Business travel is only set to grow in 2019 – here are the trends – and destinations – to look out for. By Jenny Southan.
As we enter a new year, questions arise about how business travel will change as we approach 2020 and beyond. Political uncertainties related to Brexit could potentially be disruptive and companies need to make preparations. But just as technology such as video conferencing didn’t put an end to the need to fly around the world for face-to-face meetings, politics will only go so far in deterring business from continuing.
For the frequent corporate flyer, a shift towards work and lifestyle integration (rather than balancing two opposing states) means it is ever-more common to tag a Saturday night stay onto a work trip: according to expense management company SAP Concur, 19 per cent of people do so in the United States, 27 per cent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and 44 per cent in Asia-Pacific. Here are six more trends gaining momentum and five destinations to keep an eye on in the year ahead…
Six business travel trends
1.Business travel market rises in value
A 2018 report from Allied Market Research predicted that, by 2023, the global business travel market will be worth $1.65 trillion, up from $1.3 trillion in 2017 (CAGR is at 4.1 per cent). The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) had similar findings, anticipating that the market will be worth £1.7 trillion by 2022. In a statement, Michael W McCormick, GBTA executive director and COO, said: “This pick-up in growth could signify an end to the ‘era of uncertainty’ in global business travel, but rising protectionism is coming at precisely the wrong time. The direction of trade policy is far and away the biggest wild card that could impact our forecast.”
2. Chinese aviation sets new standards
Chinese airports and carriers are investing heavily in improvements to cybersecurity and luggage handling systems. The 2018 Air Transport IT Insights report from multinational information technology company SITA revealed that Chinese airports are putting more money into IT – 7.5 per cent of revenue in 2018, higher than the global average of 5.69 per cent. This year, all Chinese airlines will track bags on at least 50 per cent of their route network, and 95 per cent of airports will put fighting hackers at the top of their agendas. Hopefully the rest of the world will follow their example.
3. The dawn of electric planes
With air travel currently producing eight per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, electric flight promises to be a less damaging way to get around. To provide an incentive, London Heathrow is offering to waive landing fees worth £1 million to the first airline to schedule regular hybrid electric flights by 2030. Last year, a two-seat electric aircraft was successfully tested at Oslo airport (Norway wants all flights to be electric by 2040) and US company Wright Electric is partnering with EasyJet to introduce electric planes with a range of 500km to its fleet as soon
as possible. A nine-seater zero-carbon plane will be tested this year.
4. Medium-haul business class gets upgrade
All too often, medium-haul flights of three to six hours tend to have the same business class seating as short-haul routes. However, two airlines recently changed the way they are configuring their planes, fitting them with more luxurious products. Firstly, Turkish Airlines is installing the Rockwell Collins-designed MiQ seat in a 2-2 (as opposed to 3-3) arrangement to its A321 NEOs and B737 MAXs, while Singapore Airlines debuted 40 new business class seats by Stelia Aerospace on its inaugural A350-900 service from Singapore to Adelaide in December 2018. Seats on this twin-aisle aircraft will be arranged 1-2-1, feature personal Thales AVANT in-flight entertainment screens and, most impressive, recline to a fully flat bed.
5. Airlines innovate to fight jet lag
Suffering from jet lag in the 21st century seems like an anachronism. Although a panacea isn’t quite in sight yet, airlines are beginning to recognise the value in helping passengers feel better. Japan’s ANA is planning to launch an anti-jet-lag app in April, while Singapore Airlines has designed more nutritious meals and exercise regimes for people flying on its new 18-hour 45-minute route from Singapore to New York (the world’s longest), plus LA and San Francisco. This is after Qantas launched a new jet-lag-fighting menu on its 17-hour London-Perth sector (items include tuna poke salad and cold-pressed green juice). Meanwhile, Air France has a detox bar at its new business class lounge in Paris CDG.
6. Micro hotels go mainstream
Although there will always be a place for five-star hotels, often all business travellers need is a clean, comfortable bed and a hot shower. The Japanese have been ahead of the curve on this front for years, with “salarymen” crawling into capsules for power naps. Then came Yotel at Gatwick in 2007 – the company is now opening outposts with rooms as small as seven square metres in Istanbul airport (at the end of 2018) and San Francisco, Singapore Changi, Edinburgh, central London, Geneva and Glasgow this year. It was recently announced that Premier Inn was following suit with its new Zip concept opening in Cardiff in March (rooms are 8.5sq m). Free-standing Airpod sleep capsules are set to arrive at select airports in 2019.
Destinations to watch
After the financial crisis 10 years ago, Pittsburgh has experienced economic transformation. It now excels in innovation, IT, life sciences, communications, healthcare, research and energy solutions. More than 100 global multi-billion-dollar firms are based here. British Airways is launching flights from London Heathrow from April 2, 2019.
In May 2018 China Southern Airlines began the first non-stop route from London Heathrow to Wuhan. It is considered the epicentre of finance, politics, transport and trade in the region, and already receives a great deal of interest from France (representing over one third of total French investment in the country), with foreign companies located here including Alcatel, Carrefour and PSA Peugeot-Citroen.
A “smart” city in west India’s state of Gujurat, Surat is the fourth fastest-growing city in the world in terms of population, according to international think tank the City Mayors Foundation. It is known for its textile and diamond industries – 40 per cent of India’s synthetic fabrics are produced here and nine in 10 of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished in Surat.
On March 31, 2019, Air France will start flying from Paris CDG to the Serbian capital of Belgrade. New Belgrade is one of the Balkans’ most important financial centres, and the city has a particular focus on IT, hosting international companies such as Microsoft, Dell, Asus and Intel. Serbia is making various reforms
to gain entry into the EU by 2025.
Phase one of a new Four Seasons hotel was completed here in 2018, with its surrounding Golden Square Mile experiencing a construction boom. Foreign direct investment in Montreal was up 50 per cent in 2017 and its tech centre (encompassing AI, gaming, visual effects and aerospace) is exploding. It had higher economic growth in 2018 than any other Canadian city. In December, Qatar Airways added a fourth weekly service from Doha.