Following a disappointing 2021 travel year due to the pandemic, experts are predicting that 2022 could see a much needed recovery with companies offering “bleisure” travel as a perk to employees.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) expects international business travel spending to surge in 2022 and possibly double by 2024.
This is according to the GBTA’s annual business travel index, the BTI™ Outlook, which looks at business travel spend and gives insights into traveller sentiment across 44 industries from 73 countries around the world.
Corporate Traveller General Manager Oz Desai looked at the trends which will shape our trips in the year ahead.
“Balance, bleisure and a return to normality. About half (52%) of c-suite respondents expect their company’s business travel spend to reach 2019 levels at some point in 2022. Business travel is critical when it comes to things like business growth, client relationship management and employee training and development,” said Desai.
But will a return to travel mean business as usual?
“Although people are desperate to ‘get back to normal’, there’s no doubt that Covid-19 has changed our priorities. Business travellers will now demand more from their trips,” Desai said.
Travellers will want quality trips as well as a focus on health, wellness and personal growth.
“After having been starved of travel opportunities for almost two years, business travellers want to add in an element of leisure and really make the most of the destinations that they visit,” he said.
“Luckily, companies and travel management companies (TMCs) are starting to offer ‘bleisure’ travel as an employee perk, accommodating ‘workcation’ requests or exploring opportunities for digital nomads. Not only is it an important shift in terms of employee wellbeing but it’s becoming increasingly important in terms of attracting – and keeping – the right talent.”
Alongside health and wellness, sustainable travel is also growing in importance.
He said travellers were becoming more and more aware of their individual environmental footprint. They want to travel but without negatively impacting their world.
According to Desai, there are a number of ways TMCs can make a difference:
*TMCs can build a company’s sustainability goals directly into their travel policy, for example, by supporting greener hotels or suggesting suppliers with community-building projects and programmes.
*Carbon calculators can measure a trip’s carbon footprint, and companies can off-set their impact by investing in environmental projects around the world.
*Booking platforms can also suggest the ‘greenest’ route – often the most direct – which limits take-offs and reduces the journey time.
*New tech allows TMCs to create ‘sustainability dashboards’ – in order to measure and track a client’s sustainability efforts.
* 24/7 support and communication. Although the mood going into 2022 is (cautiously) optimistic, the travel industry is still facing plenty of uncertainty. Business travellers are looking for 24/7 support and proactive, open, ongoing communication from their TMC. After hours or emergency support is important.
* Risk monitoring and assessment. It’s unsurprising then that travel risk management will be top of mind in 2022. According to Desai, when it comes to risk, it’s always a good idea to enlist professional help.
He suggests chatting to your TMC about their risk management partners – as well as their duty of care capabilities.
* Traveller tracking is going to dominate tech advancements over the next few years, with customised safety dashboards and new-and-improved risk management solutions leading the way.
“International travel has always carried a measure of risk and unpredictability. Any TMC worth their salt will understand each destination’s unique risk profile, offer on-the-ground guidance and advice, be able to track travellers, and bring them back safely.
* Perks, personal service and peace of mind. There’s little doubt that travellers are less than thrilled by the idea of pre-travel Covid tests. To make up for it, they’ll be expecting a little more TLC.
“TMCs are doing a lot of work in terms of building traveller confidence through information, vetted suppliers and personalised service. But their purchasing power means that they can also secure the best rates, deals and travel perks around. Which is music to the ears of both bookers and travellers alike. Think early check-in, late check-out, free upgrades, priority boarding and lounge access,” said Desai.
He said ease of travel; wellness and balance; new experiences and destinations; personal growth and peace of mind were likely at the top of a traveller’s wish list.
“It’s essential for TMCs to pay close attention. Especially considering the role corporate traveller confidence will play in speeding up the industry’s revival,” Desai said.