This time last year, Reed & Mackay’s global leadership teams shared their predictions on what they thought the top travel trends for 2023 would be and how they would impact travel management over the next 12 months.
As we approach the end of 2023 – and ahead of our Business Travel Trends: 2024 Predictions Report – we review several of those predictions and ask whether they remain relevant for next year.
1) The challenges of the global economic outlook and post-COVID-19 working practices will have a knock-on effect on how to manage traveller wellbeing
As the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) forecasts the industry to experience accelerated rebound – expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024 – the post-COVID economic outlook is certainly brighter. Good news to see business travel bouncing back but, with that, the question is how much added pressure has there been on corporate travellers and how will business travel affect their mental health?
In May this year, a survey by Business Travel News Europe highlighted that while nearly two-thirds of travellers (65%) were confident their employer was concerned about their wellbeing and safety, this didn’t necessarily translate into offering tangible forms of support.
And, with the GBTA also highlighting that in 2023 ‘Traveller wellbeing should be at the forefront of all risk programmes’, it seems this prediction – and how to manage the impact of business travel on mental health – needs to remain a fundamental outlook for corporate travel going into 2024.
As the geopolitical outlook remains uncertain, duty of care to your business travellers is also front of mind. Reed & Mackay clients have access to R&M/Protect, our unique travel risk platform providing traveller tracking. The platform delivers email and app-based travel alerts across different platforms; furthermore, it is supported by our Incident Management Unit, which will help get your travellers to safety wherever they are in the world.
2) Positive changes in social and political attitudes towards sustainability will drive more effective reporting of sustainability targets in a travel programme
One of our predictions highlighted a rapid development in sustainability reporting, which had started to gather momentum in both Europe and the US.
And it’s certainly picked up pace over the last year. In Europe, upcoming changes in legislation could influence how sustainability targets are reported more robustly in travel programmes.
The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) came into force at the start of 2023 but ‘the first companies will have to apply the new rules for the first time in the 2024 financial year, for reports published in 2025’. If your company has a subsidiary in the EU, it will need to report according to the CSRD.
By 2026 it will apply to small- and medium-sized businesses too. It will also come to organisations that are headquartered in the UK but do business in the EU.
Meanwhile, in the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced plans last year to ‘enhance and standardise climate-related disclosures’. A date has yet to be finalised of when these plans will be confirmed, but is likely to be in the next year or so.
These proposed SEC rules will make US corporate ESG reporting more common, consistent and standardised like financial accounting and reporting, similar to other markets like the EU.
3) There will be a growing requirement to balance the travel needs of different demographics in organisations
By 2025, 27% of the workforce will be Gen Z adults, according to the World Economic Forum, bringing with them their defined views on travel.
Personalisation and convenience are already key technological considerations for Gen Z traveller programmes. Gen Z expects an end-to-end experience on a single platform with access to all the information they need, including direct and negotiated rates and tailored options based on their previous purchase history.
As Reed & Mackay Group CEO Fred Stratford highlighted in our 2023 Predictions Report: “Already we’re seeing the way Gen Z engages with technology is going to shift the way they interact with travel and their TMCs. They’ll continue to travel – business will still be won by personal interaction – but it will be smarter. They’ll be asking, do I need to travel and, if yes, how do I travel smarter?”
This year we explored what makes Gen Z distinct from previous generations and how the issues that are important to them will impact corporate travel. The findings? They’re constantly connected, passionate about sustainability and wellbeing is a key issue for them.
4) Travel programmes will need to factor in new European travel legislation that will impact business travel
“2023 will bring more changes for travel to Europe,” Stratford says in the Predictions 2023 report. “I think there will be a ground swell on this and we’ll work with the Business Travel Association to help push on issues like these, as it’s in everyone’s interest.”
Over the last 12 months, travel managers have had to keep abreast of a wide range of country entry requirements, from the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) – launching this month for some travellers to the UK, followed by a steady roll-out across 2024 – to the ETIAS travel system for non-EU visitors. Keeping these updated in travel programmes is essential; the latest report is that ETIAS is now being pushed to May 2025.
5) Growing confidence and expected boom in meetings and events
The meeting and events sector is expected to experience significant growth from now until 2028, a prediction Reed & Mackay highlighted at the end of last year. “There are a lot of companies with hybrid or remote workers saying they want to get people together. They want conferences, they want to share the company culture and get people together all in one place,” Stratford explains.
Again, this is likely to be a trend that’s set to continue. Read how our Meetings & Events team delivered high-touch service, resulting in seamless travel and how its team expertise meant the perfect venue was sourced for a client.
6) The rise of the multi-day, multi-destination trip
Last year our CEOs across the globe pointed to a myriad of factors behind this forecast, with inflation and the rising costs of flights driving a reduction on one-day trips.
Reed & Mackay CEO US John Keichline highlighted that business travel was veering towards ‘how many meetings can I organise in one trip, rather than going back and forth’, while Managing Director Australia David Greenland explained the increase in multi-destination, multi-day trips was also a consequence of the “hassle factor”. ‘Delays and disruptions can start at the airport and continue well into the journey. It’s also clear that the influence of sustainable travel is also starting to show in travel policies and clients’ decision making,’ he says.
Another outcome of this trend has been the growth in blended travel, or bleisure trips, over the last 12 months. GBTA reported that business travellers say they are more frequently (62%) blending business and personal travel than they did in 2019, with 42% adding additional leisure days to their business trips and 79% staying at the same accommodation for business and holiday portions of their trip.
And it’s an area set to grow. Bleisure tourism could reach a market value of nearly US$600 billion worldwide by the end of 2023. Reed & Mackay’s parent company Navan confirms this, with its latest report in how bleisure is changing the travel industry.