Business Travel Trends to Watch: Adapting Policies to New Realities

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Business Travel Trends to Watch: Adapting Policies to New Realities

Written by Tim Croft Nov 02, 2023 08:45 AM

Business travel has resumed after the pandemic slowdown, but it is not simply back to business as usual. Many shifts have emerged in how, where, when, and why employees travel for their jobs.

Staying ahead of business travel trends is critical for managing costs, keeping travelers happy, and aligning programs with overall corporate priorities.

Here are the top business travel trends right now and how you can adapt program policies to address new realities:

Bleisure Travel

The blending of business and leisure trips has been growing for years, but the pandemic supercharged this trend. Extended remote work allowed employees to tag vacation time onto work trips more freely.

Bleisure travel offers benefits. Allowing personal time can make travel feel less arduous and stressful for employees. It also saves costs when airfare and hotel expenses can be combined rather than paying separately for a vacation. 

However, bleisure also risks employees vacationing on the company's dime or being less focused on work objectives.

To balance advantages and risks, consider these policy adaptations:

  • Formally allow personal time extensions but require employees to cover incremental costs

  • Limit holiday extensions to 3-5 days to maintain focus on business goals

  • Set thresholds for excessive bleisure travel like no more than 2 trips per quarter

  • Require pre-approval for lengthier bleisure trips

  • Ask travelers to share their full itinerary to differentiate business vs. leisure components

With clear guidelines, your program can support some bleisure travel without concerns over abuse.

Sustainable Travel

Eco-conscious travel is increasingly prioritized by companies to reduce carbon footprints. 

However, sustainable practices often come with trade-offs impacting cost, convenience, or comfort.

Consider these policy shifts to promote sustainability without sacrificing traveler satisfaction:

  • Favor airlines with carbon offset programs, even if fares are slightly higher

  • Subsidize high-speed and overnight train travel when feasible as an alternative to flying

  • Adjust hotel guidelines to prioritize eco-certified properties

  • Require use of public transportation for ground travel when viable

  • Replace expensed plastic water bottles with reusable containers

  • Share tips with travelers for reducing waste while on the road

  • Add a carbon emission tracker in online booking tools to nudge greener choices

With traveler education and incentives, sustainability goals and traveler satisfaction can complement rather than compete.

Remote Work Travel

Many employees are now combining business trips with remote work. Travelers work extra days from a desirable destination before or after a work event.

To keep these trips focused while offering needed flexibility:

  • Set limits for the remote work portion of trips - no more than 2 extra days recommended

  • Remind employees remote work days are still standard work days, not vacation

  • Require pre-trip approval for extended work travel

  • Suggest employees work from the business destination itself to limit distractions

  • EstablishProtected work time is still expected when working remotely while traveling

With guardrails on remote work travel, employees can integrate trips with remote work without wandering astray.

Serviced Apartments

Extended business trips are on the rise. To better accommodate assignments of 1-3 months abroad, more companies use serviced apartments rather than hotels. Apartments offer home amenities and often save costs.

To integrate serviced apartments into travel programs:

  • Research global providers with consistent quality of properties and services

  • Establish preferred partnerships with providers in common destinations

  • Create customized relocation packages that include meals, wifi, laundry, and cleaning

  • Set standard guidelines for the size of properties based on length of stay and family needs

  • Develop a streamlined booking process through your corporate travel manager

  • Consider covering costs for 1-2 rooms to allow family to visit occasionally

With the right provider partnerships and policy structure, serviced apartments can be seamless to book while providing a “home away from home.”

Health & Safety Focus

Since the pandemic, health and safety have remained top of mind for business travelers. 

Companies must continue to provide support to ease concerns.

  • Maintain flexible rebooking policies for changing plans when health risks emerge

  • Cover costs for PCR/antigen testing required for trips

  • Research destinations’ healthcare infrastructure in case of emergencies

  • Provide medical kits with N95/KN95 masks, sanitizer, thermometers and medication

  • Develop protocols for getting ill while traveling - isolation, care, rebooking

  • Communicate safety precautions at airports, hotels, venues

  • Outline contingency plans and emergency resources for travelers

  • Share tips and best practices for staying healthy before, during, and after trips

By continuing to prioritize health and communicate safety measures, you can reassure travelers that well-being remains a priority.

Micro Trips

Rather than a few big trips per year, travelers are taking more frequent, shorter excursions, such as quick 2- to 3-day trips to regional offices.

Adapt policies to accommodate faster-paced trips:

  • Work with airlines to get discounts on more flexible short-haul fares

  • Negotiate day-use rates at airport hotels for quick overnight stays

  • Establish exceptions from advance purchase requirements for rapid trips

  • Adjust expense processes to expedite approvals and reimbursement for 24-48 hour trips

  • Set guidelines on what trip necessities the company will provide vs. employees bringing their own

  • Identify ways to minimize and digitize paperwork needed for agile trips

  • Help frequent micro travelers access travel support services like lounge access

With the right foundations, quick trips can happen seamlessly without excessive burden or policy headaches.

While business travel looks different than before, the updated trends provide new opportunities to meet employee and organizational needs. Monitor these trends continuously and keep innovating programs to align with emerging realities.

With adaptable policies and travel management, your company can navigate the ongoing evolution in corporate travel.