Reimagining business travel for a new era

Business travel is back, with a difference. Hana Lear, vice president, Corporate, UK Card Services at American Express, outlines the three key themes shaping the new era of business travel: sustainability, wellbeing and ‘bleisure’

Last Updated: 15 Nov 2022

Business travel is firmly back on the agenda: American Express’ latest research of both businesses and business travellers in the UK shows that 42% of companies are looking to increase the amount of business travel they undertake, while over two thirds (68%) plan to ramp up their business travel spending by 50% or more compared to current levels1.

Why the return to business travel? Growth, and employee engagement. An overwhelming majority (82%) of businesses say it plays a key role in increasing their revenue and profitability, with three quarters (77%) agreeing that their business suffered because of the travel restrictions put in place during the pandemic.

Growth is the driving factor behind increased travel spending, with 60% of businesses planning domestic trips to aid expansion into new UK regions, while 35% want to enter new international markets.

While business travel is on the rise, it is also dealing with significant challenges. Employee wellbeing, shifting work patterns, and the environmental impact of travel are in sharp focus. Businesses need to adapt to these changes, and deliver a greener, friendlier approach to business travel if they are to align growth with employee satisfaction.

 

Delivering greener travel

There is a clear sustainability disconnect between businesses and travellers. Our research found that 28% of businesses believe their staff are concerned about the impact of travel on the environment. But, that figure is way off the reality: 71% of travellers say they worry about the environmental impact, and 78% say they are more conscious of their carbon footprint than previously.

Tackling these concerns is an ongoing process, and it is critical to find answers. Organisations are increasingly looking for solutions and insights that can help track emissions associated with employees’ travel spend. That way, they can better understand purchasing behaviours and find opportunities to manage and reduce their carbon footprint.

With business travel a driver of growth and profitability, businesses that can find greener ways to travel have a real opportunity to thrive. American Express’ Carbon Footprint Tool allows large corporate businesses to gain actionable data insights from their travel spending, which they can then use to develop and support their ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance strategies). It’s important that businesses communicate these strategies with their employees, to get buy-in and reassure them that they are on a clear journey to a more sustainable future.

 

Supporting employee wellbeing

Across all facets of business, the last two years have seen significant steps to support employee wellbeing. The same is true for business travel, where 55% of travellers say their overall wellbeing suffers when they travel too frequently.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Travel can involve long absences from family, long hours, delayed flights, and bleary-eyed flight times, as well as balancing work priorities with travelling. It is critical that businesses not only recognise this, but address it. Not only because it’s the right thing to do but because they risk losing talent if they fail to: 71% of travellers said they would leave their role if they thought their wellbeing when travelling wasn’t being supported.

There are practical steps that can be taken to ensure the wellbeing of travellers is looked after. Allow them to be more flexible with their work hours when travelling, give them downtime and the ability to extend their trips, and offer them access to lounges and business-class seats to enable them to be more productive. Businesses can even reduce time away from family by allowing employees to bring family members along on business trips. 

 

The rise of bleisure

This greater focus on wellbeing has resulted in the rise of ‘bleisure’ – a combination of business travel and leisure.

Forty-two percent of business travellers say they prefer it when they combine business trips with leisure time. Bleisure can therefore result in happier, more fulfilled employees – if business travellers are able to use this blend, they will inevitably feel more at ease on their trips, delivering better results for the business. In fact, almost two-thirds (62%) of business travellers agree their business travel would be more productive if they were better supported by their employer.

American Express enables businesses to meet wellbeing and bleisure expectations by helping travellers feel more comfortable and refreshed.

For example, the American Express® Business Platinum Card offers a range of travel-related benefits such as hotel room upgrades, early check-in and late checkout, travel insurance, as well as complimentary access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide no matter which airline travellers are flying with or class of ticket. 

 

American Express is here to help

Business travel has returned to a new landscape. One that needs to be kinder to the planet, and more sensitive to employee needs. 

American Express can support businesses with their Travel & Entertainment needs, regardless of their size or structure. Our Corporate Card solutions can help drive consistent standards, maximise control and deliver efficiency, utilising billing options that fit specific business needs.

For small business owners, our range of Business Cards offer a suite of travel-related benefits, including access to more than 1,400 airport lounges worldwide, comprehensive worldwide travel insurance, hotel benefits and expense management tools.

The American Express Business Platinum Card. Subject to status, over 18s only. Annual card fee £650. Full terms and conditions apply. Basic charge card with no fee, rewards or other features available. For more information, visit: https://www.americanexpress.com/en-gb/business/charge-cards/platinum-business-card

For more details on our range of solutions please visit: www.americanexpress.com/uk

 


1American Express and Opinium surveyed 500 business travellers and 500 business travel decision makers from SMEs with 1-249 employees and large businesses with over 250 employees in the UK. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25-29 July 2022.