Business Travel Trends – Highlights from GBTA
The annual Global Business Travel Association conference, which attracts 1200 of the top players spending some $130 billion yearly on business travel – ignored the market’s downturn this week, and was happy, happy, happy.
I’m just back from this year’s event in Denver, and see four major trends relevant for product and corporate marketers:
- There’s less competition for innovation. It’s just not being funded on a large scale, creating major airspace for those that put innovation at the heart of corporate strategy. Hands-down, mobile is the word of the day. Consumer expectations continue to outpace real solutions, in many sectors.
- Relationships, chemistry and human connections matter. Businesses again realize that meeting face-to-face is essential for winning new business and keeping customers. Period. The rest of the world may be paralyzed by today’s market news; in contrast, the business travel industry seems singularly optimistic.
- Meetings are making a comeback – and growth is coming from those hosted by small- and midsized companies. The key is to manage the attendee experience flawlessly, beginning-to-end, with the utmost operational efficiency.
- Google remains the biggest disruptor (or game-changer, depending on which side of the equation you’re on) for the travel industry, just like almost every other sector. If you don’t have a Google strategy, you need one.
The missing link – but absolutely top-of-mind – is the ultimate end-user, the frequent traveler. The travel experience has degraded every year running in the past decade. Companies can’t control security, crowded flights, delays, fees and many other travel realities their road warriors face. But many are encouraging employees to collect rewards, drink the $6 bottled water in hotel rooms, and streamline the expense reporting process. It all adds up to productivity gains.
As for my own travel experience, one flight was 45 minutes late (used my FlightView to check it before I went to the airport), and every plane was 100% packed. Hotel Internet cost $42 and worked. But the three days? Priceless – way more than the carefully managed briefings, speaking opportunities and man-on-the-street videos and surveys. Dinner, market immersion and relationships. Which is why business travel is on the rise to increase more than 9% this year.
Footnote: Check out an amazing new search tool – Hipmunk – that takes a bite out of the frustration of booking flights.
By: Megan Boyaval