In a recent Atlas post, we revisited some events in 2019 affecting business travel. Today let’s look ahead and see what trends may shape the travel experience in 2020 – plus some bonus tips for travel managers (TMs) on how to handle the changes that are coming.

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 our travel counselors for booking assistance, today’s business traveler is already super dependent on their mobile phone as they navigate from Point A to Point B. But expect this reliance to grow in 2020 as Wi-Fi connectivity improves thanks to 5G networks spreading across the planet. This exponentially faster wireless technology will have a substantial impact on travel, from enabling travelers to have more vivid video calls with those back home to fueling 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 for a business lunch, pay for the meal, and hail a ride back to the office without ever leaving the app.

Also contributing to this trend is the fact that the generations that have grown up with their hands glued to their smartphones are beginning to dominate the workforce – with it being forecasted that millennials will make up half of it this year just as the oldest members of Generation Z begin their careers. To win over these younger customers, travel suppliers are investing in upgrading their digital solutions.

Advice for TMs: Companies need to equip their employees so they can fully enjoy all that their mobiles can do when traveling internationally for work. If your organization is failing in this department, 2020 is the year to work with your procurement and tech teams on an upgrade.

The travel experience will get more personalized.

Thanks to advanced analytics and the growing amount of data being collected at every customer touchpoint, suppliers are able to 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 – with some even connecting and communicating with each other – to spring up that are not viable under a 4G network.

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.

With AI algorithms and big data revealing more about travelers’ tastes and habits, we will see more suppliers this year using that information to package personalized offerings and try to sell them additional products.

Advice for TMs: With all the add-ons that might result from suppliers’ increasingly personalized offerings, it’s critical to have a travel and expense policy that provides travelers with clear guidelines on what ancillaries are and aren’t covered by the company.

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 with the Department of Homeland Security saying facial recognition will be used on 97% of departing passengers by 2023.

Despite some critics voicing privacy concerns, many travelers are comfortable with the idea. According to a new survey conducted by the World Travel & Tourism Council, 81% of Americans who travel internationally are willing to share their biometric data to speed up their journeys.

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.

Advice for TMs: Most business travelers have been letting airports scan their faces and fingerprints for some time, but we still recommend working with your information security team to educate employees about how they can protect their data and identities.

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 sparked by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. 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 reinvest 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 after Wizz Air’s call for an industry-wide ban, while British Airways recently announced its commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Hotels also are 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 Marriott, IHG, and Hyatt promise to do away with them by 2021.

Advice for TMs: Make your travelers feel less guilty for all the flights they take by introducing an eco-friendlier program. Need help getting started? Contact our Global Business Consulting team, who can help craft and implement greener travel policies. And be sure to check out our white paper on this topic.