Many executives in the corporate travel space are planning for expansion and growth in the year ahead. The question on everyone's mind is whether global and economic events will foster more business travel or keep growth subdued.
After a difficult year for business travel — due in large part to widespread uncertainty and global security concerns — corporate travel executives are hoping 2017 brings some relief.
Skift asked leaders at companies that focus on corporate travel what their hopes, concerns, and priorities are for the coming year. We also asked what had the biggest impact on their business last year, what surprised them, and what breakthroughs they had. Read those answers here; all interviews were conducted by email.
For 2017, responses overwhelmingly centered around plans for growth, a desire for stability and a safer world — and the concern that continued insecurity could keep people from traveling.
“My biggest hopes are in the power of technology to transform what’s possible for our global society, as well as the power of travel to transform how we see possibility as individuals,” said Rob Greyber, president of Egencia. “My biggest concern is that, whether from politics, war, fear, or doubt, we’ll turn away from these transformative experiences that can change our world and the way we see ourselves within it.”
Greeley Koch, executive director of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, said that he wants to see security forces around the world get adequate funding and resources so they can “create a global blanket of security” to address traveler safety concerns.
He said a big priority for the year is addressing business traveler stress by calling attention to issues of concern through industry reports and by recommending changes.
Two of the leading causes of uncertainty in 2016 — the U.S. presidential election and the British vote to leave the European Union — both were resolved last year. But the ramifications for the global economy and travel are still not fully known.
Still, December brought some encouraging economic growth news in the U.S., which executives hope to see more of.
“A stable economy means companies feel better about doing business, and that impacts all of us in a variety of ways,” said Andres Fabris, CEO and founder of Traxo, a data aggregator. “When companies don’t feel they’re on stable economic footing, they don’t travel and they don’t spend.”
Fresh off a $5.2 million fundraising round, Traxo definitely plans to spend in the coming year. Fabris told Skift last month that the company intends to expand into Europe in 2017. He also said there are plans to double Traxo’s investment in research and development and sales.
Several other companies also talked about expanding into new areas or investing in products and services, including hotel rate tracking tool tripBAM, which has European expansion on the agenda.
Distribution company Travelport is also investing in technology with an emphasis on speed, efficiency, and value, said senior vice president and managing director of agency commerce Jason Clarke.
Rocketrip, a platform that incentivizes business travelers to save their employers money, will build on last year’s growth, targeting the large, managed travel category. CEO Dan Ruch said the company, which raised $9 million in a Series B round in 2016, is also focusing on product development.
Ruch also made a prediction for the long term: He expects Concur’s acquisition of metasearch site Hipmunk in 2016 to have a big impact on the corporate travel landscape, calling the deal a potential “game changer for travel management.”
“On the surface it’s an odd fit,” he said. “But it makes a lot of sense if you consider this as part of a new focus on making corporate travel more employee-centric.”
As the corporate travel division of Expedia Inc., Egencia feels the pressure to move fast “to keep pace with expectations set by Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Facebook,” Greyber said.
“We have to be nimble with data, not tied to old assumptions,” he said. “We need the courage to be wrong a thousand times, to be right one hundred times.”
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Photo credit: Corporate travel executives say they hope 2017 will offer more stability than last year. In this photo, travelers are shown at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Rob Annis / Flickr