As we look back on news from the business travel world in 2023, we notice a few trends dominating headlines repeatedly. There’s been a lot of buzz over the rise of New Distribution Capability (NDC) and artificial intelligence and how these innovations impact the travel industry and programs. We’ve seen time and time again how business travel demand is reaching (and, in some cases, has surpassed) pre-pandemic levels. And while sustainability certainly isn’t “new news,” many initiatives aimed at making greener travel more attainable have taken off this year.
With that in mind, let’s take a moment to revisit some pivotal events from the past 12 months that have shaped the travel landscape. They touch on important themes that will most likely influence your corporate travel programs and overall business strategies throughout 2024.
Reopening act: China reopens its borders for unrestricted travel, repealing the last act of its zero-COVID policy. Foreign business travelers no longer need to quarantine upon entry. Chinese citizens can freely roam domestically and internationally for the first time in three years, causing some speculation about travel rates. “As the world’s biggest spender on international travel – by some margin – China’s reopening could have significant impacts on global travel, further pushing up hotel rates in the world’s top business cities,” explained Anu Kuchibhotla, head of hotel practice for Amex GBT Consulting.
A grounding experience: Approximately 10,000 flights are delayed and 1,300 canceled in the United States (US) due to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) system outage. It’s the first time since September 11, 2001, that the FAA issued a nationwide ground stop. Were your travelers impacted? Our disruption management solutions can help with last-minute flight delays and cancellations.
CHOOOSE the right trip: American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) announces a partnership with climate tech company CHOOOSE to integrate its carbon emissions calculations across our travel booking and reporting tools. The new solution is designed to help travelers and travel managers make greener booking decisions.
On the sustainable track: Aiming to make rail travel faster and more affordable, the European Commission announces it will support 10 pilot projects to establish new cross-border rail links and to improve existing international services throughout the continent. Rail can be an integral component of your sustainability plan. (Our data shows that clients could slash emissions by 90% on specific routes when switching from plane to train.)
Plenty in the driver’s seat: A sign that travel is in full gear, Hertz, Avis, and Sixt each announce record net profits due to strong demand from the rise of corporate and leisure travel. Across the world, car rental prices see double-digit increases since 2019.
Passport pileup: Bad news for those who need a US passport fast for a business trip. Due to “unprecedented demand,” the State Department reports that processing could take up to 10 to 13 weeks. “We’re getting 500,000 applications a week for a passport. That’s 30 to 40% above last year,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said. One explanation for the surge in demand? The rise of Americans wanting to travel to Europe. Travel website Kayak said searches for summer travel to Europe were up 77% from 2022.
Be our guest: Amex GBT Egencia (EgenciaÔ) adds a “self-service experience” to its guest travel booking capabilities that will provide temporary users (e.g., job candidates and contractors) with a complete managed travel experience with 24/7 emergency support. The new enhancements allow companies to track and enforce compliance with those business trips.
Welcome to America: Making flights more accessible to those seeking refuge in the US, Welcome.US, Amex GBT, and Miles4Migrants launch Welcome Connect Travel, a program that eliminates the travel costs for both the sponsors and displaced families they are supporting. Learn how you, too, can support the cause.
Hey, need a ride?: Egencia clients now have access to an enhanced array of ground transportation choices, including chauffeured sedans, SUVs, and multi-passenger vans, thanks to our new partnership with GroundSpan. Find out how your travelers can help save the company money using the new service.
Making NDC work for businesses: Amex GBT begins a phased approach to making NDC content from Air France and KLM available in our Neo and Egencia booking platforms that fully meet the requirements of managed corporate travel programs. Learn more about our NDC requirements for shopping, booking, ticketing, re-shopping, refunding, and reporting capabilities.
Vax on, vax off: The US drops its COVID-19 vaccination mandate requiring international visitors to be fully inoculated against the virus. The travel restrictions were an entry barrier for many foreigners wanting to visit the US and barred the world’s No. 1-ranked tennis player, Novak Djokovic, from competing in the US Open in 2022 because he is not vaccinated.
Adieu, domestic flights: As part of its Climate Law, France bans some short-haul domestic flights when there is an alternative train journey of less than two and a half hours. It’s the first European Union (EU) member to introduce this type of ban on environmental grounds.
If you’re happy, then we know it: Amex GBT is awarded a patent technology using artificial intelligence to extract sentiment scores from customer feedback to determine customer satisfaction levels and retention rates. Ultimately, it’s another way for us to use emerging technology to make our clients happier and resolve travel management issues quickly.
NDC progress: Amex GBT publishes our Minimum Marketable Product (MMP) framework, which includes 162 use cases for airlines, global distribution systems, and online booking tools to fulfill to bring NDC content into our marketplace. The MMP earned Rajiv Ahluwalia, executive vice president, global supplier partnerships, a spot on Business Travel News’ 25 Most Influential People of 2023. In November, CEO Paul Abbott reveals the requirements have led to about a dozen changes in airline APIs.
Greener skies ahead: Bank of America becomes the first financial institution to participate in Amex GBT and Shell Aviation’s sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) program. Google later joins the program in August. The aviation industry’s most promising pathway to decarbonizing air travel is SAF, an alternative jet fuel produced from waste plant or animal material. Learn more here.
Lighten your load: To reduce the load on its aircraft and carbon emissions, Japan Airlines pilots its new Any Wear, Anywhere service, which lets passengers rent all the clothes they need for their trip, so they won’t have to lug any around. The best part? You won’t have a suitcase full of dirty laundry to wash when you arrive home!
Uniting with United: Amex GBT joins United Airlines Ventures (UAV) Sustainable Flight Fund to increase the supply of SAF globally. We are the first and only travel management company thus far contributing to the fund.
A faster-than-expected takeoff: According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the industry is rebounding faster than anticipated, and business travel spend is now expected to surpass its pre-pandemic level of $1.4 trillion in 2024. The two biggest drivers in the industry’s recovery are international business trips and the return of face-to-face meetings.
You can’t crash here: Thousands of listings for short-term rentals in New York City are removed as the Big Apple begins enforcing strict new rules on how and when residents can rent out homes using platforms like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com. The new regulation requires hosts to register with the city to be allowed to rent on a short-term basis. As of Aug. 28, only 257 applications had been approved.
AI’s role in business travel: As more companies integrate machine learning and artificial intelligence into their business strategies, Egencia presents a comprehensive report demonstrating how the new technology can optimize travel programs and elevate traveler experiences. Download Reinventing the Business Travel Experience With Data and AI to discover the pivotal role that this emerging technology can play in transforming your travel program.
Delay déjà vu: The EU confirms that the launch of its European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) for non-EU visitors has been delayed again and is now expected to kick off in mid-2025. Once introduced, travelers from outside the EU with visa-waiver status must apply for an ETIAS authorization to visit dozens of European countries.
Fly me downtown: Joby Aviation carries out an exhibition flight in New York, marking the city’s first-ever electric air taxi flight and the first time the manufacturer has flown in an urban setting. Joby’s electric air taxis could be transporting passengers from JFK Airport to downtown Manhattan by 2025 on quiet, emissions-free journeys that take around seven minutes. (Ground transportation rides can take up 60 to 75 minutes.)
The arrival of ETA: The United Kingdom has introduced a new Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) program, making it necessary for visa-free travelers to obtain an ETA before entering the country. Initially affecting Qatar nationals, the requirement is expected to be in place for all travelers being granted visa-free entry by the end of 2024.
Moving people when it matters most: Amex GBT and Airlink, a humanitarian relief organization that provides free transport to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), announce a new partnership to help first responders travel more quickly to disaster areas. In 2024, we will begin deploying bespoke travel booking solutions and services to Airlink and its NGO partners to expedite the complex process of getting rapid-response emergency relief workers where they need to be.
Making aviation history: Virgin Atlantic operates the first flight using 100% SAF, from London to New York City, with the intent to demonstrate that SAF can be a safe replacement for fossil fuel and to raise awareness of the need to ramp up SAF production. Our very own Jason Geall, executive vice president of global SME, was one of the passengers aboard this historic flight.
Making travel more accessible for all: Amex GBT announces IBM is the launch customer for our new global accessibility platform. It is the first end-to-end accessibility solution of its kind to support travelers with visible and invisible disabilities on every stage of their journey.
Start 2024 off right
Reflecting on this year, where the only constant was change, the value of a travel management partner becomes clear. NDC bookings, environmental concerns, and greater travel and meeting needs in 2024 can all be handled efficiently through an innovative travel management company. Amex GBT can provide you with technologies and services that align with your business and help you adapt to shifts in travel.