In the last decade I’ve witnessed corporate travel change exponentially before my very eyes. We no longer have physical plane tickets being delivered to the office. Nor does the currency man pop over once a week to top up our stocks of Euros and Dollars.
Business class travel is rarely used on short-haul flights, and there seems to be an app for literally everything these days.
So what’s next?
Let’s start with plane travel. I predict that there another major airline fail in 2018, after the sad demise of Monarch. People are becoming more and more savvy with their search for the cheapest travel that it’s only a matter of time before another airline fails to keep up with the reducing prices.
Business travel will reduce, now that we have a generation of millennials who would rather do everything via Skype or instant chat. Airlines will have to work harder to compete for less business, perhaps offering travellers more experience for their money rather than just the cheapest flights. We will get better food on economy services, and we will most likely see the number of different routes reducing.
No longer will we have to check-in with a traditional front desk. We will download an app to our phone which will notify us when our room is ready to check in. Our phone will then sync with the room door (like with these August key-less entry systems) and we will be greeted with all of the amenities we pre-ordered on the app. Items such as the exact pillows we wanted and the specific type of tea we like.
Check-in times are likely to be staggered as we inform the hotel (via the app, of course) that we have checked out early. The hotel can then have the room turned around for the next person straight away. Hotels will have to fit around our corporate travel requirements, not the other way around.
Our experiences of hotels will be more personal. We already have those nice personalised welcome messages scrolling across the TV in some hotels, but that will be taken to another level. Our hotel will know from where we have come, and to where we are off next. They will know if we have stayed there before, and give us the same room – if we rated it highly enough. Our birthdays will be recognised, and our favourite flowers will be put into the room, if it’s a fancy enough hotel! (mine are sunflowers – in case any hotel I stay in is reading this!).
People will choose their hotel based on what they like, rather than where their company forces them to stay. Larger companies will stop going out to tender for hotel contracts. Instead, they will go for the much cheaper and easier alternative – let staff stay in any hotel they like, as long
as the cost is within their budget. This means that hotels will have to try harder to appeal to the corporate travel market and tailor marketing and campaigns at the specific traveller, rather than procurement or travel managers. Hotels will likely do this with better food, slicker check-ins, and a more tailored service. People already filter hotels by rating, and this will become more so within corporate travel.
Trains need to seriously up their game. Virgin are steaming ahead at the moment (excuse the pun), and the others need to catch up quickly. Trains without internet: you might as well not even bother. Trains without food: how are you still in business?
Corporate travellers need to be able to work and hold meetings while they are on the train travelling somewhere. They won’t always be in first class either so the standard carriages need to be more suited to corporate travellers. As with planes, the food needs to be better, and I imagine they will link up better with local hotels. When you get onto the Heathrow Express in London, you can check in your bags onto your flight when you get on the train. I imagine there will be a few hotel companies who will look to join forces with a train company to offer a similar service. This would mean that you wouldn’t have to go to the hotel and check in before your meeting. You could get started on your meeting straight away, safe in the knowledge that your bag will be in your room when you arrive. Your app will even confirm it for you!
How travel will become a USP
Having a face-to-face meeting will eventually be a Unique Selling Point to businesses. Just as email has taken over from letters and faxes, so Skype (etc) will take over from meetings. Millennials will be so fixated on getting things done as quickly and efficiently that they will start to lose the human touch.
Just like hand written letters are a welcomed rarity these days, the same will become of the face-to-face meeting. People will start to visit their clients again. Turning up at their office with a coffee and having a nice chat. People will feel towards that the same as they feel about receiving a letter: either happy, or annoyed that it’s a bill…
People won’t bother going to boring conferences or seminars. They will WebEx in to the bits they are actually interested in. This means the end of the soulless hotel sitting on the side of the motorway, filled with sales people holding beige events. Clients will be whisked off to sumptuous boutique hotels that offer a personalised service in a more bespoke environment. So long as it’s all declared to the Compliance Officer, of course!