Business Travel Trends to Look Out for in 2018

Recently, a number of different factors have influenced corporate travel. From the current geopolitical conditions to leveraging available traveler data, companies are seeking ways to streamline employee trips while ensuring the business stays on budget.

Next year is sure to bring even more changes, shifting the processes and strategies that organizations in every industry use to govern their corporate travel. Here are a few trends to look out for as we head into 2018:

Travel Programs Increase to Support Retention

Although travel saw a decrease in recent years due to technological disruptions like video conferencing, experts predict that face-to-face interactions on the part of employees with customers and partners will rise in 2018.

Issa Jouaneh, American Express Meetings & Events senior vice president and general manager, predicted that next year will see an increase in travel as part of talent competition, recruitment, and retention strategies. Travel that enables staff members to complete work and further the company mission from a desirable location may also become a more sought-after perk.

"As competition for talent heats up, employers will look to travel programs as meaningful benefits for employees who want to take advantage of business destinations, have a productive trip, and get home safely," Jouaneh said. "The line between traveling for work and leisure is continuing to blur for many travelers, and companies will find that developing programs that offer a more flexible work-life balance will attract prospective employees, and keep current employee morale high."

This type of approach can also allow businesses to hit two birds with one stone — not only can client and partner relationships be improved with face-to-face interaction, but when these meetings are in an attractive place, it benefits worker satisfaction as well.

Woman working on laptop from lounge chair on the beach in front of the ocean. Mixing business travel with pleasure may help companies improve employee satisfaction while boosting retention.

Higher Focus on Security and Risk Preparedness

While mixing business with pleasure may increase next year, this step won't happen without appropriate risk management and security planning. This is particularly true for organizations whose employees take corporate-sponsored trips outside of the U.S. — it's more critical than ever to consider the current conditions of the region to which workers are traveling.

Reporting on Advito's 2018 Industry Forecast, BCD Travel noted heightened concerns surrounding travel risk and security, especially given the current geopolitical situation involving the U.S. and other foreign nations. In addition, any changes to visa and immigration regulations which may impact employees' travel abroad should be taken into account with risk preparedness as well.

"Corporate travel departments must keep up with what's happening in geopolitics and understand how political upheavals, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks anywhere in the world could affect their travelers," BCD Travel noted.

Training employees on best practices for travel safety can help organizations manage any increased risk. Putting in place a risk management travel security policy is also helpful. This company standard should include a plan to support communication with travelers in the event of an emergency, as well as strategies for the business to locate and assist traveling employees should an incident take place.

Analyzing Travel Data

Next year will also see an increased focus on the use of available company travel data. Forbes contributor Laura Parker argued that big data is continually on the rise. In an interview with Sam Turner, sales director at Hotelbeds Group and keynote speaker at the MarketHub Americas 2017 conference, Parker noted that this data can hold considerable potential for companies willing to put in the time and effort to analyze it.

As Turner highlighted, many organizations have more data than they know what to do with. However, pinpointing relevant information and ensuring that this data is accurate, measurable, and sufficient for analysis can help businesses identify important travel insights. These analysis results can then be applied to traveling planning efforts, including to keep companies' budgets in line while supporting employee and client needs.

"Looking to the future, the companies [that] will be able to drive real insights that create real added economic value will place a significant gap between themselves and their competitors," Turner told Parker.

Leveraging Mobile Expense Management

Corporate travelers are increasingly demanding capabilities that make certain mission-critical processes easier from the road. As travelers continue to rely on their mobile devices while operating outside of the office, it only makes sense for businesses to offer robust features on these platforms.

Expense management will always be a top priority for corporate travel, and this is sure to continue into 2018. Now, however, legacy expense management strategies like spreadsheets simply won't cut it, and employees must have ways to track and report their spending from the road.

This is where a mobile expense management solution becomes a critical element to support employee travel. Such technology enables workers to leverage their mobile device to capture receipts and seamlessly track spending during their trip. In addition, expense report approvers can easily review reports for expense policy violations and more quickly approve them for faster reimbursement.

Mobile expense management will be critical next year, ensuring companies can eliminate unnecessary complexity and provide better support for employees. To find out more about how an advanced expense reporting solution can benefit your company, contact Nexonia today for a demonstration.

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