2020 marks the start of a brand-new decade, with exciting opportunities for the corporate travel sector to grow and innovate.
Oz Desai, General Manager Corporate Traveller, shares his views on 4 corporate travel trends to watch.
From technological innovation to personalisation and the sharing economy, here is his take on what to expect in the next ten years.
Travel and Tech Companies Collide
The travel industry is heading for a completely new world, as technology companies make steady inroads into the travel industry.
Instead of seeing the entrance of tech companies onto the travel stage as a threat, Desai views this as an opportunity, like many other corporate travel trends.
“Any competition in the market is positive as it undoubtedly leads to improved consumer experiences. Already today, the fierce tech competition in the market has led to improved travel platforms for business travellers. Tech-focussed companies bring innovation, but legacy travel companies bring years of travel experience.”
Desai explains we can expect more traveller-centric technology to flood the South African market. “A lot more money is likely to be invested into corporate technology in the decade to come, as more tech companies attempt to break into the corporate travel market,” he says.
South African companies are already among the top three regional investors in artificial intelligence (AI), with 46% of companies piloting AI technologies, and South Africa’s overall investment in AI in the last 10 years totalling US$1.6 billion. This is according to a report conducted by Microsoft.
Personalisation: Focusing On The Traveller
One of the main advantages of the ‘technolisation’ of the travel industry, is that it allows travel companies to drive personalisation for travellers in unprecedented ways.
More data has been created in the past two years than ever before. For most travel managers, data and technology are tools that allow them to reduce costs and ensure travellers’ well-being.
They use data and technology to enhance the travel experience through a better understanding of an individual’s needs.
Desai explains these corporate travel trends the industry is witnessing a significant drive to improve user experiences through technology and data. The industry is aiming to respond to the preferences of modern business travellers with more personalised products and a seamless, end-to-end service.
Climate Change Cannot, And Will Not, Be Ignored
Climate change is by far the stand-out risk facing the world over the next decade.
While the 2019 ‘flight shaming’ movement made waves around the world, cutting out air travel altogether is not a feasible solution. With that said we are likely to see a move towards more environmentally conscious business travel.
In the next decade, it is unlikely we’ll see a decline in business travel, according to Desai. “Travel will remain an important part of growing any business in the decade to come, as face-to-face interaction still trumps digital meetings when it comes to relationship building. However, we will definitely see a move towards more environmentally-friendly and eco-conscious travel.”
The Sharing Economy Loses Momentum
During the last decade, the sharing economy simply exploded. Travellers shared rides in cars and booked private rooms in other people’s homes while away on business.
However, as corporate travel trends go the sharing economy brings a certain number of challenges for business travel in South Africa.
“Globally, we see that the sharing economy is increasingly incorporated into the travel policies of more progressive companies. However, whereas certain trends are prevalent in the global corporate market, these trends don’t always fit in the reality of our market, Desai notes.
“The South African market is highly focussed on risk and security, with duty of care being critically important. South African companies want to have the peace-of-mind that staying at recognised and verified guesthouses or hotels brings.”
Desai explains TMCs have relationships in place with key hotel groups, which allows them to step in immediately if problematic situations arise. With the sharing economy, there’s no such recourse.
“The next decade will be a time of reality checks and rebalanced priorities. It will be an era of innovation and disruption, with the customer as the ultimate winner,” Desai concludes.