The MacNair Travel Leadership Blog

Managed Travel Program Trends for 2017

Posted by Mike MacNair on Dec 22, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Managed Travel Program Trends for 2017As a travel manager, you are likely pulled in multiple directions as you handle various aspects of the travel program that impact your travelers, finance team and organization writ large. While this may not be anything new, some of the trends expected in managed travel for 2017 are, and will continue to modernize the face of business travel.

While travel costs look like they will remain flat or only slightly increase in 2017, the election could prove positive for the economy. Being ready to take advantage of an uptick in business could be vital to a successful managed travel program in the upcoming year.

Here are some business travel trends to watch for as 2017 quickly approaches:

Travel Request

In June 2011, Concur announced travel authorization automation as one of their latest innovations in corporate travel booking. Travel Request allows travelers to request and receive authorization for travel plans and expenses before ticketing. After itinerary information is entered and confirmed online, they are forwarded for approval. Once necessary approvals are completed, the booking is released for ticketing or the travel agent is notified to complete the trip arrangements.

This service streamlines the planning and expense processes associated with business travel, makes it easier to track traveler’s actions and ensure that travelers comply with travel policy. In addition, information can flow seamlessly between a user’s travel request, online booking and the expense report.

In 2017, as travel managers are expected to gain better control over travel budgets and expenses, Travel Request can provide budget insights and projected cost analysis, so you have greater cost control with more accurate budget forecasts.

Duty of Care

When employees travel on behalf of a company, they are under their care. Duty of Care centers on taking responsibility for employees during health, safety and security crises at a moment’s notice while they are traveling for business. This Duty of Care holds especially true when your travelers are abroad where health conditions, political conflict and natural disasters, are not uncommon.

While in the U.S. there are no federal or state regulations forcing companies to take any particular actions to protect traveling employees; that is not the case in many other developed countries around the world. Countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands and Spain have passed or are in the process of passing laws that require companies to provide employees Duty of Care while traveling for business.

What will 2017 bring? Duty of Care was the dominant theme at the 2016 Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Convention. In the article, “Securing the Safety of the Business Traveler and the Overseas Workforce Yields Duty of Care,” author Iram Ganju says that, “According to the 2015 Global Mobility Survey, 50.7% organizations have experienced an incident at some point where the health and safety of an assignee on an international mission, or their accompanying dependents, was affected. It also found that 21.8% of organizations had experienced such an event in 2015 alone, double the number in 2014.” Reporter Mark Pestronk of Travel Weekly says that, “The law should recognize it, and someday it will surely do so, but we are not there yet.”

As the number of health and safety incidents and the focus on business traveler safety grows, duty of care will continue to be an important topic in the upcoming year.

Disruption Management

Trip disruption monitors the status of each and every traveler while in transit to ensure a smooth trip. Disruptions could include such things as a cancelled flight or missed connection. When managed properly, the TMC will contact the traveler (increasingly via mobile apps) of any disruption to the trip along with a viable solution. For instance, a traveler may receive a message stating that their flight has been cancelled and they’ve been rebooked, along with gate and time information for the new flight. A proactive approach observes Duty of Care while also encouraging travel policy compliance.

In 2017, trip disruption management will continue to be a common discussion point in travel. Companies that demonstrate proactive management of disruptions will have the competitive edge. As a travel manager, you can include key stakeholders from HR, legal, security and other departments (as well as your road warriors) to assess your travel policy for 2017 to identify any gaps in travel disruption management. Read our article here.

Mobile Expansion

New technologies have challenged the traditional methods of managing travel and altered the face of business travel as we know it. In 2015, the number of global mobile users overtook the number of desktop users, forever changing the way people travel for business.

Today, travelers regularly turn to their mobile devices to book travel. According to estimates from eMarketer, mobile booking from smart phones and tablets accounted for the majority of digital travel bookings during 2016. 

This is especially true for millennials. According to research from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), conducted in partnership with American Express Global Business Travel, 72% of millennials use mobile devices to check itineraries at least once per day during business trips.  A research study in 2015 found that over twice as many millennial business travelers used mobile devices to track expenses when compared to travelers over the age of 55. 

During the year, you can expect further advancements in technology. In addition, there will be an ever-growing number of features and further development in multi-channel technology with “power apps” dominating the managed travel industry. Anything that was not fully enabled via mobile in 2016, will be completed in the upcoming year. Payment apps, data integration and quality control, expense integration, and virtual payment are all on the rise in the industry.

New Payment Solutions

Companies are evaluating new payment solutions to help simplify processes, reinforce program compliance and protect against fraud and identity theft. Single-use “virtual card” solutions, for example, allow travelers to buy travel using a central payment system similar to lodge cards but offered by a wider range of suppliers, including hotels and low-cost carriers.

In the upcoming year, preventing identity theft for travelers will continue to be a hot topic of discussion since the threat of identity and card theft are on the rise. In fact, people are two to four times more likely to lose their identity when traveling, with boarding passes and Wi-Fi and hotel keys.

These are exciting times for managed travel as travelers and travel managers embrace new technologies in order to work faster, smarter and better. Learning about the latest trends in managed travel for 2017, means you will be positioned to take full advantage of the expected uptick in business and the associated opportunities for increased business travel. As 2017 quickly approaches, how prepared are you to take your travel program to the next level? It could be vital to the success of your organization’s strategic goals for 2017!

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Topics: Travel Trends