From ‘Objective Stacking’ to ‘Executive Field Trips’, a new report from Globetrender and Cytric Easy by Amadeus reveals the trends defining business travel in 2024.
This year, business travel spending will likely exceed pre-pandemic levels for the first time (US$1.5 trillion, compared with US$1.4 trillion in 2019) according to the Global Business Travel Association.
However, the way employees are traveling – and corporations are managing that travel – is changing. In Business Travel Trends 2024 (a report that is free to download), Globetrender (the UK’s leading travel trend forecasting agency) and Cytric Easy by Amadeus have together identified seven trends that will define business travel in the coming year.
Jenny Southan, CEO and founder of Globetrender, says: “When looking at the future of business travel in 2024, it’s clear that two macro shifts are happening in parallel: technology is making the planning and execution of trips ever-more seamless; but there is also a desire to ‘go back to basics’, which is manifesting in nature-based corporate retreats and the revival of ‘power lunches’.
“This highlights the enduring value of human connection in building good business relationships. Ultimately, every journey needs to be optimized to justify the return on investment, and the subsequent carbon impact of flying.”
She adds: “If there is one word to sum up business travel in 2024, that will be ‘discernment’. Employees no longer want to sacrifice areas of their personal lives to be constantly on the road, and companies need to balance the fulfillment of financial and ESG targets, which will mean all parties need to be more selective about what trips they commit to.”
Deborah Mahoney, head of sales and business development – Americas, Amadeus Cytric Solutions, says: “Face-to-face meetings have many benefits, from increasing social capital to fostering ideas and engaging in more complex thinking together. In-person contact provides a competitive advantage when it comes to meeting clients and customers, as real conversations can generate more effective, efficient, and trust-building interactions.
“Value is key when it comes to business travel. A trip must fulfill multiple objectives, be increasingly sustainable, simple to book, and have a positive impact on both the employee and organization for it to be worth the time and money investment. Cytric Easy by Amadeus, the only travel booking tool embedded into Microsoft Teams unlocks new ways to travel, recommending employees who to meet with and when to achieve their business goals.”
1. AI PAs to revolutionise self-booked trips
For corporate travellers, the emergence of Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI) has catalysed the arrival of “AI PAs”. These intelligent, 24/7, solutions can patiently help with everything from advising on itinerary options, to using natural language that guides the traveller on their company’s travel policy.
They can respond to a detailed trip brief: after inputting an initial prompt, the output generated is friendly and helpful in tone, and it is easy to continue the dialogue with follow-up questions.
2. Executive Field Trips: Strategic getaways and nature-based team retreats set to soar
Scheduling team building days has often been used to bring people together, but a shift towards longer trips away, often in nature, is giving rise to the burgeoning trend. These corporate off-sites are being taken to the next level with an ever-greater array of immersive, surprising, and sometimes even extreme experiences, in domestic locations as well as abroad.
Forging camaraderie is seen as essential to cementing positive relationships between employees, boosting company loyalty and motivating people to work towards a common goal. To facilitate this objective, people need to be taken out of their comfort zone and forced to leave their ego at the door, with everything from white water rafting to tropical bushcraft being added to the agenda on these enhanced trips.
3. Objective Stacking: multiple goals amplify the value of business travel
As pressure grows to adhere to company sustainability mandates and manage outgoings in the face of soaring prices, there will be increased demands on employees to justify work trips. In the coming years, “Objective Stacking” – a term coined by Globetrender to describe trips that are planned to fulfill multiple goals – will become the default way of operating to maximize efficiency and value.
Instead of flying in and out for one meeting, sales pitch or event, business travellers will be required to build in time to meet clients, conduct reconnaissance, forge deals, investigate expansion opportunities, conduct competitor analysis or they might even want to tag on a vacation.
4. Blended Itineraries: Employee experience takes centre stage as rigid travel policies bow out
A new corporate mindset and automated systems are enabling Blended Itineraries for business travellers, which go beyond simple “bleisure” trips that see a weekend tagged on to a few days of meetings. Central to what is taking off in 2024, though, is the relaxation and personalisation of these once rigid corporate travel policies that now place employee experience at the heart.
5. Net Zero Heroes: Corporates get smarter to help hit 2050 carbon reduction targets
In December 2023, the COP28 global climate summit concluded with an agreement to “transition away” from fossil fuel consumption and ramp up clean energy production, with the goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Sustainability ambitions are being taken seriously by the corporate travel world, with a survey of 896 senior decision-makers commissioned by Amadeus revealing that 90 per cent of travel companies had a strategy in place to reach environmental sustainability objectives or are planning to implement one in 2024.
As pressure grows to justify the environmental impact of business travel, companies will increasingly embrace Objective Stacking as a way of ensuring employees maximise the value of trips, as well as Blended Itineraries, which will facilitate this thanks to more flexible travel policies.
6. Digitised Expenses: Financial automation means death of expense reports comes closer
The world of corporate finance is leveling up, propelled by the transition to digital expensing and virtual cards for on-the-go expenses. The shift marks the end of an era dominated by cumbersome manual management of expense forms and the constant juggle of paper receipts.
For many companies this change signifies not just a procedural update, but a fundamental overhaul of how business transactions are recorded, processed, and analysed. Digitised Expenses will boost personalization and enhance the user experience, while ensuring data security and travel policy compliance.
7. Power Networking: Global events industry takes off as desire for connection surges
Finally, Power Networking will emerge as a new hyper-focused approach to acquiring and building new connections. Gone will be the days when delegates sneak off early from conferences or hide in their hotel room to avoid making small talk – in 2024 and beyond, every opportunity will need to be maximised.
After all, if employees are taking time away from their desks and families then they will need to ensure it is worthwhile. This means crafting richer itineraries with multiple meetings outside of the core agenda.