The year 2017 had a number of highs for corporate travel. For starters, a lot of technology reminiscent of “Minority Report” that is making travel more efficient was unveiled. Meanwhile, we here at American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) revealed our own technological upgrades that offer clients a more personalized experience.

There also were a few low points — several tragedies that put travel risk management in the spotlight and one incident that had us wondering what to do if we ever found ourselves on an overbooked flight.

Then there were new airport security measures and a rollout of the basic economy fare that sent travel managers (TM) scrambling for answers.

So what possibly could happen in 2018 that will impact your travel program? Today we’re looking into our crystal ball to see what’s on the horizon.

Travel management colliding with HR

A sign that a TM’s role will become even more important in 2018, companies increasingly are dangling the benefits of their travel programs as a way to hook new employees as well as to retain their veterans.

According to Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager of American Express Meetings & Events, with global labor shortages and immigration tightening around the world, this recruitment and retention strategy will be employed even more.

“We have already seen this tactic with some companies, but as competition for talent heats up, employers will look to travel programs as meaningful benefits for employees who want to take advantage of business destinations, have a productive trip and get home safely,” he recently told Convene magazine.

He went on to note that “the line between traveling for work and leisure is continuing to blur for many travelers and companies will find that developing programs that offer a more flexible work-life balance will attract prospective employees and keep current employee morale high.”

Tip for TMs: Start getting friendlier with your HR staff now — it seems you’ll be seeing a lot more of them.

NDC momentum building

It’s been five years since the International Air Transport Association (IATA) first started talking about its new airline distribution standard known as New Distribution Capability (NDC). Now the ball is rolling as airlines begin imposing surcharges for bookings made through non-direct channels. In fact, British Airways and Iberia just began charging a $10 fee in November 2017 for tickets booked via GDSs. Fortunately, though, American Express GBT reached an agreement with the two airlines so our clients can avoid paying this penalty.

IATA touts that the NDC standard will improve the customer experience, enabling airlines to sell all their numerous ancillaries they’ve been offering directly through their website — such as seat allocation, fast-track boarding, onboard meals, etc. — through indirect channels. While the industry has been very slow in adopting NDC, it’s now picking up steam with an expected 45 airlines live by year-end, according to a white paper commissioned by IATA.

So if you know very little about NDC, 2018 is the year to play catch-up.

Tip for TMs: To find out more about how NDC may impact your travel program, contact your travel management company. American Express GBT is working with all members of the travel supply chain so that content will continue to be distributed in a cost-effective way that does not reduce the content received by business travelers through the GDSs.

A focus on cybersecurity

“Duty of care” and “travel risk management” have been on the tip of TMs’ tongues for years. In 2018, we’ll be hearing a lot more about “cybersecurity” as well since it is expected to be an unprecedented year for data breaches, according to Forbes’ « 60 Cybersecurity Predictions for 2018 » report in which our very own Si-Yeon Kim, chief risk and compliance officer of American Express GBT, was quoted.

“Fraudsters are moving on from traditional transactional fraud towards the rich target of traveler profile and booking data, causing a renewed focus on industry solutions for privacy and security,” she said.

She warned that “profile data can give criminals access to passport and credit card numbers, home addresses and contact details, and even family and personal preferences,” while booking data potentially could disclose confidential business activities.

Tip for TMs: Enlist the help of your IT department to train and educate travelers on how to protect their data while on the road. And to familiarize yourself more on this topic, take a look at this Atlas post.

Rising hotel costs

If 2017 was the rise of the airline carriers’ “basic economy/no frills” concept, 2018 will be the hotel industry’s big year for ancillary charges.

With Hilton and Marriott recently announcing new 48-hour cancellation policies, we expect more hotels to follow suit this coming year. We also are seeing more and more properties charging a higher rate for a refundable room as well as making consumers pay for many amenities that used to be free, such as Wi-Fi service, holding luggage, parking, early departures or merely having a room with a safe.

While these types of fees should be negotiated out of most corporate policies, be aware that suppliers may use them as bargaining chips for higher room rates.

Another concerning trend in 2018: Hotels will continue to push travelers to book directly through their website by offering a loyalty member discount — which will be a duty of care nightmare for travel managers who already are struggling with hotel leakage.

Tip for TMs: Encourage travelers to plan in advance and remind them to book their hotel when they make their flight arrangements through the corporate booking tool. And FYI: Through American Express GBT’s PREFERRED EXTRAS program, clients can receive some of the perks that are being stripped from the standard rate, such as breakfast and Wi-Fi, for free.

Want to know more about what’s coming for 2018? Be on the lookout for the 2018 Global Business Travel Forecast prepared by our Global Business Consulting specialists.