Innovative technologies will change business travel management, however personal contacts remain important.
Nothing can replace a business trip, because a Zoom session does not build trust. When a competitor pays the customer a visit that is when, at the latest, every company has to react by meeting in person. On that basic point there was general agreement at this debate on the future of business travel. All the same, the world of business is likely to change, not only because of the pandemic, but as a result of new technologies and the debate surrounding sustainability.
At the start of the debate Andy Finkelstein, senior vice president of Global Agency Sales & Corporate Solutions at Sabre, was able to spread some optimism concerning the future of business travel. “We are firmly convinced that business trips will be back.” The signs were already pointing that way in 2021. In recent weeks business volume had already reached almost half that of the same period in 2019. “That is not surprising, as there is nothing better than a face-to-face meeting for establishing trust“, Finkelstein said.
However, the nature of business travel was changing, for instance with travellers combining business and private affairs, or in cases where sustainability played an important role in companies’ travel planning and decisions. The pandemic had also shown how important good service was. “Many people had become uncertain. It is decisive to be able to professionally manage disturbances and interruptions.” That was where technology could play an important role, of that Finkelstein was convinced.
Jannik Wässa, managing director of Comtravo GmbH, remarked that technological solutions would not be enough. “We believe that two things need combining. It takes innovative technology as well as personal contacts.“ One approach here could be to use technology to ease the pressure on agents and then bring them in when needed.
One of the most important technology trends is targeting customers directly in a personalised form. This was difficult on a business trip, because there were several players involved – the traveller themselves, the company and usually a travel manager. “We need to think about new products for travel managers and make use of our tools and insights to manage the huge volume of data that we evaluate in order to support travel managers", said Tristan Smith, vice president, Commerical at Egencia.