Business travel is making a steady comeback after experiencing a massive decline due to the pandemic. As we move into 2024, companies have the opportunity to reimagine corporate travel.
What will work trips look like for travelers? How will priorities and corporate travel preferences shift based on recent lessons? What will travel budgets look like? While uncertainties remain, industry experts are seeing several business travel trends that will define corporate travel in 2024 and beyond.
How Have Business Travel Trends Evolved in Recent Years?
The landscape of business travel is transforming, reflecting changes in the global economy, workforce diversity, and a shift toward sustainability. Travel is becoming more global, inclusive, and technology-driven. Let's explore pivotal trends that have reshaped professional travel in the past.
- Increased Globalization: More professionals are traveling internationally, forging connections, attending global events, and exploring new markets, highlighting the interconnectedness of today's economy.
- Increased Diversity: As more women and minorities enter the workforce, the demographic of business travelers is diversifying, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity.
- More Sustainable Travel: Travelers are increasingly making environmentally conscious choices, opting for sustainable options like carbon offset flights and eco-friendly types of hotel rooms.
- Use of Technology: Technology is essential to simplifying logistics, keeping travelers connected, and ensuring seamless work continuity.
- Growth of “Bleisure” Travel: The blend of business and leisure travel is growing, with professionals extending trips for leisure to maximize their time away.
9 Global Business Travel Trends of 2024
As the business world evolves, so does the way professionals travel. Here's a snapshot of the top trends shaping global business travel in 2024:
1. The Demand for Business Travel is Back
Business travel is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by 2024 as more and more companies resume in-person meetings and events. According to GBTA's Business Travel Index Outlook report, business travel spending will reach $1.4 trillion in 2024 and nearly $1.8 trillion by 2027.
In 2023, the industry has started to steady itself, primarily driven by the resurgence of face-to-face meetings and events and the gradual return of international business travel. Moving into 2024, we expect this momentum will continue to grow rapidly.
2. Bleisure Gets Bigger: Blending Business and Leisure Travel
Modern business travelers’ preferences are changing as they seek to combine business trips with leisure activities, such as extending their stay for a weekend getaway.
This trend is largely driven by a demographic shift toward a younger workforce. Younger employees are increasingly seeking opportunities to combine work-related travel with leisure activities, reshaping corporate travel dynamics.
This "bleisure" trend offers traveling employees a sweet deal, with flexible travel schedules and a chance to unwind. This means guests are booking rooms for longer than their events will run, which is great for hotels.
3. Increased Focus on Sustainability
Organizations and business travelers are becoming more aware of their environmental impact and are looking for sustainable travel options, such as flying carbon offset and staying in eco-friendly hotel room amenities.
Some trends in sustainable business travel include:
- Sustainable hotels
- Sustainable transportation options
- Paperless travel
- Updated sustainable travel policies
- Use of corporate travel sustainability reports
4. Increased Use of Technology
Technology is going to be incredibly important for business travel in the future, playing a role in the entire meetings and events process.
Venue sourcing platforms will help planners efficiently find and compare event spaces based on their needs without needing to conduct site visits for every option. Virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) are expected to become more widely used in business travel in 2024 for virtual site visits and training programs.
Corporate travel management platforms will optimize booking, provide traveler tracking, and give companies full visibility into their business travel spending. Further, businesses will rely heavily on end-to-end corporate travel technology for managing logistics, gaining insights, ensuring duty of care, and controlling costs.
AI and machine learning will power new business travel solutions that can analyze data to recommend hotels, predict flight delays, and more.
The business travel industry will continue to become increasingly technology-driven, with innovative solutions for venue sourcing, travel management, trip planning, expense reporting, and more taking center stage.
5. Growth of Secondary Markets
One major business travel trend for 2024 will be growth into emerging markets, especially in Asia and Africa.
The global business travel market is estimated to grow from $711.1 billion in 2021 to $2,997.2 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate of 13.3%. Rapid expansion into emerging Asian and African markets will be a key driver propelling this growth.
India, Indonesia, and other Asian countries are among emerging business travel destinations. To serve this demand, business travel services are ramping up offerings in these markets, and alternative accommodations like home rentals are seeing huge growth to support business travelers.
Companies will need to adapt their travel programs and supplier partnerships to tap into these new regions.
6. Business Travelers Want Connectivity and Personalization
When it comes to technology, planners and travelers expect personalized experiences. In a tech-enabled world, guests of all ages want innovative and seamless digital solutions to simplify their travel and customize their stays.
This starts with the booking process. According to a recent survey, 80% of travelers say it's essential to book trips fully online. To that end. hotels should enable guests to easily view and filter amenities and services that will be available upon arrival.
On the road, 76% of global travelers appreciate travel apps that reduce friction and stress. Another 80% say utilizing personal devices seamlessly with on-property technology is key, from Wi-Fi to streaming apps.
Beyond messaging, travelers want mobile technologies they use daily, like touchless payments from phones or smartwatches, or tapping credit cards. The ability to leverage their own devices and platforms provides the personalized experience and connectivity travelers now expect.
7. Loyalty Programs Must Evolve Beyond Points to Experiences
Business travelers in 2024 crave more than just practical perks from their trips; they seek enriching experiences and meaningful rewards. Loyalty programs need to offer real benefits, enhancing travel beyond basic upgrades and conveniences.
Travelers want rewards that contribute to a memorable journey and strengthen their connection with the service provider. Practical benefits like late checkouts and room upgrades are expected; the true appeal lies in unique experiences, from exclusive events to complimentary services, adding a layer of luxury and personal value to their journeys.
8. Business Travel Will Shift to Purposeful, ROI-Focused Trips
In 2024, business travel will become more purposeful and ROI-focused. The days of casual briefcase trips are over. Now, every trip undergoes a careful evaluation of return on investment and return on expectation. Travel for clear ROI – like closing deals or contracts – will be more easily approved, while relationship-building trips will face more scrutiny.
With staffing shortages and supply chain issues, travel is less comfortable than before. Adding to this is the rising number of flight delays. All of this adds to travelers’ stress and threatens to undermine meeting experiences.
Particularly at hotels, staffing shortages can significantly impact the guest experience. In 2024, hotels will focus on empathy training and service to deliver exceptional experiences despite industry pressures.
Overall, brands that invest in people and purpose of travel will give business travel a new lease on life. ROI and "return on experience" will determine corporate travel policies, and only trips that justify the time and cost will get the green light.
9. Wellness Will Become Critical for Business Travelers
In 2024, wellness will play a crucial role in business travel programs. The pandemic has made travelers and companies prioritize health and immunity more than ever, and services at every price point must meet this demand with authentic, holistic wellness offerings.
From destination activities to hotel amenities to safety protocols, wellness cannot be an afterthought. It must be woven into every aspect of the business trip experience.
While safety remains paramount, companies are also factoring the “pleasure” aspect of travel into policies, recognizing activities that support mental health and enjoyment are beneficial for employees.
What Is the Future of Business Travel?
The future of business travel is bright. As the global economy settles and travel restrictions are lifted, we can expect to see even more people traveling for work. But business travel is not going to look the same as it did a few years ago or even in 2023.
Technology advancements in business travel will force hotels to use tools that reduce friction and streamline their travel operations while making their travel programs more sustainable.
Technology will define business travel planning, with travelers looking for more flexible and personalized options. Travelers will want to be able to book flights and hotels that allow them to change their plans at the last minute without incurring high fees. They will also be looking for travel experiences that are tailored to their individual needs and preferences.
Overall, the future of corporate travel will be defined by sustainable, personalized, mobile-centric, global experiences that keep travelers' health, safety, and productivity top of mind. Hotels and travel providers that can offer these things to business travelers will be the ones who succeed in the years to come.