2019 Business Travel Trends: Innovative tech is changing travel for SMEs
At the end of last year, we teamed up with Skift to publish our 10 Business Travel Trends For 2019 report, outlining the industry shifts and trends organizations need to know this year.
As part of our ongoing series highlighting sections of the full report, which left off with our last post on the shift towards more employee-friendly business travel, we now take a closer look at how emerging innovative technologies are impacting the ways small and medium-sized companies are approaching business travel.
Welcome Aboard, SMEs
While they may not grab the same headlines as their enterprise brethren, small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for nearly half of the nation’s workforce and have a major impact on the overall economy. In fact, we’d venture to say that most of the folks reading this post are likely employed by an SME.
But even with their economic clout, these companies have traditionally gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to business travel. One reason for this is that they’ve traditionally lacked the volume needed to receive discounted rates from airlines and hotels, putting them at a negotiating disadvantage. In addition, due to implementation costs, tech requirements, and other expensive factors, many SMEs have been wary of committing to a managed travel program in the first place.
Now, however, the market seems primed to respond to these historical roadblocks with products and services designed specifically with small and medium business segments in mind.
New Solutions for the SME
There are two emergent factors driving corporate travel interest for SMEs:
- As SMEs increase travel to support their growing (and global) ambitions, minimizing expenses become a strategic priority and pushes them to further explore products and services that will suit their business needs.
- The continued growth of smart tech like AI and automation tools are finally allowing corporate travel platforms to deliver high-quality service at lower cost and greater scale.
For SMEs, evolving technologies in the market can already offer their desired level of flexibility. Examples include AI-powered recommendations to scale personalization, automated incentives to encourage compliance, and more streamlined expense reporting and management integrations.
For SMEs on the learning curve or the fence about the decision to set up a managed travel solution, Nathan Park, Director of Mid-Market Sales at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), recommends taking a consultative approach: “(Mid-market firms) have all kinds of different needs,” he said in a Business Travel News report. “They want a true business partner, not just someone slinging RFPs across the country for them. They want someone to sit down and take the time to say, ‘These are the industry trends, tools that are there, the plethora of options.’”
For even more on the evolution of small and mid-sized businesses within the corporate travel space, plus insights into the year’s other big trends, be sure read the complete Business Travel Trends for 2019 report.