service on airplanes!
Driving this mobile-first phenomenon is the rise of the “super app” that allows users to perform multiple, seemingly unrelated tasks within one app. With this robust application, a traveler might check reviews of local restaurants, pay for the meal, and hail a ride back to the office without ever leaving the app.
With it forecasted that millennials will make up half of the workforce this year (just as the oldest members of Generation Z begin their careers), travel suppliers need to invest in upgrading their digital solutions.
The travel experience will get more personalized
Thanks to advanced analytics and data collection, suppliers can create experiences and deals tailored to travelers’ needs and preferences. But with the rise of 5G, things are about to get even more personal. This faster service is helping to advance artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things. This year, we anticipate a crop of new apps and devices to spring up that are not viable under a 4G network – some may even connect and communicate with each other.
With such technology, travelers can have a richer 360-degree experience of their destination – including a high-quality simulated tour of the hotel they’re eyeing – without having to take a flight. Lighting, temperature, and decor in hotel rooms will automatically adjust to guests’ preferences and moods. Augmented reality apps will send push notifications giving travelers customized dining (and shopping) options in the vicinity.
We will see even more biometric technology being used
Facial and fingerprint recognition technology has been popping up at airports around the world, speeding up lines at security checkpoints and boarding gates. In 2020, these machines will become permanent fixtures at more airports. Biometrics also will spread to more hotels with some already making use of the technology. Singapore just launched a pilot program where guests at some hotels can use facial recognition to check into their rooms. Adding an extra layer of security, some hotels are also allowing room access through fingerprint scanners.
Sustainable travel will become more than a headline
In 2019, greener travel and the concept of flygskam (which translates as “flight shame”) took off thanks to the climate change movement. In 2020, we likely will see its counterpart, tagskryt (or “train-bragging”) grow as more travelers make a commitment to reduce their carbon footprint. As a result, expect to see European rail companies reinvesting in their systems.
Increasingly, business travelers (and companies) will make greener choices, such as choosing airlines known for their fuel-efficient planes and flying nonstop, even if it’s a higher ticket price. Some may even elect to fly economy, since a business class seat comes with the price of a higher carbon footprint. And some airlines may do away with that cabin altogether.
Hotels are also working to make their operations greener with more efficient energy and lighting systems as well as water-conservation programs. And you can say goodbye to those tiny toiletry bottles at major hotel chains as many are promising to do away with them by 2021.