Business travel is re-emerging after a long period of decline, but it has been subjected to serious disruption as new technologies have changed how people travel, and how they work while travelling.
It’s also fair to say that travel managers have struggled to keep up with these trends, as many companies having outdated travel policies that neither reflect how modern people travel, nor how technology has made business more mobile. With technology expected to prove even more disruptive in the years ahead, 2015 will be a year in which businesses and travel managers work to modernise their policies to account for the technology disruption.
What happened in 2014
In 2014 we started to see business travel start to rebound from the lows of 2013 and years before it. It became easier to travel internationally, with many nations relaxing entry requirements, and emergent nations such as Brazil, China and India attracting more investment, which resulted in increased travel to those locations. In fact, China overtook the US to become the world’s largest economy in 2014, and now attracts more business travel spend in turn.
We watched the consumerisation of technology become a major factor in business travel. People now carry multiple devices with them on to planes, and being able to charge smart phones, tablets and laptops in transit is becoming an important service in business class across many airlines. In-flight WiFi also became an in-demand service which, while costly on many airlines, was seen as a valuable new service. And hotels, which would once offer expensive wired Internet, are now finding it mandatory to offer cost effective (if not free) WiFi that any device can access.
We also saw peer to peer sharing services really start to take off across the world. Airbnb, Uber, and others have moved from being spunky tech upstarts to having a global pull, and while there were some residual concerns from a safety and security point of view, as the year wore on we started to see those concerns ease.
Additionally, the world experienced the continued rise of low cost carriers, or LCCs, particularly in places like South America and the Asia Pacific region. There is also increased consolidation in airlines across the globe, which is affecting prices as people are flying on fewer independent airlines.
These were a few interesting travel statistics we discovered about 2014:
The majority of annual travel was for leisure, with business responsible for 30% or less of all trips.
54% of travellers that take a trip where they combine business and leisure bring a family member or significant other with them.
A mobile professional device is taken on holiday or weekend trips by 43% of international travellers.