With 2018 drawing to a close, executives at expense and travel solutions provider SAP Concur have compiled a list of business travel trends that travel agents should expect in 2019. They are:
1. The risks female travelers face will rise to the top of the corporate agenda: Women make up more than 40 percent of all business travelers and that number is growing. Travel professionals agree that female business travelers face unique risks while traveling compared to their male counterparts, but what are they going to do about it? A recent Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) report found that only 18 percent of corporate travel safety policies specifically address female safety needs. Because safety threats impact the well-being and productivity of female travelers, companies will need to place more serious emphasis on ensuring their corporate travel policies address priority female concerns such as sexual harassment, assault, and theft. At the same time, women will take the initiative to demand companies take care of them and this will become a key consideration for talent retention. – Kim Albrecht, CMO, SAP Concur
2. Data privacy will fundamentally change product engineering: In 2018, GDPR fundamentally changed how global technology companies work with user data. In 2019 and beyond, GDPR is now table stakes. Product engineers and developers are looking at how they can deliver both ultimate protection and ultimate personalization. Approaching privacy as a sliding scale vs. a simple model of opt-in or opt-out, opens the door to more possibilities for transparent data collection and machine learning. Concepts such as data washing and a privacy dial can allow users and/or their companies to increase or decrease the type of information gathered by filtering different levels of personally identifiable information. – John Dietz, VP, Concur Labs
3. Shifting immigration and tax policies create new pressures on multi-national companies: In 2019, there will be a growing focus on business travelers as a source of tax revenue, which has created new challenges for companies that send employees to conduct business across state and/or international borders. National and local governments continue to adopt complex worker-visa and cross-border tax rules in response to global trends on the movement of people and products across borders. An employee who spends a certain number of days in a calendar year in another country or state can trigger large liabilities on both the individual and the company, and potentially prevent business from being conducted.
For example, in Singapore, tax and immigration authorities are collaborating to check if a business traveler may have triggered a tax requirement during their stay, sometimes leading to temporary detainment at the border. In addition, U.S. states such as New York and California are increasingly performing audits, to identify business travelers who have crossed thresholds that make them liable for income taxes. Companies can also face huge financial liabilities – sometimes in the tens of millions – for violating visa rules, and there are reputational risks when those penalties bubble up in the news. This year, there will be a bigger need than ever before for companies to navigate these complexities and make sure they, and their employees, remain compliant. – Mike Eberhard, President, SAP Concur
4. SMBs will gain a competitive advantage by crowdsourcing data insights, thought leadership: True to my prediction, we saw technology help level the industry playing field in 2018 for SMBs, enabling them to be more powerful than ever before. In 2019, SMBs will continue to advance thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning. Due to their size and flexibility, SMBs will use this game-changing technology to gain a competitive edge over larger companies. They’ll grow by tapping into their professional networks to learn from thought leaders as well as crowdsource data insights that once wasn’t available. SMBs also will become increasingly diverse and we’ll see a rise in women, minority and millennial ownership. – Christal Bemont, SVP and GM of Global SMB, SAP Concur
5. Business travel booking is still a time-consuming process: According to prior research, almost 50 percent of business travelers take between 30 minutes and one hour out of the working day when completing expenses, while 18 percent spend between one and two hours. We believe that, in the next year, technology —such as bots and machine learning (ML)—will tremendously improve employee productivity. And that’s not just for travelers, but everyone involved in the process (e.g. travelers, managers, travelers arrangers, travel agents, travel managers).
Some examples include:
- Anticipatory searches based on calendar information
- Pre-request approval based historical information
- Automatic classification of business vs leisure expense for trips involving both components (bleisure trips now constitute 10% of all business trips) – Nancy Hang, Vice President, Consumer Travel Products, SAP Concur
6. Consumerization of business travel leads to massive shifts in OBTs: Over the last 40 years, corporate travel has largely become synonymous with TMC administered booking programs (aka your company’s travel agent) reliant on one of a few GDS’. But as travel tools, options, and technologies continue to rapidly evolve for leisure travelers, employees increasingly expect business travel tools to follow suit. In the next year, Online Booking Tools will embrace new content sources to drive adoption, such as Lufthansa NDC Offers, Airbnb, and HRS Hotel Portal. They must also fundamentally evolve their platforms to allow travel managers to capture all bookings, regardless of where they occur, to manage compliance and ensure their travelers are safe. – Doug Anderson, SVP Travel Product
7. Machine learning goes mainstream: A recent report by McKinsey found that while few occupations are fully automatable, 60 percent of all occupations have at least 30 percent automatable activities. However, the gains delivered by increased processing power and greater access to machine learning (ML) tools by developers will extend well beyond the automation to include unique data driven insights, greater compliance and improved user experiences. In spend management, ML models that read handwritten tips and totals on receipts will replace legacy technologies like optical character recognition giving companies the ability to analyze and audit spend at unprecedented scale and speed. With the ability to identify patterns and anomalies across millions of data records in near real-time, companies gain the insight and agility they need when improving business processes, reducing costs or deterring fraud. – Tim MacDonald, CPO, SAP Concur
8. Hotel content battles heat up: NDC airline content will continue to grab headlines, but even more attention and competitive effort will be devoted to hotel content. Historically the source of most managed travel program leakage, travel managers, OBTs and TMCs have long struggled to consolidate compelling hotel content that will keep travelers booking in the traditional channel. In 2019 the TMC’s efforts will start to gain traction, as the likes of CWT’s RoomIt and BCD’s TripSource battle third-party content aggregators like HRS and Booking.com. As long as TMC’s efforts are transparent and unbiased, everyone (except hotel suppliers) wins. Travel managers should see lower leakage, TMCs benefit from improved supplier revenues and OBT’s generate more bookings. Hotel suppliers, unfortunately, are likely to see their distribution costs increase. – Mike Koetting, EVP of Supplier and TMC Services, SAP Concur
9. Closer collaboration between CIOs and CFOs at state and local organizations will unlock funding: Across the U.S., state and local governments have made clear strides to modernize their IT systems to overcome common challenges, drive greater efficiencies and cost savings, and meet the demands of the 21st century. In fact, the annual GovTech Navigator report shows a steady increase in IT spending among state and local governments, reaching $103 billion in 2018. Despite this commitment to investment in IT, many state and local governments still operate critical workflows using manual processes – many of which are outdated, costly and error-prone, not to mention less secure. The risks associated with these legacy systems are too big to ignore. With taxpayer dollars—and data—at stake, CIOs from states, cities, and counties will need to work cohesively with their CFO counterparts when looking to maximize their IT budgets over the next year. Focusing on making larger investments to support their automated technology projects—from cloud adoption to the deployment of AI and machine learning solutions will be critical. The collaboration fostered between CIOs and CFOs in the coming year will enable state and local governments to strike a balance between their IT budgets and their IT priorities, helping drive greater outcomes for the citizens in their communities. – David Ballard, Sr. VP Public Sector, SAP Concur
10. Higher education institutions can’t afford to overlook technology as a retention tool: University leaders are facing increased financial pressure as enrollment growth slows, and traditional classrooms are evolving into remote locations extending beyond central university campuses. As institutions work to make the most of their limited resources in the service of teaching and learning, technology can tip them over the competitive edge. Deploying more progressive technology solutions will not only streamline campus and finance operations to create cost savings, but will also solve emerging priorities, such as ensuring the safety of students and staff on and off conventional campuses in the event of an emergency. Taking proactive measures to invest in technology that clearly demonstrate their campus values can help attract the next generations of prospective students. - David Ballard, Sr. VP Public Sector, SAP Concur