At the end of 2021, we predicted three key improvements for business travel - improved technology, safer work and indoor environments, and the return of socialising on a bigger scale.
It’s safe to say that these predictions became a reality in 2022.
If we think back to 2020, during the COVID-19 peak, only 32 million business miles were recorded as travelled between January - June by Webexpenses users. Fast forward to the same period in 2022, and we’ve seen mileage increase by 156%.
And what’s even more interesting is that in 2019 (pre-pandemic), 45 million miles were travelled; resulting in a 45% decrease in comparison to 2022.
This means travelling for business in 2022 is bigger than it ever has been.
What is business travel & why is it popular?
Simply put, business travel is a form of travel typically for business-related activities such as client meetings and external events. It covers different transportation including work or personal cars, public transport (e.g. buses and trains) and flying.
It has become an essential part of business culture to help bring teams together and encourage networking on a global scale.
For example, since the pandemic, many businesses transitioned to a hybrid working pattern which means the typical 9-5 started to disperse.
As a result of this, many employees have had the opportunity to work remotely or even move to a different head office and experience their role within an alternative environment.
Business travel has bridged the gap between seeing your co-workers or clients every day and not seeing them at all.
It’s a popular choice for employees and can offer a work-life balance. It allows them to travel on a regular basis which may not have been deemed necessary before.
So, what has sparked the popularity of business travel and what can you expect to happen in 2023? Take a look:
Business travel trends to look out for in 2023
“Hybridised” events on a global scale
According to Close, events are still the go-to way of networking for salespeople.
Adam Reynolds, CEO at Webexpenses, supports this by saying, “Video calls are fine for 20 or 30 minutes, but, after that, your concentration starts to drift a little bit, so when you’re doing something that might last a couple of hours, face-to-face is easier.”
This is why a “hybridised” approach is likely to remain popular for events going into 2023. It has encouraged business people from all over the world to take part and allow them to get a taste of what it would be like for future attendance - online and in-person.
It has become a great way of reaching a global audience - but also - a local, niche audience. For example, a prospect may be based in the South of England and be interested in an event in Scotland. Once they have the opportunity to attend online, it can encourage prospects to invest in attending face-to-face for a more personalised experience.
Mixing business with leisure: “Bleisure”
Although the term “bleisure” was officially coined in 2009, it has grown more popular with business travellers over the last year. Why? Remote working has opened the door to work from anywhere. Many hotels are now well equipped with fast WiFi and comfortable spaces to work. This means employees can combine or extend a corporate trip with their own activities.
This could be taking a longer trip for rest, seeking adventure, or an opportunity to visit friends and family.
It’s a no-brainer for employees working for a global company. For example, a US-based employee may travel over to the UK for a week and then take an additional week to travel at their own leisure. It can make longer-haul flights more enjoyable and reduce the chance of burnout.
Changes in corporate travel policies
Hybrid work is now a requirement for many job seekers and has pushed organisations to rethink what business expenses their workforce is entitled to.
For example, some businesses may start to prioritise business travel over being in the office five days a week.
When weighed against the cost saved by employees working from home, policies may need to be updated or renewed to include a different employee allowance. This could include extended trips (i.e. “bleisure”) or an increased capped cost for client entertainment.
It’s important to review corporate policies on a regular basis and make sure employees are aware and prepared for what they can and can’t expense.
Technology as a requirement
Technology is advancing at a quick rate and it’s no longer a “nice to have”. Employees travelling for business don’t want to be thinking about collating receipts and when they’ll have time to submit an expense report.
Just as business travellers can add their boarding passes and train tickets to their Apple Wallet, why would they not want to manage their expenses within their phone too?
Fortunately, they can. With digital expense management, a mobile app can be used to scan, capture, and submit receipts straight for approval within just a few clicks.
This is something organisations using a manual process need to think about if they want to avoid overspending and make sure employee expenses are within policy guidelines.
The advantages of business travel
Planning face-to-face meetings when it’s necessary
Sometimes a video conferencing call doesn’t quite have the same effect as an in-person meeting.
As mentioned in The Future CFO, “companies will revert to in-person meetings to close sales or for detail-rich conversations”.
This is particularly important for remote-based companies that have missed out on getting to know their colleagues on a personal level.
Now, many organisations spend time preparing meetings such as business briefings or KPI planning. This allows employees to meet their co-workers on a regular basis and build greater connections.
Employee satisfaction increases
Now, more than ever, employees want to start travelling for business again. Especially, if it was a part of their routine before.
Business travel offers an opportunity to be in a different environment and can help introduce new ways of thinking.
It can help a business build a more empathetic workforce by connecting with new people and understanding different cultures.
Offers growth opportunities for workers
Travelling for business can improve your employees’ confidence and communication skills. It is a good way of finding out whether they’d be interested in other suitable positions or as a way of developing their existing skills.
This type of opportunity can encourage an employee to see a future with the business.
Are you ready for business travel in 2023?
To get started, organisations will need to ensure that their employees are spending less time expensing receipts. The easiest way to do this is by implementing expense management software.
A digital expense solution will make expensing receipts a smoother process. As soon as a claim has been scanned and submitted, the finance team can approve it in real-time; making sure that business travel remains a positive, convenient experience. Find out how you can get started.