Corporate travel remains a key priority for businesses operating across the globe as it forms the basis of nurturing relationships with new and existing clients and securing opportunities in new markets.
International travel is a highly complex industry and many factors- economic, technological and political- can shape the key trends influencing the world of corporate travel management.
In this blog, we spoke to our BFP CEO Nigel Taylor to find out his top predictions for the travel industry this year and what’s to come for BFP in 2024.
Travel prices expected to rise
Air fares are expected to continue to rise in 2024, although the rate of increase will be slower than in the immediate post-Covid period.
This is a result of continuing recruitment challenges in the sector- while starting to make some progress, many airlines have not yet been able to bolster their workforce to significantly increase capacity.
“The anticipated rise in air fares means a key value add for clients is ensuring that TMC’s continue to unlock the best possible rates for their clients,” explained Nigel.
“To help us do this at BFP, we have launched a new fares team headed by Andrew Sherry who brings 25 years’ experience in the complex world of air tariff pricing.
“Andrew will be leading the fares team in a new and comprehensive auditing process for all long-haul journeys booked, or held on option, so we optimise every savings opportunity.
“The audit will also be integrated with our 360 Search technology, scanning for lower fares every 20 second, which are released back into the ‘live’ inventory”.
Nigel added: “Global hotel rates are also expected to rise in 2024, and to ensure our clients can view a multitude of rates from different channels, we will be integrating the Expedia hotel programme into 360 Go, our bespoke online booking tool.
AI and data analytics
The need to maximise value for clients means travel management companies must continually ensure that their systems are optimal for delivering an excellent client experience.
This means keeping up with current industry trends and harnessing the power of data analytics to enhance travel offerings.
In the year ahead, one of the most exciting developments is the growth of possibility offered by new AI technologies.
“2023 was the year that AI came fully into the public consciousness with the spread of applications like ChatGPT and image generators,” said Nigel.
“Of course, the impact and opportunities of AI extend far beyond these examples, and leaders in all industries are looking at the best ways to utilise AI to improve business performance.
“Working with cutting edge technology is integral to our service at BFP. To ensure we remain at the forefront of new developments, we are committed to exploring the potential applications of AI and understand how it could help us provide more accurate, bespoke travel solutions based on clients’ unique travel and accommodation booking habits.
“We will also be enhancing our 360 Intelligence travel data and insights platform with a new PowerBI functionality to give clients access to the granular detail of their travel programme.”
Investing in staff wellbeing
While the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming an increasingly distant memory, the changes it brought about persist.
Two of the most fundamental shifts we have seen across the board in the industry was the widespread normalisation of remote and the hybrid working and a renewed focus on the importance of mental health in the workplace and improving work life balance.
Nigel explained: “Businesses in all sectors are now settling into embedded post-pandemic habits and their new chosen working models are becoming permanent.
“The pandemic brought conversations around mental health and work life balance into the mainstream. Company culture has become a crucial factor when considering switching jobs so businesses that want to recruit and retain high quality staff need to make this a priority.
“At BFP, we have responded with plans to launch a landmark new Health & Wellbeing Hub in February promoting the wellbeing of our staff.
“We will also be addressing the challenge of potential “isolation” in the more remote areas where our team are based, by holding mini workshops across the UK to include onsite training, product and company updates, not of course forgetting the really important social aspect of just enjoying your work colleagues’ company”.
“To further this goal, our recruitment will increasingly extend beyond the South East to cover the whole of the UK to attract the best talent from far and wide.”
Read more about the importance of mental health and wellbeing at BFP here.
Responsible business practices
Just as a commitment to staff wellbeing has become part of best business practices in recent years, so has the importance of sustainability. In 2024 we expect this to become an even bigger focus as corporate travellers scrutinise their carbon footprints.
Nigel said: “In the face of the climate emergency, it is more important than ever to have robust green credentials to outline how you are reducing the impact of your business activity on the environment.
“At Business First Partnership, our commitment to ensuring our operations are environmentally sustainable is steadfast.
“As such, we are working with Greengage Solutions to achieve an official ECOsmart accreditation in early 2024, demonstrating quality third party verification of our sustainable business practices.
“We understand that it is an important part of our clients’ travel policies too, so we will continue to develop our in-house technology to advance carbon reporting and offer practical ways to offset carbon debt.”