Business travel adjusts and refocuses its priorities – eight business travel trends of 2022 from BCD

26 January, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly prompted business travel to refocus its priorities and travel management company BCD Travel has identified eight trends that it believes will resonate with travel managers and travellers in 2022.  

These are highlighted in a new report, Business Travel Trends for 2022, and centre around the value of business travel; environmentally sustainable travel; new worker expectations; people risk management; a broader set of risks; cybersecurity essentials; globalisation reset; and fintech in focus.

“With new COVID variants emerging, it’s not clear when business travel will return to pre-pandemic levels, but it’s high time companies start thinking about how to future fit their travel programmes,” says Jorge Cruz, executive vice president for Global Sales & Marketing at BCD Travel.

“Crucial tasks for travel managers include measuring the value of travel, demonstrating the quality of its outcome, and proving to internal stakeholders that it’s worthwhile. The key is not to simply reduce travel spend, but to increase the effectiveness of that travel towards meeting the company’s goals.”

The value of business travel is a moving target

Coming out of a sustained period with little or no travel, companies are reviewing the value of sending employees on business trips. Employees value travel for the opportunities presented by in-person meetings with colleagues, clients and business partners, but the report identifies travel programmes “need to adjust to the new ways of working created by the pandemic”, including “finding the right balance between virtual and in-person meetings”.

Environmentally sustainable travel gains traction

The 2021 COP26 UN Climate Change Conference put climate change and sustainability firmly in the global spotlight. As more countries and non-governmental organisations, such as IATA (International Air Transport Association), make commitments toward a net-zero carbon future, the pressure grows for everyone. The report identifies companies are “engaging with sustainability, and travel managers are exploring ways to reduce their programme’s carbon footprint”.

New worker expectations demand policy changes

Gone are the times of rigid employment policies for office-based workers. The transition to remote settings is rapidly changing the way we work and travel. The report identifies companies need to “adjust workplace policies” to the needs of digital nomads and hybrid employees, “firmly placing them on the people risk management agenda”.

People risk management goes beyond business travel

An increase in remote and hybrid working demands companies extend their duty of care to employees whenever they are away from the office, and not just when they’re on a business trip. The report identifies forward-thinking companies are “moving from travel risk management to people risk management”. This ultimately sees them shifting from keeping their travellers safe to keeping all employees safe, no matter where they are.

A broader set of risks must be factored in

The risks associated with a global pandemic have dominated people’s minds for almost two years. But as travel returns, it’s important to recognise the other risks to which travel managers and their travellers may be exposed, such as extreme weather events, terrorism, economic risks and cybersecurity breaches. The report identifies companies “must evaluate their travel risk management programme to ensure their employees’ safety and security on the road”.

Cybersecurity essentials are vital

Cyber threats continue to grow, as does their potential impact. Many travel managers already recognise the importance of cybersecurity, placing it at the forefront of their TMC relationship. But they also need to “protect their company and travellers from active cyberthreats,” notes the report. The first step, it says, is to recognise cybersecurity as a daily risk to travel and take responsibility for tackling it.

“Prevention, or minimising the impact, will pay dividends over simply responding to cyber incidents after the damage has been done,” notes the report. Second, as employees are often the weakest point in a company’s defence, it’s highly recommended that travellers “receive proper security training and follow the right precautions when taking a business trip”.

Globalisation reset is under way

Globalisation has brought incredible benefits over the last 20 to 30 years. But political unrest, changing consumer values, and costs and supply-chain issues are forcing a rethink. The report identifies companies are “shifting from a consolidated to a more diversified approach toward supply, production and consumption and looking at ways of bringing production back closer to the point of consumption”.

This means that business travel patterns may ultimately shift as a result. As the reset unfolds, the report notes that travel managers “can have the best of both worlds by selecting travel suppliers with global networks underpinned by local operations that provide the support and expertise tailored to the specific needs of employees in each market.

Fintech is in focus

BCD’s own travel buyer survey revealed payment and expense to be among some of the biggest pain points when managing business travel end-to-end. The report identifies that adopting fintech-based solutions “can help simplify, digitise and automate corporate travel payment, reconciliation and invoice management”. As such, travellers, travel managers and finance teams can “mutually enjoy the benefits of a frictionless, digital payment experience, from trip booking and payment through reconciliation,” according to the report.