Work Travel Now Means More Work Than Ever

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4 min read

JOHANNESBURG – Inflation has not only shaken global economies but has fundamentally altered the landscape of business travel. Remember the good old days of lounging in comfy business lounges and enjoying lavish dinners on the company without batting an eye? Well, times have changed.

Those on the ground say sky-high ticket prices and tighter company wallets can sometimes make business trips feel more like boot camp than a perk. Business travellers are pinching pennies and facing more pressure to make the trip worth every cent. The fluctuating Rand hasn’t helped – daily travel allowances barely cover the basics. And you know what they say about all work and no play – it’s making these trips much less glamorous and more grind.

The change is palpable, according to the SAP Concur Global Business Travel Survey. Business travellers have reported significant budget cuts (40 percent), a surge in reduced overnight trips (32 percent), and a noticeable dip in the quality of accommodations (31 percent). Moreover, the relentless hunt for cheaper fares has been felt by 31 percent of those surveyed.

Understandably, flights were some of the first to come under budget scrutiny. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) reported that the average ticket price for business-related airfares rose 72% in 2022. The numbers give a sense of the situation, but what’s the reality for a business traveller trying to balance business goals with personal comfort?

Any frequent flyer will agree that business trips can be a hectic whirlwind of meetings and deadlines. But when you have to pick a cheaper, less convenient flight? Crazy early mornings or late nights, long layovers, or having to bounce between multiple airports get added to your workload.

Instead of saving energy for the big meeting, you’re left dealing with jet lag and travel fatigue. And the time you could’ve spent prepping or chilling? Wasted on navigating the extra travel hassle. Add to this – the discomfort of spending layovers on an airport bench because you’ve dropped from silver to bronze, and the benefits that took some of the heavy lifting out of travel have vanished.

Companies are also making sure they get a bang for their buck. Instead of a one-day business trip with a single meeting, travellers now find their itineraries packed. Multiple appointments, visits, reviews, and the odd networking dinner thrown in. The rationale? If we’re spending so much to get you there, we might as well make the most of it. The result? The Q2 2023 Quarterly Trends Report shows corporations are travelling, on average, 20% less than 2019.  The unintended benefit – it’s better for the environment to batch meetings.

It’s a brave new world out there for the business traveller – and it’s forcing many who hold the purse strings to reconsider and revise their travel strategies and policies. Bonnie Smith, GM Corporate Traveller, says that now is the right time to take a strategic rather than reactive approach to business travel budgeting.

“TMCs are on the pulse of the travel industry,” says Smith. By joining forces with a company’s administrative team, a TMC can devise a monthly travel budget perfectly suited to an organisation’s specific needs. “Their extensive network and know-how can unlock global deals, allowing travellers to enjoy perks without the premium of business class flights,” Smith adds.

The expertise TMCs bring to the table can also help recalibrate the company’s travel policy – and help to set some ground rules. “It’s all about letting the team enjoy their trips without blowing the budget,” she explains.

Smith explains there are simple and easy ways to take some of the ‘grunt work’ out of business travel:

Special rates and perks: With global industry ties from a TMC like Corporate Traveller, travellers don’t need to hunt for the best deals. They automatically get competitive rates, plus perks like lounge access or upgrades.

24/7 support and safety: Travellers can skip the stress of problem-solving during hiccups. With round-the-clock support, any issue, big or small, gets addressed without the traveller having to handle it all.

Feedback and updates: A TMC will keep the company’s travel policy fresh so travellers always have a streamlined experience. Regular tweaks based on feedback mean travellers spend less time voicing concerns and more time enjoying seamless journeys.

Easy expense management: Thanks to tech and tools, travellers don’t have to dread the post-trip paperwork. Simplified expense tracking means less time documenting and more time focusing on the trip’s purpose.

“While all businesses need to have an eye on expenses, it’s equally important to provide teams with the necessary resources and flexibility when they’re on the road. After all, their success during these trips is directly linked to our overall success as an organisation,” adds Smith.

“Overly tight travel rules can demotivate top performers. They need both freedom and the right tools to excel. Balancing costs with travellers’ genuine needs is the key to reaping the full return on investment of business travel,” Smith concludes.

For more information about Corporate Traveller, or to interview Corporate Traveller South Africa GM Bonnie Smith, call Dorine Reinstein on 083 278 8994 or email dorine@bigambitions.co.za.