2018 Business Travel Trends from the Experts

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We’re just a few days away from 2018, and businesses across industries are looking to plan their corporate travel schedule for the new year. As a result, now is the perfect time to look at some current travel trends, and how they might shape corporate travel in the upcoming months.

Many experts have weighed in on their expectations. Meanwhile, surveys among business travelers have conducted more quantitative research into airline prices, pricing trends, and more. Join us for an in-depth look at these trends as you plan your company’s travel schedule for 2018 and beyond.

Delta Wins, But Other Airlines Score Too

Towards the end of 2017, some surveys have ranked Delta as the preferred airline for business travelers. Morgan Stanley’s Annual Global Corporate Travel Outlook Survey had it in first place ahead of United Airlines, while respondents to Business Travel News placed it first followed by American and United Airlines, respectively.

Delta ranked first in every category surveyed by BTN, ranging from pricing to convenience and reliability. But listening to its customers also played a significant role:

One travel buyer said Delta implements their service-improvement suggestions within two to three months. “Delta really listens to the corporate traveler manager and always looks out for what’s good for all, not just their bottom line,” the buyer said.

However, Delta is not the only airline winning in the same survey. United has rebounded from its devastating past two years, now placing second and third, respectively. The airline has seen a marked improvement in on-time flights and network, both of which have contributed to its increasingly positive image within corporate travel. In 2018, these will be the two airlines of choice for most business trips.

Flight Volume is Up; Prices Stay Even

In its annual survey, Morgan Stanley also monitored the degree to which business travelers expect to see flight volume and prices change in the coming year. The average expected growth rate stands at 4.8 percent, indicating a willingness and ability of corporate travelers to keep expanding their business trips. The majority of growth is likely to occur in domestic North American and transatlantic flights.

Despite this volume increase, however, prices are not likely to change drastically. Best estimates put their growth at 1.8 percent globally, well within general inflation norms. The average corporate discount of 10 to 15 percent is also scheduled to remain steady in 2018.

More people are flying, but the cost will not increase. That’s the biggest takeaway, making the coming year a great opportunity to step up your game and increase your employees’ flight volume.

Traveler Safety Becomes a Top Priority

The year 2017 has been full of geopolitical unrest around the globe. From regime changes to entire regions in turmoil, travelers have often found themselves feeling less than secure as they make business trips to different areas around the world. Added security measures have further complicated the situation for international travel.

These developments, in turn, have made business travelers more aware of their safety than ever before. Inquiries surrounding appropriate crisis management and steps and measures increased. In 2017, most businesses were not prepared to handle many of these requests. With a year’s head start, they might be.

According to Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager, American Express Meetings & Events,

Progress has been made around tracking technology and tightened security policies, but utilization of these tools is low, and many programs still lack traveler-education and safety-training programs. We expect these barriers will fall as travel managers realize their central role in the duty of care and the opportunity for them to better safeguard travelers.

Country-Specific Needs Rise in Importance

As our economy becomes more global, travel has ironically become increasingly localized. More and more corporations have embraced divergent approach in which local cultures are considered first, rather than the convergent approach of putting a single global corporate stamp on all global operations.

The result of that development is now becoming clear: more than ever before; corporate travel will have to take country-specific needs into account. Business practices may differ significantly in various regions of the world, and require longer or shorter stays as a result. Meanwhile, the same added security measures mentioned above need more country-specific travel plans than had been the case in previous years.

Customization is the key to success. Without it, businesses risk becoming less efficient and successful in sending their managers and employees around the globe. Travel management needs to include a conscious effort of keeping each destination’s country, culture, and laws in mind.

The Sharing Economy Hits Corporate Travel

Does your corporate travel policy include sharing economy opportunities? Moving into 2018, it better. Increasingly, organizations are recognizing the monetary and flexibility benefits that come with encouraging their travelers to use Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and other shared services as part of their business trip.

To be successful, that trend has to be codified. Sure enough, we see movement in that direction. Half of the global travel policies now allow for ride sharing, while 30 percent encourage Airbnb as an option for overnight stays. Both are trending up significantly, and will only continue to become more familiar as we move into 2018.

As with the other trends, this news requires preparation. Allowing your managers to use Lyft might result in a change of reimbursement structures. If you’re looking to improve the way in which you manage your corporate travel in 2018, now is the perfect time to get started. Embrace the above trends, and move your flight and lodging management into the future.