2017 has been a turbulent year: an ever-growing economy, the rise of artificial intelligence, and persistent security threats – all these developments spell some interesting trends for 2018.
Thanks to the emerging markets and an increasingly interconnected global business landscape, 2017 has seen a significant growth in international businesses. It is estimated that the global air passage is expected to continue increasing until 2036, and that travel expenditure is expected to increase past 6% next year. To keep up with the growing demand for personalised, seamless and safe business travel demand, the industry will see some exciting opportunities and developments including the incorporation of artificial intelligence in corporate travel and the growing importance of Duty of Care.
In 2018, technology will further influence the whole business travel industry, and travellers will be more likely to have perfect travel experiences. Competition is providing great space for imagination to professional business travel management companies with the latest digital technologies.
Artificial intelligence in business travel
A rising number of business travellers are using smartphones, tablets, and laptops to manage travel arrangements and expenses. In 2018, more travellers will experiment with Artificial Intelligence(AI)-powered travel assistants. This innovation can help business travellers by allowing them to interact with the bot, ask questions and seek recommendations at any point of their trip via their mobile devices. FCM Travel Solutions recently launched chatbot SAM (Smart Assistant for Mobile), which acts as a proactive support system at each stage of the traveller’s journey. For example, on the night before a trip to Paris, SAM will alert the traveller on the local weather forecast so he/she can remember to pack extra coats or bring an umbrella for rainy weather.
Some airports in the region have already started rolling out artificial intelligence initiatives. For example, the Australian Government, is currently weighing up legislation that would allow travellers to move across the borders without presenting their passport, relying instead on facial recognition biometrics. Soon passengers will be completing baggage drop, passing the security screening and clearing passport control without a physical passport.
There are also some further technological developments in the expense management. There will be increasing demand for expense management apps that enable real-time expense management. This will not only optimize the travel expense filling and reimbursement process, but also prevent fraud and human error in the travel expense management process.
Business travel is rising, but not the travel budgets
While the economic forecasts fill business leaders with optimism, the positive outlook won’t translate into increased corporate travel budgets. While businesses will continue to look for ways to reduce costs, it won’t necessarily mean there will be less travel. Travel managers will need to get more creative how to do more for less, but at the same time don’t compromise on the travel experience. In many cases, the first instinct for business leaders might be to manage travel bookings by themselves to avoid third party costs. However, TMCs can offer organisations the best deals that in-house travel managers or HR executives themselves may not be able to find.
Bleisure – melding leisure into business trips
According to a recent survey of FCM Travel Solutions, 80% of employees consider bleisure – the combination of business and leisure travel - a serious job perk, and currently 73% of travellers in Asia extend their business trips for bleisure. More companies are embracing this trend and offer employees the best of both worlds – the pursuit of their careers and a chance to explore the world. Companies with bleisure policies will also earn the loyalty of millennials, who are especially eager to take the most of their business travel opportunities and explore new destinations.
Commitment to Duty of Care
The Duty of Care will continue to play an important role in the travel industry in Asia, especially in the emerging markets like China. The Duty of Care refers to the moral and legal duty for corporations to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees while they travel or work on-the-go. Mirroring the legislation efforts pushed by the UK or Australia or recently launched first global declaration committed to the Duty of Care signed by 200 organisations and institutions, more organisations in the region will join the movement and support the principles of risk prevention and work-related travel safety.
Travel Risk and Security
Corporations must ensure the safety of their employees while they travel. The perception that only travels to remote regions warrant caution is obsolete. If anything, this year’s attacks in Manchester, Paris, and London have taught us that a vigilant commitment to the safety of business travellers is paramount.
Organisations who want to be a step ahead of the risk and make sure that their employees are safe can turn to technology. There are solutions currently available for businesses and travellers that allow them to have a view into travelling employees’ whereabouts in real-time and keep updated with the latest incidents worldwide.