Massive societal shifts have taken place within the world of corporate travel.

Despite discussions around the future viability of business travel, the reality is that in-person interaction will win out over virtual every time. Organizations have remained steadfast in their belief that meeting in person drives performance and growth, no matter if they’re fully remote, entirely office-based or a hybrid of the two options. Since almost nine out of ten (87%) of business travelers agree that in-person collaboration is necessary to cultivate relationships with customers and colleagues, it is not just employers who see the value.

Both companies and employees have changed since the pandemic, which means the way people travel for work and the goals for business trips are different than before. Corporate travel is entering a new era with changing policies that incorporate and prioritize employee wellness, modern technology and sustainability. Travel management companies (TMCs) and online booking tools are perfectly positioned to modernize business travel by creating the seamless experiences that employees crave and companies need.

From our own research, third-party sources and knowledge from Travelport’s TMC customers, we’ve identified six trends that are waking up the sector and driving big changes in corporate travel.

Well-being Moves to Top of the Agenda

 The influx of remote working environments has led to employees re-prioritizing their needs and expectations when it comes to business travel. Their focus extends beyond traditional benefits—and now encompasses factors like comfort, convenience, and personal time.

Our research indicates that 35% of business travelers now prioritize travel options that support wellbeing, productivity and recovery. Organizations that hope to attract and retain top talent should accommodate these priorities for employees while at home and on the road, because 87% of workers today say they would consider leaving a company that neglects their well-being.

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Corporate travel policies that are shifting towards a more holistic approach consider individual well-being and allow traveling employees to take advantage of options that support their personal comfort, convenience and personal time. For many, this could mean handier departure times, meeting schedules or incorporating more time for recovery after a long flight or train ride.

The goal is to encourage a more positive business travel experience while causing less of an upheaval to one’s personal life which will enhance overall job satisfaction. TMCs can support organizations by balancing cost savings with employee satisfaction, offering transparent, flexible solutions that prioritize the needs of both business travelers and their employers.

Super Commuting and Employee Exchange Programs Emerge

Top talent is not always conveniently located close to the office. Employees who are hired in distant locations, and those who have moved far away or embraced the “digital nomad” lifestyle during the pandemic may now find themselves traveling long distances meet with colleagues or clients. Visiting distant offices isn’t something new, but the purpose, format, and frequency of visits is changing and giving rise to a new trend known as “super commuting.”

More than two-thirds of full-time workers support a hybrid work schedule, and companies that strive to unite remote workers in the office can get creative. Allowing employees to work from other national or international offices is a win-win, removing the grind of the daily commute for employees while attracting more people to in person, in office collaboration.

Flexibility and adaptability are key as companies seek to support employees engaged in longer, less frequent trips while maintaining productivity and job satisfaction. This manifests differently for companies with different needs. A company that doesn’t have a physical office, but need the occasional employee gathering might put aside a budget for off-sites and work culture experiences, for example.

Travelers Take the Pilot Seat

As consumers, people are now much closer to the planning, booking, and servicing side of a trip. Now more than ever, employees seek the same level of control when planning business trips that they have when booking their personal travel. Our research found that 88% are wanting full transparency into business travel purchases—and it makes sense. Employees are individuals, and as such, their priorities are going to vary greatly from one to the other.

Employers are finding ways to offer their business travelers more flexibility and empower them to make their own planning decisions while still adhering to corporate travel policies.

It is important to give employees more choice when traveling for work, with the ability to choose their own flights or transportation, hotels, and creating custom itineraries to fit their individual needs and preferences—while staying within budget. Working with TMCs, travel managers can lead the charge to scrap the one-size-fits-all approach to corporate travel policies and enable the employee to decide what matters most to optimize their business trip.

Personal Time Becomes Priority

Gone are the days when a business trip meant working 24/7. Employees are demanding work trips offer the same type of flexibility, freedom and respect of personal time that a regular workday provides. For some, that means being allowed to extend their work trip to see the sights and local attractions within their destination. Maybe they have family nearby and want to get in some quality time or perhaps bring a significant other along to enjoy a nice dinner out after work.

Leisure time looks different for everyone. Organizations that want to avoid work trips being seen as a disruption to everyday life must accommodate the need for employees to take back their personal time. Businesses can apply this thinking to longer corporate trips by offering perks like paid-for premium experiences or extra time to unplug and recharge as an incentive that gets employees excited about traveling for work.

AI and Automation Reduce Turbulence

In a world where travel disruptions are the norm, businesses can turn to technology to enhance the travel experience. Though 94% of frequent business travelers are undeterred by disruptions, AI and automation will allow business travelers to manage disruptions quickly and easily.

The entire travel industry has faced serious staffing challenges, and a big strain is placed on travel managers and TMCs when the lack of resources is coupled with greater demand for urgent support. Luckily, AI and automation tools can be applied to support travelers proactively, offering relevant destination insights, communication options for when something goes wrong, and self-service capabilities that make travelers feel in control of their trip.

Sustainable Travel Requires More Than a Green Leaf Icon Option

Business travelers care about the environment, but they need more clarity and transparency around what choosing the “greener” option really means. Nearly one-quarter of employees would decline a business trip based solely on sustainability concerns and that number is sure to grow. Companies are also under mounting pressures to track and report on their sustainability initiatives, with the forthcoming climate disclosure rules set by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) bringing real urgency to ESG data strategy planning as an example.

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Companies need to understand that eco-conscious travel extends beyond carbon offsetting and should incorporate the carbon emission estimates generated for each flight. This includes everything from greenhouse gases to the production and transportation of aviation fuel.

TMCs are leveraging technology tools that provide reliable, consistent insights for travel managers and travelers to easily identify the best options for a trip. By applying travel technology that empowers companies to prioritize sustainable options and provides employees with consistent, accurate information, organizations can reduce their carbon footprint while meeting employees’ personal desire for eco-conscious business travel.

Modernizing Corporate Travel

Traveling for work isn’t what it used to be—but it’s an invaluable factor that impacts growth and success for many companies. Employees are pressing for more flexibility, transparency and eco-conscious options along with the changes in travel policies and technology tools that help to create a seamless experience. Companies must keep up with evolving expectations to attract talent and keep employees happy while adhering to their organizational commitments.

It should come as a surprise to no one that the modern workplace is getting more complex. So, what’s next for the corporate travel sector? It’s quite simple: empower companies and TMCs with the right technology tools that support more flexible travel policies while helping travel managers and employees to stay within budget. As the industry works to modernize corporate travel, companies can generate more value and keep their employees excited about their next business trip.

woman in black coat smilingJen Catto is an award-winning executive with 20 years of leadership experience at both emerging and established technology companies. Prior to joining Travelport, she was chief marketing officer of Telaria, where she launched the Telaria brand to reposition Tremor Video as a sell-side video platform and the leader in connected television. 

Entrepreneurial in spirit and driven by data, Catto launched a full-service programmatic agency with the $45-million backing of a Hollywood film studio prior to her role at Telaria, and she has held influential positions at Travelocity, Conde Nast and SAY.