By Anton Constantinou
These are changing times we live in as far as business travel goes. Spending in the industry is up, more young people than ever are undergoing work trips abroad, and an increasing need for in-flight pampering means business travellers are splashing out before even arriving at their destination.
A popular subject of discussion at the moment is on the rise of bleisure travel: chiefly, more and more people are extending business trips to include an aspect of leisure. Recent studies have linked this to an increase in generation Y business travellers: young professionals between the ages of 26-35. According to a recent survey, 65% of young professionals have travelled on business at least once during the past year, for an average stay of three nights. Their study adds that 53% of those travellers were able to incorporate some leisure into their trip, and a further 62% had the freedom to choose their room type.
Another driving force behind the bleisure experience is the growing importance of luxury. Findings from Priority Pass indicate that 73% of today’s business travellers are choosing to upgrade their trips with add-ons like airport lounge access and travel concierge services.
Also, let’s not forget also the upsurge in digital technology. Nowadays, businesses depend so heavily on tablets and smartphones that the very thought of travelling without them seems impossible to comprehend. Apps like Skyscanner, Google Translate and Concur have, in themselves, revolutionised the way we work and communicate.
But things weren’t always this way, people used to travel abroad primarily to pitch products and new inventions. What was once the preserve of salesmen and business executives in top organisations, is now a popular practice among twenty somethings in more junior positions. Once upon a time, business trips used to be undertaken predominantly by men; now women account for at least 50% of all business travellers, according to Maiden Voyage. “It isn’t the older white – haired male who’s travelling anymore,” says Paul Wait, chief executive of the Guide of Travel Management Companies (GTMC).
Another striking factor is how global business travel has become. In 2015, global business travel spend hit a staggering $1.2 trillion – 5% up from 2014 – and is expected to rise further still to $1.3 trillion this year. And it’s not just business trips between Europe and America which are behind this spending, as was the case pre-1960. Future major business travel markets include Indonesia, Mexico, Malaysia and Turkey. India is also huge, having delivered $26 billion in business travel spend in 2014.
But globalisation of business travel has also brought increased safety risks, with destinations like the Middle East and South America considered no-go zones for women, according to a recent ‘Women in Business Travel’ Report. International terrorism has also put a strain on popular business districts like Istanbul and Paris.
As a popular accommodation choice for people working abroad, serviced apartments are integral to the business travel experience. The history of serviced apartments, or corporate housing, dates back to the late 1960s, with the arrival of short and long term lodgings created specifically for corporate travellers, seniors and families.
For years, business travellers stayed mainly in hotels, but as more and more people have caught on to the perks attached to serviced apartments, so too has the industry continued to blossom. Separate areas for cooking, eating and sleeping have drawn an audience of both single travellers and families, as have the discounts attached to long term stays.
Business travel has also seen an increase in the use of sharing economy services. Online marketplace, Airbnb, has introduced Business Travel Ready listings offering 24 hour check in, and amenities including Wi-Fi and laptop friendly workspaces. However, concerns still surround the credibility of these properties, given that Airbnb don’t, in their own words: “guarantee or control the quality, safety, suitability, or conduct of any Host, regardless of whether or not a Host has a Listing with a Business Travel Ready badge.”
The history of commercial air travel can be traced back as early as 1920, to the point in which KLM first started operating scheduled flights between London and Amsterdam. Nine years later the Warsaw Convention was signed, bringing with it a requirement for airlines to carry out strict baggage and ticket checks. 1939 then saw of the launch of the world’s first ever airport lounge, The Admirals Club, at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. However, it wasn’t until the end of the Second World War that commercial aviation really started to explode. To coincide with an overall growth in world trade, people again began taking to the skies, paving the way for the introduction of the airport reservation system, Sabre, in 1959.
Prior to Sabre, passengers were forced to rely on manual bookings, which, for most part, were slow and long winded. Now, business travellers can search and book flights from their smartphone.
The average millennial is said to make an average of 24 round trips per year, and nine business flights. Sources indicate this group are most pre-occupied with showing they’re “making it”, which might also go to explain why the average young professional carries an average of seven gadgets on board with them.
That demand for luxury has also extended to the road. Traditionally, ground transportation hasn’t tended to play a leading role in business travel. But that’s slowly changed following the launch of taxi apps, which have increasingly targeted corporate travel programs through link-ups with expense management tools. Uber’s partnership was Concur is a prime example, and, with an Addision Lee business account, customers are able to retain complete control and management of bookings through an online portal.
With new products and innovations entering the market on such a consistent basis, who knows what the business travel landscape will look like in the future. The only thing that’s certain is that business travel is booming.