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5 Trends For Business Travel In The 2020s

5 Trends for Business Travel in the 2020s

The world’s population just keeps on growing and growing—and growing right along with it is the demand for business travel.

According to Global Business Travel Association forecasts, business travel spending will reach $1.7 trillion worldwide by 2022, up from $1.33 trillion in 2017. That growth means rising pressure on travel infrastructure. But new travel options and digital technologies are emerging to help keep business travel productive and enjoyable.

From personalized digital interactions to air taxis, here are five ways that business travel will likely change in the 2020s.

1. Digital interactions create seamless, personalized experiences

Interactions will become more mobile, digital and personalized as the travel industry responds to shifting demographics and technology preferences. Millennials are a generation that has grown up with mobile phones. And coming up right behind them is Generation Z, many of whom have never known a world without smartphones.

Accordingly, airlines and other travel industry players are prepping for a mobile-first world. As the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airlines’ trade group, puts it: “mobile will no longer be ‘a‘ channel, it will be ‘the’ channel passengers, travel agents, and others use to connect with airlines.” Digital, personalized interactions will predominate, with smartphones used not just for tracking and managing flight information but also for buying ancillary services such as hotel rooms and ground transportation.

The same IATA report notes airlines are also adopting technology that will enable personalized, so-called “dynamic” pricing calculated in real time based on a wide range of factors. Besides cabin class and ticket-purchase timing, the personalized tech may take into account your corporate agreements, elite-tier loyalty benefits, and other discounts.

A wide range of new transportation methods may be available to speed you to your next meeting, whether it’s in another city or another country.

2. More accommodation options

Sometimes staying in a private home may be more appealing than lodging in a hotel. Think about long-term stays, for example, or maybe you just want a relaxing home-like environment after a hectic day of meetings. Expect more lodging options as business travel-management systems expand travel policies to allow a wider range of accommodation types.

3. Better in-flight internet access—finally!

The era of patchy, often slow in-flight Wi-Fi may finally be ending, with several multi-supplier collaborations aiming to make cabin internet access much faster and more ubiquitous over the next few years. One effort aims to allow mobile network operators to extend their services into the cabin so you can continue using your personal mobile services seamlessly throughout your journey, without interruption or the need to log in to different Wi-Fi networks on each flight. In Europe, there’s a plan to combine satellites with ground-based infrastructure to offer Wi-Fi over both land and water, with speeds comparable to ground-based mobile broadband—fast enough to stream high-definition videos.

4. Faster boarding and security checks

Biometric technologies such as facial recognition may be used to speed boarding, check-in and other processes that today are still painfully slow and manual—like waiting in line at the gate to board. For example, airlines and airports are already working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to explore the use of facial recognition to automate boarding. During the boarding process, a passenger stands in front of a camera at an automatic entry barrier; the gate opens if the picture matches the photo the traveler provided with their passport. The system is being piloted at multiple airports in the U.S. and some other countries.

5. Fly me to the airport?

A wide range of new transportation methods may be available to speed you to your next meeting, whether it’s in another city or another country.

Startups and venerable aircraft manufacturers alike are working to bring supersonic passenger aircraft back to the skies by the mid-2020s. One, promises flights at more than twice the speed of today’s jet airliners for about the same fare as today’s business class trips, cutting New York-London flights to a little over three hours.

Of course, the benefit of supersonic flight may be somewhat diminished if you’re stuck in traffic for hours on the way to the airport. But companies are working on fixing that problem too, aiming to make air taxis—looking a bit like giant passenger-carrying drones—operational by the mid-2020s. Instead of idling in traffic, you might order a flying taxi to shuttle between a downtown air taxi landing area and the airport, bypassing the congestion below. Gaining regulatory approval for the new transportation method may be a hurdle.

Less-futuristic options are emerging too: IATA forecasts growth of ride-sharing on privately owned aircraft using regional airports and probably booked via apps like today’s car ride-sharing platforms. IATA also says high-speed trains are likely to take business from airlines over shorter distances, potentially whisking business travelers directly between downtown meetings in different cities and avoiding time-consuming trips to and from airports.


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