Business travel is essential, not only for the health of your company but also for the health of humanity and our global communities. As we look to the year ahead, we are optimistic about the prospect of an uptick in business travel and what that could mean for powering progress across the world.

To help our clients navigate what lies ahead, we’ve compiled key trends that will impact corporate travel programs this year in our Business Travel in 2022 and Beyond report. Here, let’s explore how some of those trends are shaping travel programs and your traveling employees.

Download the Business Travel in 2022 report for our complete recommendations.

Travelers need to be kept informed of policy/travel changes

While travel policies are constantly being reviewed and revised, the pandemic has pushed this task up the corporate agenda. According to a survey of 700 travel managers conducted around the world last year, all expected their corporate travel guidelines or policies to change in the next 12 months. The top policy changes cited were real-time updates and alerts on potential travel risks (54%) and pre-trip vaccination requirements (51%).

Significant attention also has been placed on making pre-trip approval processes more robust to drive greater visibility and program management.

Adjusting the policy to adapt to the new normal is merely the first step. Amendments then need to be communicated to travelers, through multiple channels and stakeholders, to facilitate change management.

And it’s not only the policy updates traveling employees need to be made aware of. With travel rules constantly evolving in this environment, travel managers need tools and corporate travel technology that can keep travelers informed at every stage. Such support is essential to boosting their confidence and well-being when away from home.

Prepare travelers for a volatile air experience

With limited data available for planning, airlines have been making broad assumptions around demand, capacity, and schedules, refining them as the demand curve builds. This scenario could ultimately result in flight cancellations or delays.

As a result of reduced capacity, travelers face inconvenience from a diminished choice of flight times and routes. Lighter schedules and networks can spell problems for operational reliability and create other issues at airports, with reduced amenities and less personnel to process travelers at check-in, security, and border control.

Fewer flights and reduced route coverage will also mean less choice and more competition for the same flights.

We recommend that travel managers work on recalibrating travelers’ expectations to help them adjust to such challenges. You can remind them to book early so they have a better chance to get a seat on a desired flight. For a smoother experience, also encourage them to arrive early at the airport and remind them of the support the organization’s travel management company can offer during flight disruptions.

Find ways to save on accommodations

Hotel demand and the average daily rate (ADR) in the US are expected to see near full recovery in 2022. Forecasts for other geographies, including the UK, the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia Pacific, are also promising.

According to American Express Global Business Travel internal data, ADR improvement has been especially strong in the luxury/premium category as guests (including tourists competing for the same rooms as business travelers) returned to hotels in major metropolitan hubs.

As ADR levels recover, travel managers may not find any opportunities for rate reduction – and could see rates going up.

One way to combat escalating rates? Nudge travelers to use an online booking tool that prioritizes a company’s preferred partners in the search – and to book hotel options that offer a special discount or deal. For example, through our enhanced relationship with Expedia, we now extend Expedia Business Rates to all clients. These special rates include same-day cancellation and at least one added discount or amenity, like late checkout, parking, or breakfast.

Warn travelers of the rental car shortage

The scarcity of cars experienced in 2021 will continue in 2022. There simply aren’t enough cars to meet corporate demand. The problem originated in the early days of the pandemic when many rental companies sold off their excess vehicles and later shifted inventory from traditional business locations to vacation hot spots. But the most significant factor in the car shortage over the next year will come from the scarcity of global semiconductors and its impact on auto production. Analysts predict the computer chip crunch could last well into 2023.

Resulting from this series of impediments, we can expect car rental prices to rise and the selection of vehicles to drop. Travel managers should warn employees about this reality and promote other modes of transportation where available. If an alternative isn’t feasible, travelers should book as early as possible to secure a vehicle.

Promote environmental, social, and governance initiatives

Research finds consumers increasingly want products they view as having good environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards across the entire value chain. In the last couple of years, growing pressure on companies has pushed sustainability up the corporate agenda. We are also seeing more companies make diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) a key business priority. Subsequently, corporate travel managers and meetings arrangers increasingly are adopting ESG initiatives into their programs.

To support sustainability goals, travel managers can encourage employees to book hotels that meet green certification standards, select flights on lower emissions aircraft, and switch from air to rail where feasible. If the company’s online booking tool promotes green options, this can be an effective solution for influencing travelers’ decisions at the point of sale.

Similarly, travel and meetings managers may advertise internally the partnerships they have forged with diverse suppliers to inspire employees to book with those companies. Every dollar spent with a minority-owned caterer, accommodation provider, conference venue, or chauffeur service can help that business grow stronger – just another way bringing people together can power progress.

Discover the trends that will shape your travel decisions this year by downloading the white paper today.

In April, we also offered two webinars on this very topic – one for participants in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and one for those in North America – which you can listen to the replay of.