WTP’s Frank Harrison Shares the Top Three Business Travel Trends for the Coming Year
As the travel industry around the world continues to recover post-pandemic, new business travel trends have emerged that meeting professionals will have to master to optimize attendance. Public safety expert Frank Harrison, who serves as regional security director, Americas at World Travel Protection, predicts that three central trends will shape business travel in 2024: Remote work, a focus on sustainability and budget constraints. Following are the action items you will need to add to your to-do list to protect your events.
Remote Work & Bleisure Travel
Remote work, once rare, has become commonplace. Although many workers have returned to in-person work, it’s far more common for companies to offer hybrid work schedules—some even continue to operate completely remotely. “Digital nomads” and “work from anywhere” culture is changing the equation for meeting demand. “With technology affording greater flexibility, professionals increasingly find themselves freed from traditional office confines, enabling them to work from diverse locations,” Harrison says.
Remote workers present an entirely new way to look at “bleisure travel.” Not only can bleisure travel mean taking a corporate group or business meeting to a desirable destination for meetings and team building, but remote workers can travel to these locations on their own while continuing with their regular work schedule and enjoying the destination in their off time.
Harrison explains that this style of bleisure presents both challenges and benefits for businesses: how do they face tax implications for employees working remotely in different countries? How do they ensure cybersecurity? How do they navigate timely coordination and clear communication across different time zones?
On the upside, employees have the opportunity to seamlessly integrate their work lives with enriching travel; this feeds into a healthier work-life balance, which promotes employee satisfaction. “By addressing these hurdles and embracing the opportunities presented by the digital nomad trend,” says Harrison, “companies can unlock new levels of employee satisfaction, productivity and global reach.”
Bleisure travel has the potential to redefine how meeting destinations are chosen and operated. Maybe a hybrid board travels to one member’s city of residence for a meeting and team building; maybe, with increased numbers of remote workers, meeting attendance drops as the option to attend remotely becomes more available—how do meeting planners then incentivize attendees to show up in person? How do planners integrate remote attendees with in-person attendees? This bleisure trend is an opportunity for you, meeting prof, to draw from your robust creativity and revolutionize what a meeting can be.
Read More: 3 Ways to Delight the Growing Bleisure Class
Sustainability & Environmental Responsibility
Like remote work, awareness of sustainability and environmental responsibility has existed for quite some time, but not until recently has it emerged as a ruling trend. The travel sector is just one of many industries that has begun to make sustainability and environmental responsibility a priority in their practices.
“The environmental impact of business travel, including carbon emissions from flights and the ecological footprint associated with accommodation, has come under intense scrutiny,” says Harrison. “As a result, organizations are adopting eco-friendly measures, from choosing greener transportation options to selecting accommodations with robust sustainability practices.”
ESG (Environmental, Corporate and Social Governance) goals encompass a broad range of sustainable improvements, from greener practices to community empowerment. The U.N. 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) outline how all these improvements overlap and feed into one another, and it has increasingly served as a fundamental guide for businesses aiming to ramp up their sustainability efforts. Harrison says, “ESG considerations extend beyond environmental concerns to encompass social and governance aspects, influencing choices related to ethical partnerships, local community engagement and corporate governance during travel.
“This shift towards responsible and sustainable business practices reflects a broader commitment to corporate social responsibility and resonates with a growing segment of environmentally conscious consumers and employers.”
As the travel industry and travelers’ interests become more environmentally conscious, so do the interests of meeting attendees. Make green travel, sustainable accommodations and restorative or community give-back experiences a priority, from the RFP stage and budget, to include them in a meaningful way.
Read More: Green Airports
Business Travel Budgets
With the dawn of the new year comes the time for many companies to review their budgets, and Harrison says companies are increasingly reconsidering where business travel fits in. Just as evolving technology has transformed the possibilities of remote work, virtual meetings make frequent business trips and corporate meetings less necessary. “Travel budgets are being optimized to balance the need for face-to-face interactions with the imperative to streamline expenses,” says Harrison. “This reconsideration extends to travel policies, with an increased focus on ROI for every business trip and a strategic allocation of resources.”
Budgets aim to consolidate the most important aspects of business travel and cut unnecessary expenses, particularly in cases where those expenses might be considered, as Harrison puts it, lavish. “The traditional approach of lavish corporate travel is being reassessed considering economic uncertainties and a growing emphasis on cost-effectiveness,” he says.
As companies continue to reassess how best to coordinate business travel within their budgets, it is imperative to optimize business travel and offer a new set of incentives for companies to send their employees as attendees, including measurable ROI.
What Business Travel Trends Mean for Meetings
So, what’s the deal? Is incentive travel out? Are destination board retreats a thing of the past? More likely, incentive travel and destination meetings are facing a redesign. They may no longer look like bringing a small corporate group to a coveted destination for days of team building and keynotes; they might evolve into working sessions in that same destination—a bleisure incentive, if you will.
Late registration, which has grown more common of late, may be a direct byproduct of digital nomads and realigned budgets. To address it, planners must reimagine what most influences people to attend events in person. What expenses, for a meeting, don’t do as much to draw attendees? What expenses do more to influence them to show up? Maybe, with increasing environmental responsibility, that’s the reassurance that their carbon footprint, by attending, is no larger than their carbon footprint in the day-to-day.
Awareness of changing trends allows meeting planners the ability to predict peoples’ needs and desires ahead of time—and then to put that awareness into action doing what they do best: bringing people together.