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The Wider Impact of Business Travel

Mankiran Chowhan Mankiran Chowhan

The appetite for travel has never been greater – in the past year the global travel and tourism sector contributed a record US$8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

Globalised workplaces which employ large numbers of highly mobile employees are also contributing to this boom with business travel in Asia growing at double the pace of the rest of the world. China is becoming the world’s largest business travel market, and India is projected to crack the top five by 2022, according to a recent GBTA Report

WTTC notes that business tourism often plays an important role in growing a country’s travel and tourism sectors. It creates benefits like infrastructure that other industries later utilise (such as conference centres and hotels), and boosts locals trade, skills, and investment. But what has changed significantly over the last few years is the impact technology has had on the industry.

Let’s take a look at how an increasingly digitalised and connected world has shaped the expectations of the business traveller and how organisations can work to accommodate their needs.

Freedom and Flexibility - Mobile devices have become extensions of ourselves, and business travellers are armed with better trip preparation and more options for adaptability on-the-go. Employees today expect mobile, consumer-like experiences at work and while on the road they are increasingly booking their own trips, choosing their own places to stay and making expense purchases directly on their smartphones. This mobile-first culture is nowhere more pervasive than in Asia, where 58% of the world’s millennials live. Studies indicate that by 2020, Millennial or Gen Y are projected to be 50% of the workforce and by 2025 this number is expected to reach 75%, in India. Organisations’ ability to cater to them will increase their job satisfaction, boosting productivity and talent retention.

Organisations today must strive to give travellers the flexibility and support to book and travel whenever and wherever, but with prompts and controls that make it easy for them to stay within policy. The firms must also be able to capture accurate travel and spend data. Having travel itinerary, credit card and other sources of data feed into an expense report helps travellers be more productive, and data can be verified coming from reliable sources.

Accommodating bleisure - Bleisure typically refers to the practice of tacking on a few extra days of leisure time after a business trip. According to SAP Concur travel and expense data gathered between January 2017 and December 2017 there’s an increasing trend to break out of the confines of a typical business trip –  2.2 million bleisure trips were taken during that period. For companies that allow a bleisure component in their corporate travels, technology and clear travel policies can help with tricky expense reporting, define when business ends and leisure begins, and establish clear processes to segregate the two.

Duty of Care - With global weather and geopolitical risks on the rise, businesses recognize the need to know where their employees are 24/7 and get them information and help, they need in a pinch when the need arises. On the other hand, travellers also expect to be taken care of and feel safe wherever they go. In fact, a GBTA survey revealed that 83% of female business travellers reported safety concern or incident in past year.

For all the risks that travellers and employees face, technology can help organisations level up their duty of care program, close the gaps in travel risk management programs, and limit risks to their firm and staff. In today’s competitive hiring environment, it is critical for companies to have resources in place to capture traveller data and keep them safe, and to educate travellers about which resources are available on leisure days.

By Mankiran Chowhan, Managing Director, India, SAP Concur

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