Here at JTB USA Business Travel, we’re pretty optimistic about the future of the travel industry and it’s not just because we have a lot of positive changes planned for 2017. It’s because businesses forecast growth in 2017 and more travelers are choosing to book travel with Travel Management Companies (TMCs). Travel Weekly’s Consumer Trends report noted that satisfaction with booking with travel agents has improved from 49% either somewhat or extremely satisfied in 2012 to 66% in 2016.
When looking forward, it also helps to look back. In 2016, we saw multiple acts of terrorism, a tragic outbreak of the Zika virus, Brexit and a game-changing U.S. election that had the rest of the world questioning alliance. All this lead to some dips in travel that were simply unavoidable.
On the positive side, 2016 saw an increase in “bleisure” travel, the melding of business and leisure trips. According to Travel Weekly’s 2016 Consumer Trends report, the percentage of leisure trips that have a business component jumped to 17% this year, compared with 11% in 2012 and 14% in 2015. “Bleisure” travel offers TMCs an opportunity to provide their business clients a hybrid service that the client can in turn use for recruiting millennials, who statistically like to travel. According to an article by Travel Age West, 34% of millennial travelers have used an agent in the past and 39% expect to use one in the next 2 years.
As for 2017, experts have forecast tempered global cost increases for corporate travel due to the uncertainty surrounding issues like Brexit, a slowing Chinese economy and low oil prices to name a few. Sharp increases in airfares will be prevented by a wildly competitive airline market and low fuel costs. According to forecasts, both hotels and ground transportation should remain flat.
Earlier we mentioned Brexit – while the full impact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU is unclear, the weak currency has definitely had an impact, making outbound travel from the UK more costly. And while we are talking about international changes, now that Cuba has re-established diplomatic relations, nearly every major U.S. airline is starting some kind of service to Cuba. Restrictions still apply and progress is slow, but this may affect schedules and pricing to other destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.
Other changes that experts forecast will have an impact on travel in 2017:
- Hotels – Increasing specialization of hotels and rental properties means agents have more ways than ever to provide clients with customized options so they get just what they’re looking for.
- Technology – Even when they buy from a travel agent, passengers will look to apps to do everything from managing reservations to planning activities and enjoying entertainment in flight.
- Airline Status – Travelers who seek the lowest fares will also get fewer miles and fewer opportunities for elite status.
- Flight Upgrades – Many airlines are adding seats by replacing first-class cabins with business-class cabins. This could work in the passengers’ favor, making it possible to provide more upgrades.
As for those changes JTB USA Business Travel has in store for 2017, we are looking to add more services and solutions for our clients – both for companies and for travelers. Here is a high level preview of what’s in the works:
- Access to over 1 million hotels through our ultimate hotel program
- Price monitoring of hotels for lower rates
- Real-Time Traveler Messaging
- The Complete Duty of Care Solution
So, like the article title says, the future looks bright for travel in 2017!