Australian businessess of all sizes require their employees to travel more, and farther afield, than any time in the past. The rise in business travel is due to increased globalisation and the distance between Australia and the rest of the world, as well as the vast distances between Australian cities.
Despite technological advances that make it easier for workers to collaborate across long distances, nothing replaces the face-to-face contact that necessitates business travel. We’re seeing organisations invest heavily in putting people in the same room. Last year alone, Australian businesses spent more than $1.7 billion on airfares, hotels, dining and entertainment, and ground transportation.*
This trend is unlikely to slow down as Australian businesses continue to face stiff competition from local and overseas players in almost every industry. They must do what it takes to shore up existing business and attract new customers and suppliers. As a result, we’re likely to see the business travel industry continue to expand in 2017 in a number of key ways.
We have identified four key business travel trends that are set to emerge in 2017.
The 2016 Concur ANZ Spend Management Index found the vast majority of respondents (78 per cent) travel interstate and to New Zealand. A further 20 per cent also travel to North America, Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and the Middle East. The trend towards overseas travel is set to significantly increase as more companies expand into new global markets. Some 80 per cent of internationally-active Australian businesses are expecting to branch out into overseas markets in the next two years.** For example, Asia is becoming a key Australian hub for many businesses.
Qantas and Airbnb recently joined forces, letting Qantas members earn points when they stay at an Airbnb property. Business travellers are increasingly being drawn to using Airbnb. They seek the “comforts” of home when travelling and enjoy mingling with the locals and exploring the different cultures this way. It adds a personal element to “business” travel. The online reviews give the transparency that travellers seek, so travellers know what to expect before they book. This is expected to affect the business travel sector since hotels that traditionally targeted business travellers may need to consider attracting a new type of clientele.
The research also found only 23 per cent of respondents actually extend their work trips with holidays, despite previous trends to the contrary.
This is likely to continue in 2017 as more people try to really separate work from leisure to better balance their work-life commitments. This is good news for organisations since it removes the need to separate work- and holiday-related expenses in an employee’s reimbursement claim, while also reducing the chance that an employee will, mistakenly or otherwise, use their corporate credit card for personal holiday expenses.
Risk management takes on new meaning when it comes to travelling employees. Organisations have a duty of care. They need to know where employees are at all times and be able to contact them in case of emergency. This is particularly crucial in cases where travellers are staying in Airbnb properties and not in company approved hotels.
Smart organisations are introducing new policies regarding safer travel, and are implementing new technologies to enable these policies. An example is Concur’s Risk Messaging, which identifies travellers’ global locations and lets the company contact them instantly via text message to deliver safety warnings, to confirm whether they are safe in an emergency situation, or to orchestrate their evacuation if necessary.
* Concur State of Business Travel 2016 – https://www.concur.com/newsroom/article/global-business-travel-and-spend-report-reveals-new-sharing-economy
** Finsia (2015) – http://www.finsia.com/news/news-article/2015/08/12/australian-businesses-eye-up-international-expansion
Murray Warner, Business Development Director, Concur