Business Travel: Five Predictions For 2017

Now that the world’s safely made its transition into 2017, we figured it’d be a good time to start looking ahead to what could/might/will happen in the business travel world over the next 12 months.

(Got any other predictions? Let us know!)


Mixing business and pleasure

We’ve covered this before on our blog. Millennials are dominating the workplace. The upshot is that this generation typically wants to get more out of every trip they make — work trips included. Consequently, the boundaries between business and leisure travel continue to blur. And why not?

Which leads us neatly onto…


‘Sightdoing’ is the new sightseeing

While adding on a couple extra days to a work trip to do some sightseeing is easy enough (and nothing new), it seems many business travelers want to skip the usual tourist traps — opting for sightdoing rather than sightseeing. The rise of Airbnb-style accommodations and Uber taxi services reflect a need for more authentic ‘live like a local’ experiences. We’re almost certain to see more services like these cropping up across the travel sector in 2017.


Efficiency over luxury

Business travelers are increasingly willing to forgo access to traditional luxuries like room service, minibars, and a swanky in-house restaurant in favor of add-ons that’ll make their stay more productive. For example, having an on-site gym, a meeting room, or office space can make a difference. WiFi has become a non-negotiable. Considering 75% of business travelers consider it a necessity, WiFi is so commonplace it’s almost a non-issue for hotels, restaurants, and even airlines.


Lack of loyalty

Does anyone really collect Air Miles anymore? According to Conde Nast Traveler, points and loyalty schemes continue to be devalued; offering miles-for-money, rather than miles-for-travel. Plus the ascent of price comparison websites (or smart algorithm tools, like Arbitrip…) means that the schemes offered by longer established travel and hospitality brands don’t offer the same value they once did.

A lack of brand loyalty has leveled the playing field, meaning lesser-known airlines and hotels offering better value-for-money can now compete with the big hitters.


Travel tech gets sexy(ier)

As the whole Internet of Things space continues to blow up (in a good way), smart and connected devices will get even smarter and, er, more connected (!). Think carry-on luggage with built in USB ports, GPS, and portable Wi-Fi hotspots; taking travel advice from a chatbot; and plugging into VR for a pre-departure teaser. Oh, and expect to book flights via Alexa in the very near future. Yup, even for work trips.


The Business Traveler’s Hierarchy of Needs

Cast your mind back to Psychology 101… remember something called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? If you hang out on LinkedIn long enough you’ll probably see it crop up again in your newsfeed. It basically details, from the bottom up, exactly what human beings need to live happy, fulfilled lives. At the very bottom is shelter; and at the pinnacle is self-actualization: the ability to find our place and purpose in life.

Now, suppose we temporarily transpose these needs to business travel (it’s not that much of a stretch…). The reason for doing so is because, when venturing out for your company, there’s often a disconnect between what’s offered (usually dictated by budget) and what you need to get the job done.

But how can you prioritize these needs accordingly? Here are a few thoughts:

Maslow defines basic needs as the things we require to function: food, water, warmth, rest, safety. For business travelers, we’ll label these as transportation, accommodation, sustenance, and yes, Wi-Fi (!). As long as you appreciate that these things are the bare minimum — rather than the only things that you should have access to — you can’t go too wrong.

To do your job effectively, you need to feel like you’re able to relate to those you’re doing business with; that you’re a peer or respected partner. You need to be able to build relationships (not necessarily intimate ones, as per Maslow’s suggestions…), and believe that you’re trusted to do what you’re employed to do. Anything that empowers you to do your job in the most efficient way possible — be it a ‘status symbol’ like a company credit card or access to the company Uber account — is positive reinforcement and shouldn’t be ignored.

Let’s categorize self-fulfilment for business travelers as ‘rewards for doing a good job’. This goes beyond financial incentives; it’s about having access to things that you wouldn’t normally have — frequent traveler miles, a seaside view, an on-site gym, a spa room, even time to explore the city you’re visiting. These are the kinds of things that transcend professional life; an opportunity to enjoy success on a personal level.

All of these needs are totally acceptable — but there are times when businesses that want to batten down the financial hatches might encourage you to compromise on some things. Once you understand your needs as a traveler, you can plan to meet them in the best way possible — given the resources available to your business. Here at Arbitrip we aim to play our part by helping you maximize your accommodation budget; finding and booking the rooms that best meet all of your needs.

In business, as in life, certain occasions allow certain perks. While the flexibility of your company’s travel policy will dictate how much you have to spend on things like transport, accommodation, and meals; understanding the essentials will ultimately inform what you can’t function without, what you need to present yourself and your business in the best light, and what you should be allowed to enjoy.

You’ve earned it, after all.


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Save Big on Business Travel

Business travel It’s a tactical necessity.

Every year Americans take the equivalent of 459 million individual trips in the name of work, spending an average of $163 per night on hotel rooms. In fact, Americans spent $296.3 billion on business travel last year. That’s slightly less than the GDP of South Africa!

From the outside looking in, to those whose jobs are fixed in one place, the idea of business travel can sound exotic. A novelty. An opportunity to experience and explore somewhere new. And sometimes it is. Sometimes.
But there’s only so many times you can leave for London on a Thursday, hightail it back to Chicago on a Sunday, and be up in time for that important Monday morning meeting.

When you’re growing a business, you pretty much have to do all of this yourself. But as your business grows, so does your team. You get to delegate (!). Your salespeople are out there making money. And while you get that they’re not living some jetset lifestyle on the company dime, costs keep adding up.

Air fares are non-negotiable, there’s no getting around that. Well there is; but when you have no choice about when you need to be somewhere, flights cost what they cost. Hotel deals however, are a bit more malleable. Hotels have star ratings, which help benchmark costs against comfort.

But often similar looking hotels can fluctuate in price, depending on demand. It can feel like there’s little consistency in pricing. And when your staff can’t dictate when they need to be somewhere (as with airfares) they pretty much have to get what they’re given.

It’s not that you don’t want them to have a pleasant stay — happy employees are productive employees — you need to save on costs. But who has time to go trawling through hotel price comparison websites to get the best deals? It’s hardly a productive use of your team’s time, effort, and skill.

We know this all too well first-hand, which is why we figured there had to be a better way. There wasn’t. So we came up with one: Arbitrip, an online corporate travel platform that helps businesses find the best hotel stays for their budgets.

You’ll be amazed to see how Arbitrip can help your business. Request a FREE DEMO Now! >>

Here’s how we operate:
1. Choose where you want to go
2. Set your budget, and
3. Select a hotel room.

Once you’ve booked, we’ll continue to monitor the price of your chosen room. If it drops, then we instantly rebook it to secure the saving. And if a nicer room or a better hotel becomes available for the same price; we upgrade you — free of charge.

Don’t be fooled though: we’re more than a booking tool. Our simple and intuitive dashboard gives you, your finance, procurement, and travel managers the reports and insight you need to keep track of activity.

Manager from different companies who started using Arbitrip in the past year shared with us, that with the help of our system, they saved about 30% in business travel costs, together with a substantial improvement in the quality of hotel rooms ordered for their employees.

You are also welcome to try. Request a Free Demo Now >>

Why Do My Millennial Staff Think Business Trips Are Vacations?!

Ok. Let’s just admit it: some of the things that younger people do can come off as a little, well… misguided: wearing their hair in top knots/man buns (hmm), taking selfies (a bit vain, but ok), and citing the ridiculous cost of living as a valid reason for a pay rise (welcome to the club…).

But combining business travel with leisure? They might be onto something.

There can be little doubt that the Millennial generation has well and truly cemented itself in the workplace. Yup, these tech-savvy twentysomethings have finally come of age and are qualified, ready, and able to start climbing the corporate ladder. In fact, stats show that by 2020 they’ll account for 46% of the workforce — and by 2030, some 75%.

Millennials have grown up in a digital world; an online world where messages are sent instantly and information’s found quickly and easily. They’re all about efficiency and output in the workplace; they’re not overly concerned with formality and tend to prefer flatter management structures. And they’re less inclined to hang around in a job if it doesn’t offer them the opportunities they’re looking for.

And, as they’re supposedly the most well-travelled generation ever, for most Millennials any travel opportunity is worth making the most of — and it seems more and more of them are keen to tag on a few days vacation time to their business trips.

They can’t do that! Can they? Work is work — whether they’re in London, Ontario or London, England!

If you’ve ever been to London (England) then you’ll know that there’s so much to see. We’re not just talking the usual tourist sights like London Bridge, the Tower of London, and Big Ben; there’s lots to experience and explore: classy Chelsea, cinematic Notting Hill, the East End, historic Greenwich — and more besides. And given the popularity of low cost peer-to-peer accommodation options like Airbnb, there are even more affordable ways for travelers to experience them all: on their own dime.

So, how can travel managers ensure that their Millennial employees get the most out of their business trips, while satisfying the commercial needs of the company? Well, the thing is Millennials don’t expect the company to bankroll their adventures. What they want is flexibility. If you’re paying for someone to fly to Europe from the US for work, all you need to do is ensure they get there, get back, and get the job done. Extending their return flight for a few extra days so they can go exploring once their three days of meetings are done can’t hurt. Heck, it may even be cheaper — good news for the CFO.

Time and money are both precious commodities. Sometimes letting employees choose their business accommodation can be a perk. Letting them spend $50-$100 more on a hotel with great amenities like a gym, free Wi-Fi, breakfast, or beach access is important. Equally, giving employees the option to choose their flights (within a given budget) is a bonus. Whether they choose to have more leg room, upgrade to a Premium seat, or choose to make a stopover en route home — it’s all about being able to exercise choice and preference.

Ultimately when giving Millennials, or any employee for that matter, increased flexibility in making their own travel arrangements it’s important that you, the travel manager, set proper boundaries within the travel policy. The employee should have a clear understanding of what is and what isn’t reimbursable to avoid any conflict.

A little bit of downtime on a work trip can have a big influence on an employee’s morale. Living in a constant work environment isn’t very healthy, so everyone needs to experience some perks on the road. With the average Millennial job tenure lasting two years, having some flexibility in your company’s travel policy could in fact play a part in helping retain talented young employees.

Ultimately, most Millennials are quick to realise that with so much of the world to see, you never know when you’ll be able to go back to places and experience them again.

After all: YOLO*…

*Ask a Millennial.

Redefining the Travel Policy

A travel policy is one of the most important documents in corporate travel. As a travel manager you already know this. Your challenge is getting other employees to realize this too.

Given that a typical policy is anywhere between 10-20 pages long and often full of technical detail, it’s not surprising that most travelers will skim-read them: that is if they bother to look at all. Surely stuff like pre-trip planning, modes of transport, travel insurance statements, tax considerations, and expense reporting are your concern as a travel manager, right?

While most business travelers will trust that ‘everything is taken care of’, if for whatever reason they come up against a problem or issue, the first person they’ll call is their travel manager. While you’ll have done what you can to make sure their trip is booked and the essentials are sorted, there’s little you can do if, say, their credit card’s declined or their flight’s delayed. The unexpected can and will happen, but if travelers are looking for guidance on what to do, they just need to delve into the travel policy.

But who wants to play the passive-aggressive ‘told you so’ person? Of course you’re going to help — even if that means letting them know what they should already know, had they bothered to read the travel policy in the first place!

Most travelers are concerned about three things: their reason for travel, how they’ll get there, and what they’ll get reimbursed for. There are dozens of claimable expenses — such as flights, hotel stays, transportation costs, etc. And there are plenty of non-reimbursable expenses, including insurance for car rentals, alcohol purchases, and hotel room service. However, not all policies are built the same; and neither are employees. For example, a senior level sales manager will almost always receive more benefits than an entry level sales associate.

If this sounds unfair, what’s worse is having employees assume their company’s travel policies are all the same. An employee has every right to do leisurely activities, especially if they are in a touristy spot like New York, San Francisco, or Denver. Your company’s travel policy may not cover certain things like tours or tickets to a museum. This is particularly common when travelers tack on a few days of vacation time to business trips. While most companies won’t have an issue with employees taking an extra day or two to explore a touristy place, some won’t stand for employees additional purchases.

Confusion is common, but ultimately having a transparent travel policy makes everyone’s lives easier. However, transparency is no substitute for communication. In a world of dwindling attention spans (roughly eight seconds), people are looking for short and simple summaries of how to get what they need.

At this day and age, it’s all about simplification; Summarizing the key points of the document is the key to making a great travel policy. Giving travelers an abridged version of the company’s policy can help to reinforce the most important information. As a travel manager, you could even consider creating different versions of your company’s travel policy for different employee levels — which travelers can carry with them on their trips.

Practices like this aren’t rocket science, but for some businesses they can be real game changers for the way corporate travel’s handled.

Getting Open Bookers On Side

Inside every company you’ll always find the kind of people who are determined to ‘do things their way’. While such a headstrong attitude is often an attractive quality in a senior manager, getting them to follow a company travel policy can be a challenge — particularly when they’ve got their own preferred ways and means, and choose to open book their own travel. But there is a way to get them to see the light. It’s all about demonstrating value.

Few outside of the travel game will understand what open booking is. For many, booking company travel is a similar to arranging their personal travel; they simply peruse a few websites to find a good hotel, flight, and car rental service. On their return, they report the expenses and other data relating to their trip to their travel manager — the exact person they should have come to in the first place!

The upshot is that those making their own arrangements risk compromising their entire trip (especially if they opt for an unmanaged booking). They might find themselves displaced by an overbooked hotel, or stuck in a fleapit motel on the wrong side of town miles from where they need to be. They could miss out on cost savings if the deal they book drops in price. Worse still, they may not get a full expense reimbursement; if their trip breaches company policy.

Things can get messy when travelers use open booking. Letting an individual book a hotel, no matter how experienced in travel, may not do so to their company’s standards. That’s why they have a travel manager. It also gives the traveler an additional responsibility—they must keep track of their travel expenses and other records of their trip.

While busy travel managers do everything they can to get the best deals at the best prices — such as monitoring availability — in a company with multiple travel schedules, it becomes almost impossible to keep on top of every single development.

Arbitrip has the solution to help travel managers control these unmanaged bookings in a way that allows for efficient and customizable searches, and presents a smart intuitive insight tool that lets a travel manager to keep track of all of these bookings through reports.

While tech alone is no match for expertise, travelers looking for demonstrable results will see the benefits of using a tool like Arbitrip very quickly. They’ll realize that spending smarter and getting a great travel experience means trusting their travel manager to make the right decisions.

Ultimately, travelers need to appreciate that there are tangible benefits to working with their company’s travel manager; and that doing so isn’t just paying lip service to corporate bureaucracy — it’s an exercise in quality control, budget management, and logistics coordination.

Duty-Free Travel Just Won’t Fly

As a travel manager, you have a duty of care to your travelers, so you need to know where they are, where they’re staying, and what’s happening in whichever part of the world they’re traveling to. However, as more and more travelers start using online self booking tools — the kind they use for their own vacations — travel managers can quickly lose sight of who, what, when, and where.

For example, say a traveler books to go to a convention in Palm Springs via Expedia. The convention’s taking place at a specific hotel, so there’s only one viable accommodation option. But even if they choose a competitively priced package, until the expenses report’s filed (a few days after the convention…) the travel manager has no record of the booking.

This lack of oversight results in an absence of information, out of date reports, and often higher expenses. And should something bad happen — natural disaster, terror attack, civil unrest — how are you, the travel manager, going to make sure your colleagues make it home in one piece?

Ok, granted — this might sound overly paranoid. But from a professional standpoint travel managers need to feel satisfied that they can fulfill their ethical obligations, retain control over booking activity, and empower travelers — within the parameters of their company’s managed program.

Although an increasing number of companies are starting to offer better online and mobile tools, some platforms provide unmanaged bookings — made without an agent. And because deal-conscious travelers are prone to booking hotels on multiple channels through multiple providers, they often do so not realising that some offers aren’t connected to their company’s travel management system.

Ultimately, travelers want the same levels of convenience, freedom, and service they get from online leisure travel sites. And travel managers want transparency. Luckily the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

As well as helping businesses get the best possible hotel room prices, Arbitrip gives travel managers visibility of every single booking their travelers make — in real-time. This includes managed and unmanaged bookings, in-policy and out-of-policy bookings, on- and offline transactions, and even those made with or without an agent.

Keeping tabs on your travelers doesn’t mean scrutinizing every detail of every trip. But you need to make sure they stay safe, comfortable, and on budget — in that order. And while technology can give travel managers the insight they need, it’s not a cure-all. Establishing simple in-house procedures like regular communication, itinerary sharing, and pre-trip briefings can ensure everyone stays in the loop. After all, honesty is always the best policy.

How Will Brexit Affect Business Travel?

On June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom held a nationwide referendum to decide whether to stay in the  European Union or leave it. This historic vote resulted in a 52-48% majority in favor of Britain leaving the EU: a result that has sent shockwaves around the world, throwing Britain’s political and economic future into question.

Britain is already reeling from Brexit’s immediate aftermath. British (pro-Europe) Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced he would be stepping down from office — effectively leaving someone else to handle the divorce. And following the ‘Leave’ result, the British pound plummeted to its lowest level since 1985.

So, now should be a great time for travel managers to start booking business trips to the UK, right? Not so fast.

Brexit has brought major uncertainty to the travel industry; among other sectors. There are so many questions that need to be answered. For example, when will Britain invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty — which puts a two-year timeline on the official separation — ? What kind of exit terms will be negotiated? What will be the impact on issues like border control rules, entry visas, and airline regulations?

Until these questions are answered, corporations may be hesitant to send their employees to the UK — which would be disastrous for Britain’s economy.

Mike McCormick, executive director and COO of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), has reiterated this uncertainty, but is keen to maintain business as usual where possible.

“While it is impossible to immediately assess the implications of the result on the British, European, and global economies; or on international relations and world order at this point, GBTA remains committed to the same principles it always holds strong. These include ensuring business travelers maintain freedom of movement, that business is not disrupted, and that travel infrastructure remains strong.”

Given the current UK business environment, many predict a major drop in capital investment, including hotel investment. This would have a huge effect on business travel in London and other major UK cities — and on the wider hospitality industry.

On the other hand, with the big drop in currency exchange rates, traveling to Britain will become more affordable. This would help offset the drop in domestic demand for hotels, and pump more money back into the British economy. How much will this counterbalance the negative effects? We just don’t know.

Many changes are expected over the next few years. For now, all we can do is wait and see.


Finding the balance between savings and satisfaction

Where business trips are concerned, can there really be a secret to unlocking greater value?

Surely saving a few dollars by cutting back on the non-essentials is the only way to create value? Not necessarily. Recent ACTE (Association of Corporate Travel Executives) research shows that 75% of travel managers believe that service improvements can lead to savings.

That doesn’t mean catering to your travelers’ every whim. This ain’t a vacation. A good business travel experience is a low effort one. The easier it is to do something, the less travelers have to think about, and the more productive they’ll be.

Sometimes simple things can make all the difference; like giving your travelers the opportunity to decide their own itinerary, rather than plan out every single detail of their trip. Meetings overrun. Dinner goes on later than planned. Clients command their attention. Flexibility is important for the business traveler, so why not — for example — give them access to a company Uber account?

While adding value doesn’t have to be expensive, sometimes spending a little extra on things that will improve your travelers’ experience can make a big difference too.

Think of it this way: one of your travelers has a nine hour flight to Paris from Boston. A driver meeting her at airport on arrival isn’t just going to get her to the meeting on time; it’ll reduce the hassle of navigating Charles De Gaulle Airport, save her the trouble of asking where she can get a taxi from in half-remembered high school French, and take out the usual half hour wait for an available cab at peak arrival time.

Penny-pinchers may bemoan the idea of shelling out for incidentals, but ultimately less hassle equals less stress. And it’s the same for you, the travel manager. The less involved you are in every single aspect of your travelers’ plans, the more time you can dedicate to improving the corporate travel experience.

Here at Arbitrip we’re dedicated to finding travel managers the best hotel deals. You just pick where you want to book and leave the rest to us. Our smart algorithm identifies real-time cost savings, and our booking software automatically secures the rooms you want at the lowest possible price.

Ultimately, where business travel’s concerned, satisfaction creates longer-term value. A good trip gives great productivity, and anything that makes your and your travelers’ lives easier is a better result for the business all round.

The Death of the Booking Window?

Violins ready? It turns out there’s no universal ‘best time to book a hotel room’ — as recent research from TripAdvisor shows.

The booking sweet spot varies between different regions, according to the research. For example: to get the best rates for US hotels, you’d need to book 2 months before. But if you’re traveling to Europe, you’d need to book between 3 and 5 months prior to departure to get a decent discount. Heading to Asia? You’ll need to book 3 months before to make significant savings.

It’s a similar story where cities are concerned:

  • For Berlin, book 2-5 months prior for 33% savings
  • For New York City, book 2-4 months for 25% savings
  • Singapore? Booking’s best between 2 weeks and 5 months beforehand for 26% savings

“Ok… so to get the best deal on hotel rooms I need months of advance notice? Cos that’s gonna happen(!)”

You’re a busy travel manager with multiple trips to book right through the year. Sure, there’s a need to get the best bang for your buck, but you don’t have the luxury of several months notice. Most business trips are decided just a few weeks — or even a few days — beforehand.

Unlike leisure or vacation travel which you can book months in advance, to get a good business travel deal with a few days notice you’d have to book a non-refundable package — which probably wouldn’t happen given the need for flexibility on business trips.

So here’s the thing… there is another way.

Using our price optimization algorithm and real-time automatic booking service, our mission is to make sure you always get the lowest possible price for the rooms you book. As room rates rise, your original price is locked in. But as prices decrease we’ll automatically re-book the rooms you’ve chosen to secure the saving. And if we find a cheaper room, we’ll refund the difference.

With technology like this in your travel toolbox, you can kiss booking windows goodbye. For ever.

All things considered, hotel room prices will continue to fluctuate — as supply and demand dictates. Hoteliers set their prices high for busy periods, low for quieter times, and can often change things around at the drop of a hat. And different parts of the world have different busy/quiet periods.

These factors shouldn’t affect business travelers; who rely on travel managers to minimize risk and ensure they get a seamless experience. So why waste your time chasing booking windows, when we’re ready to do the groundwork for you?