For business travelers, 2019 especially looks like a sign of high water.
Perhaps we are all expecting to face the age of vaccinations, because COVID-19 cases are much higher. Companies want to maintain vendor relationships, and keep up with new markets. It’s fair to say that we all suffer from Zoom fatigue, and there’s nothing better than a face-to-face, business-to-business meeting, even if the masks are about the deal.
But getting there – well, that’s a story.
Airlines and hotels no longer have the staff they used to have (labor shortages hit everyone). Demand is rising and so are prices. COVID-19 surges are constantly running, employees are sick, and travel plans need to be, above all, flexible.
Booking and rebooking are the norm.
Gonca Latif-Schmitt, head of TTS Commercial Cards at Citi, told Karen Webster that we are far from 2019, and much has changed, irreversibly, in business travel, while many changes are on the way. . Especially when it comes to paying for everything.
In large reengagement, for business travel, commercial cards, digitally enabled and flexible, can be a key staple in cost management.
“Everyone’s routine is broken,” he said. But budgets are widening, and employees are more willing to hit the road. Reengagement can be eased a bit through better and more transparent corporate card issuance and use.
“The payment experience is more closely related to the travel experience,” he said.
The conversation came against a backdrop where, before the pandemic, data projected that global business travel costs would reach $ 1.7 trillion by 2022.
“These observers are not experts on pandemics, of course,” says Latif-Schmitt, “but they understand that it takes time for travelers to rebuild trust.”
Flash forward so far, and it looks like 2022 will show a marked rebound – and we’ll get to $ 1.5 trillion in 2025, not all that far from the mark from pre-pandemic predictions.
We lost a few years, that is. But as we work toward the (possible) 2025 spending tally, the business trip itself will look different.
And just as travel looks different, so does the cost – paying for everything. Before the pandemic, companies used apps or online portals after travel. Once employees are home, there they log in to submit expense reports and upload documents.
What Will Change
Latif-Schmitt said that instead of individual trips made by employees who go to the farm to meet clients face to face there are many conferences, panels and showcases.
“We’ll see little travel activity but at higher price points,” to help that raise $ 1.5 trillion in the next few years.
We face a pivot from the days when employees would receive a corporate card because they were constantly traveling. In the midst of the huge digital shift, however, the ability to take advantage of truly global mobile capabilities could be a game changer. Tapping on apps can speed up requests for one-time use virtual cards that can be used on travel.
“You are invited to log into an app and get a virtual card provided in a mobile wallet, and use the corporate card, instead of logging expenses on a personal card and then apply for (and expect) compensation. “
Now, with all the fluidity needed as trips suddenly change, and prices suddenly change, too, more and more travelers want everything available, digitally, at their fingertips (and via mobile device). It’s important that travel cards, and travel card programs, are easy to navigate, Latif-Schmitt said, because for most of these employees, it’s probably the first time they’ve traveled for a particular organization.
There are friction points to be resolved using virtual commercial cards, he said – and he points out that over the past few years Citi has been ramping up spending on digital capabilities. Easier to use digital cards make remembering and accessing PINs more intuitive to ensure transactions are completed. It also has the ability to set transaction limits.
In addition, tech-enabled travel cards make it easier to report lost or stolen cards, and there are new ones that are reissued. Citi, he said, has an app available to all 66 of the local money markets, offering a foundation for additional layers of functionality. The change was announced through conversations with the bank’s consumer arm, and with a wide range of UX designers. That’s an anomaly, he says – that there is a commercial outlet that relies heavily on UX experience for B2B initiatives.
“With this new architecture, if you’re looking for your PIN, checking your statement, paying for things … the experience is the same wherever you are in the world, and it’s a consumer-like experience.”
The emergence and adoption of digitally issued travel cards will help increase commercial bookings.
“The ability to pull up your app, find your PIN and be able to transact in that moment will only help reduce any stress while you’re back together on a business trip,” he says.