For business travelers, 2019 is looking more and more like a high watermark.
We may all be looking forward to being face to face in the age of vaccinations, as the numbers of COVID-19 cases are at their peak. Companies want to keep vendor relationships intact and move forward in new markets. It’s fair to say we all suffer from Zoom fatigue, and nothing sounds better than a face-to-face meeting between businessmen, even if masks are part of the deal.
But getting there – well, that’s another story.
Airlines and hotels don’t have the staff they did before (the labor shortage hits everyone). Demand is rising and so are prices. The heights of COVID-19 always loom, employees are getting sick, and travel plans must be flexible above all else.
Reservation and rebooking are the norm.
We’re very far into 2019, and a lot has changed, irrevocably, on business trips, while many more are on the way, Jonka Latif Schmidt, Citi’s Head of TTS Business Cards, told Karen Webster. Especially in paying for it all.
In the big re-engagement, for business travel, business cards, digitally enabled and flexible, will be a key component of expense management.
“Everyone’s routine is broken,” she said. But budgets are expanding, and employees are increasingly willing to hit the road. Re-engagement could be made a little easier by better issuance and use of corporate cards and more transparency.
“The payment experience is very much intertwined with the travel experience,” she notes.
The conversation came against the backdrop of pre-pandemic data that global business travel costs would reach $1.7 trillion by 2022.
“These monitors are not experts in epidemiology of course, but they understood that it would take time for travelers to rebuild confidence,” Latif Schmidt said.
Fast forward to today, and 2022 looks like a marked revival – and we’ll get there 1.5 trillion dollars By 2025, not everything who – which A far cry from pre-pandemic predictions.
In other words, we lost a few years. But as we strive to achieve our (potential) spending tally for 2025, business travel itself will look different.
And just as travel would look different, so would spending—paying for it all. In the pre-pandemic period, companies used post-flight apps or internet portals. When employees returned home, they then logged in to submit expense reports and upload documents.
What will change
Latif Schmidt said that instead of individual trips by employees who go to the field to meet clients face to face, there will be more conferences, committees and exhibitions.
“We will see less travel activity but at higher price points,” so that will help reach $1.5 trillion within the next few years.
We’re taking a turn away from the days when employees were receiving the corporate card simply because they were frequent travelers. In the midst of a major digital transformation, however, the ability to truly tap into the global mobile potential could be a game-changer. App eavesdropping can facilitate requests for single-use virtual cards that can then be used for travel.
“You are invited to log into an application and redeem a virtual card to save it in the mobile wallet, and use the corporate card, rather than recording the expenses on a personal card and then applying (and hoping) for payment.”
Now, with all the fluidity needed with flights changing suddenly, and prices changing suddenly too, more travelers want to have everything available digitally at their fingertips (and via mobile devices). Latif Schmidt noted that it is critical that travel cards and travel card programs are easy to navigate, because for many of these employees, this may be the first time they are traveling on behalf of a particular organization.
She said there are friction points that can be resolved with virtual business cards — and noted that over the past several years, Citi has increased spending on digital capabilities. Easy-to-use digital cards make it easier to remember and access PINs to ensure that transactions are completed. There is also the ability to set transaction limits.
In addition, technology-enabled travel cards make it easier to report lost or stolen cards, and to reissue new cards. She said Citi has a single app that can be used across all 66 local currency markets, providing a basis for additional layers of functionality. The renewal was reported through conversations with the bank’s consumer arm, and with a wide range of user experience designers. She said this is an anomaly – to have a business source that relies heavily on the UX experience of B2B initiatives.
“With this new architecture, when you look up your PIN, check your statement, pay for things… the experience is the same no matter where you are in the world, and it’s a consumer-like experience.”
The emergence and adoption of digital travel cards will help increase commercial bookings.
“Being able to pull out your app, look up your PIN and be able to make transactions at that moment just helps reduce any stress while re-engaging on business trips,” she said.