Research Insights What will the future of business travel look like?

What will the future of business travel look like?

February 2023
Phocuswright Research

Considering all the inhibitors at play, what will the future of business travel look like? Experts are optimistic that it will be much more efficient, personalized and sustainable. According to Phocuswright’s latest travel research report The State of Innovation in Corporate Travel 2022, the roles of certain players and technologies will evolve, automation will play a large role, and friction - from displaying the right content at the right time to the right traveler, to the submission of expense reports - should be reduced across the board.

Phocuswright analysts and industry experts weigh in:

(Responses from the full report have been shortened).

Claudia Unger, corporate travel consultant and Phocuswright research analyst, adds, "Eventually, technology might push everyone to get back to their subject matter expertise. We've seen so many tech companies try to become travel companies and vice versa, and so often they don't understand enough about the other side, and that's where things typically go awry. Technology companies are superior in building great technology, and TMCs function best when they get back to their roots of servicing the traveler. But there is more to this than specialization - it's about collaboration and adding value."

Norm Rose, travel technology consultant and Phocuswright research analyst, says, "The big battle in corporate travel is between control and choice. Corporate travel managers have long said ‘you have to do things this way', and this is increasingly in direct contrast to the open marketplace concept that emerged about six years ago. The solution is to make the traveler feel that they're receiving extraordinary value by making the benefits of booking within the program crystal clear at the time of booking."

John Sturino, vice president, product and technology at Egencia, echoes this sentiment. "Innovation is about using technology to create customer value - not just for technology's sake. We think of the journey the way the customer does: not just as a flight, or a hotel, or a car. Thinking about it as a trip allows us to create more value even as customer needs change."

Greg Abbott, senior vice president, travel, transportation and hospitality practice at DataArt, adds, "There is still so much opportunity in the facilitation of automation for servicing the traveler post-ticketing. The hindrance is that investment in this type of functionality is hard to justify because it doesn't directly increase revenue. But it certainly can reduce costs and increase satisfaction."

Looking further out, Charlie Sultan, president of Concur Travel at SAP Concur, says, "The best managed travel programs are those that connect booking and spend data across organizations for a unified view into company spend. With these capabilities, companies can reduce risk, drive duty of care, ensure compliance, and better align spend decisions with business strategy. In the next five years, more companies will implement these types of integrated systems. They'll look for solution providers that go beyond travel and expense management and connect data across travel, finance, procurement and other departments in one place with a consumer-grade user experience."

There are plenty of inhibitors to innovation in corporate travel that will persist for many years due to the complexity of the landscape, deeply rooted ways of doing things and technological barriers. But a plethora of efforts from startups and incumbents alike are precipitating change and providing tailwinds to overcome some of the hurdles. As business travel recovers from the turbulence of COVID-19, the next decade has the potential to be one that disrupts stagnant models and delivers on the promise of seamless, personalized travel for a wider array of company stakeholders.

Leveraging Phocuswright’s proprietary interactive database of travel startups, this full analysis presents a detailed assessment and outlook for corporate travel startups in the ever-shifting modern environment. Specific topics include:

  • Key trend highlights for investments in corporate travel development
  • Comparison of Incumbents and Up-and-Comers
  • Market trends driving investment
  • Predictions for the future of business travel

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