Business travel can be the best way for your burgeoning business to network and make the most of opportunities both within and outside of your home market, and it appears that many businesses plan to grow their business through international travel this year.
The recently released Amex Global Business Travel Forecast 2017 predicts that global demand for air travel will remain at a record high due to persistently low fuel prices and strong competition keeping airline fares in check. The benefits of corporate travel are many, a fact reflected in the prediction that the industry will be worth a jaw-dropping $1.6 billion USD by 2020. The return on investment of business travel has also been estimated to be between $10 and $14.99 per dollar invested.
Equally, with the sharing economy showing little sign of slowing down, and major corporations like Qantas partnering with AirBnB, for example, it’s apparent that the very nature of business travel and all it entails is changing.
But how can smart business owners capitalise on low fares and key trends to grow their business, and what pitfalls must they be mindful of as 2017 progresses?
Duty of care has never been more important
As a growing business, how can you ensure the safety of your employees on the road? No business ever wants to think about something untoward occurring to one of their employees, but in an increasingly uncertain international climate, it’s important to take the time to look at the idea of traveller wellbeing and what would be required in the case of an emergency overseas. Take the initiative to develop a travel security program — yes, even SMBs should have one — that fits the specific needs of your team. In line with your HR policies, consider the frequency and type of travel usually undertaken and outline any gaps or potential issues that might arise.
Your company travel security plan should be able to identify and communicate crisis situations with your team members, and provide pre-travel updates that cover risks, specific country general and medical information. Employees should be able to easily access the information they need to minimise the risk to both themselves and the company.
In the case of local or interstate travel, keeping the relevant information up to date may be quite straight forward, while potentially a little more complicated for overseas travel. However, much of this information can be automated, and you may consider integrating with a travel platform to ensure that employees are kept up to date and the overall process is streamlined.
The sharing economy will continue to rise
The trend towards people renting out ancillary space to leisure and corporate travellers is set to continue, but in 2017 it will become a lot more sophisticated. Take for example the recent partnership whereby AirBnb travellers can earn Qantas points every time they book on the home sharing platform. AirBnb is clearly making a play for the business travel market, and there’s no doubt that it offers an alternative option for accommodation in cities where hotels might be at a premium.
However, if businesses want to take advantage of the benefits of consumer technologies and the sharing economy, they need to evaluate potential risks to ensure employee safety at all times. This brings us back to the need to create tight travel policies that address the current technology landscape, the sharing economy, and any potential risks, setting restrictions and benchmarks that help guide employees when using these types of services.
As more business travellers are looking for the convenience and flexibility characteristic to on-demand platforms, both companies and business owners need to strengthen their business travel management with technology and a variety of online approval, request and expense tools. SMBs and fast-growing businesses are in an advantageous position where they can easily take advantage of key travel trends to grow their businesses in an agile way, and although it may sound oxymoronic, planning for the worst is the key to success and a happy new year for all.
About the author
Pip Spibey-Dodd is the Chief Financial Officer of corporate travel management platform Travelport Locomote