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Business travel trends 2024: The changing face of the work trip

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A new Globetrender report reveals how ‘Objective Stacking’ will help extract maximum value from business trips in the year ahead, while AI-powered personal assistants will make trip planning seamless and power lunches will make a comeback. We look at the top business travel trends of 2024.

This year, business travel spending will likely exceed pre-pandemic levels for the first time but much has changed over the past five years: business travellers (and the companies they work for) are becoming increasingly discerning when they travel, as they seek to balance the financial and environmental impact of trips with a tangible return on their investment. 

This behaviour is explored in “Business Travel Trends 2024” (free to download here), a new trend report produced by travel trend forecasting agency Globetrender and Cytric Easy by Amadeus, a travel and expense tool embedded in Microsoft Teams.

The report identifies seven trends including: “Objective Stacking” (a term coined by Globetrender to describe trips that are planned to fulfil multiple goals); “Executive Field Trips” (corporate off-sites and teambuilding retreats in nature); and “AI PAs” (the rise of AI-powered personal assistants). 

Jenny Southan, CEO and Founder of Globetrender, says: “When looking at the future of business travel in 2024, it’s clear that two macro shifts are happening in parallel: technology is making the planning and execution of trips ever-more seamless; but there is also a desire to ‘go back to basics’, which is manifesting in nature-based corporate retreats and the revival of ‘power lunches’. 

“This highlights the enduring value of human connection in building good business relationships. Ultimately, every journey needs to be optimised to justify the return on investment, and the subsequent carbon impact of flying.”

She adds: “If there is one word to sum up business travel in 2024, that will be ‘discernment’. Employees no longer want to sacrifice areas of their personal lives to be constantly on the road, and companies need to balance the fulfilment of financial and ESG targets, which will mean all parties need to be more selective about what trips they commit to.”

Deborah Mahoney, Head of Sales, and Business Development – Americas Amadeus Cytric Solutions, says: “Face-to-face meetings have many benefits, from increasing social capital to fostering ideas and engaging in more complex thinking together. In-person contact provides a competitive advantage when it comes to meeting clients and customers, as real conversations can generate more effective, efficient, and trust-building interactions.”

“Value is key when it comes to business travel. A trip must fulfil multiple objectives, be increasingly sustainable, simple to book, and have a positive impact on both the employee and organisation for it to be worth the time and money investment.  Cytric Easy by Amadeus, the only travel booking tool embedded into Microsoft Teams unlocks new ways to travel, recommending employees who to meet with and when to achieve their business goals.”

Here are five business travel trends for 2024:

1. Objective Stacking

As pressure grows to adhere to company sustainability mandates and manage outgoings in the face of soaring prices, there will be increased demands on employees to justify work trips. In 2024 and beyond, “Objective Stacking” – a term coined by Globetrender to describe trips that are planned to fulfil multiple goals – will become the default way of operating to maximise efficiency and value. 

Instead of flying in and out for one meeting, sales pitch or event, business travellers will be required to build in time to meet clients, conduct reconnaissance, forge deals, investigate expansion opportunities, conduct competitor analysis or they might even want to tag on a vacation. 

2. Executive Field Trips 

Strategic getaways are set to soar in 2024. Scheduling team building days has often been used to bring people together, but a shift towards longer trips away, often in nature, is giving rise to the burgeoning trend. These corporate off-sites are being taken to the next level with an ever-greater array of immersive, surprising, and sometimes even extreme experiences, in domestic locations as well as abroad.

Forging camaraderie is seen as essential to cementing positive relationships between employees, boosting company loyalty and motivating people to work towards a common goal. To facilitate this objective, people need to be taken out of their comfort zone and forced to leave their ego at the door, with everything from white water rafting to tropical bushcraft being added to the agenda on these enhanced trips. 

3. AI PAs

For corporate travellers, the emergence of Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI) has catalysed the arrival of “AI PAs”. These intelligent, 24/7, solutions can patiently help with everything from advising on itinerary options, to using natural language that guides the traveler on their company’s travel policy. They can respond to a detailed trip brief: after inputting an initial prompt, the output generated is friendly and helpful in tone, and it is easy to continue the dialogue with follow-up questions. 

Julie Shainock, Managing Director Travel, Transport and Logistics at Microsoft, told Globetrender: “ChatGPT is here to stay and will make business travel easier, smarter, and greener. Business travellers have high expectations for their travel experiences, and Amadeus and Microsoft are demonstrating how natural language processing can help them achieve these goals.” 

4. Blended Itineraries 

There has always been friction between adhering to company travel policies and enjoying the flexibility of adding on a holiday to a work trip. However, new automated systems are enabling “Blended Itineraries” for business travellers, which go beyond simple “bleisure” trips that see a weekend tagged on to a few days of meetings. Central to what is taking off in 2024, though, is the relaxation and personalisation of these once rigid corporate travel policies that now place employee experience at the heart. 

According to human capital management consultant China Gorman in an article for Inc, “work-life blending is the key to happiness”. While previous generations were willing to sacrifice their health and mental wellbeing to get ahead, Generation Z seeks “whole life” success (healthy bodies, good relationships and fulfilling work). What’s more, by 2025 they will represent 27 per cent of the global workforce, meaning employers need to adapt to shifting demands, especially when it comes to business travel. 

5. Power Networking

“Power Networking” will emerge as a new hyper-focused approach to acquiring and building new connections. Gone will be the days when delegates sneak off early from conferences or hide in their hotel room to avoid making small talk – in 2024 and beyond, every opportunity will need to be maximised.

“Softer productivity” will also give rise to the return of the “power lunch” (both at home and on the road), something that was popular during the eighties and nineties but fell out of favor when companies became more focused on presenteeism and reduced spending after the 2008 financial crash. 

The “Power Lunch 2.0” is 60-90 minutes, rather than a whole afternoon, and far less boozy. Nick Goddard, Senior Vice President at Colliers International, wrote on LinkedIn in October 2023: “The power lunch provides the perfect setting to nurture relationships, build trust, and solidify partnerships. It’s more than just a meal; it’s an investment in your professional future.” 

Download Business Travel Trends 2024 for free. 

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