8 Trends That Will Continue to Shape Business Travel and Spend Management in 2019 and Beyond

With 25 years of travel, expense and invoice software innovation under our belts, we’ve had a front row seat to decades of industry trends and technology advancements. Looking ahead, the pace of innovation will only continue to accelerate, fuelled by smarter technology, evolving employee expectations, and an increasingly global economy.

As 2019 trundles on, here’s what you can expect to come for the remainder of the year, and beyond:


1. The risks female travellers face will rise to the top of the corporate agenda

Women make up more than 40% of all business travellers and that number is growing. Travel professionals agree that female business travellers face unique risks while travelling compared to their male counterparts, but what are they going to do about it?  A recent GBTA report found that only 18% of corporate travel safety policies specifically address female safety needs. Because safety threats impact the well-being and productivity of female travellers, companies will need to place more serious emphasis on ensuring their corporate travel policies address priority female concerns such as sexual harassment, assault, and theft. At the same time, women will take the initiative to demand companies take care of them and this will become a key consideration for talent retention. – Kim Albrecht, CMO, SAP Concur


2. Data privacy will fundamentally change product engineering

In 2018, GDPR fundamentally changed how global technology companies work with user data. In 2019 and beyond, GDPR is now table stakes. Product engineers and developers are looking at how they can deliver both ultimate protection and ultimate personalisation. Approaching privacy as a sliding scale vs. a simple model of opt-in or opt-out, opens the door to more possibilities for transparent data collection and machine learning. Concepts such as data washing and a privacy dial can allow users and/or their companies to increase or decrease the type of information gathered by filtering different levels of personally identifiable information. John Dietz, VP, Concur Labs


3. Shifting immigration and tax policies create new pressures on multi-national companies

In 2019, there will be a growing focus on business travellers as a source of tax revenue, which has created new challenges for companies that send employees to conduct business across state and/or international borders. National and local governments continue to adopt complex worker-visa and cross-border tax rules in response to global trends on the movement of people and products across borders. An employee who spends a certain number of days in a calendar year in another country or state can trigger large liabilities on both the individual and the company, and potentially prevent business from being conducted.

For example, in Singapore, tax and immigration authorities are collaborating to check if a business traveller may have triggered a tax requirement during their stay, sometimes leading to temporary detainment at the border. In addition, U.S. states such as New York and California are increasingly performing audits, to identify business travellers who have crossed thresholds that make them liable for income taxes. Companies can also face huge financial liabilities – sometimes in the tens of millions – for violating visa rules, and there are reputational risks when those penalties bubble up in the news. This year, there will be a bigger need than ever before for companies to navigate these complexities and make sure they, and their employees, remain compliant. – Mike Eberhard, President, SAP Concur


4. SMBs will gain a competitive advantage by crowdsourcing data insights, thought leadership

True to my prediction, we saw technology help level the industry playing field in 2018 for SMBs, enabling them to be more powerful than ever before. In 2019, SMBs will continue to advance thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning. Due to their size and flexibility, SMBs will use this game-changing technology to gain a competitive edge over larger companies. They’ll grow by tapping into their professional networks to learn from thought leaders as well as crowdsource data insights that once wasn’t available. SMBs also will become increasingly diverse and we’ll see a rise in women, minority and millennial ownership. Christal Bemont, SVP and GM of Global SMB, SAP Concur


5. Business travel booking is still a time-consuming process

According to prior research, almost 50% of business travellers take between 30 minutes and one hour out of the working day when completing expenses, while 18% spend between one and two hours. We believe that, in the next year, technology —such as bots and machine learning will tremendously improve employee productivity. And that’s not just for travellers, but everyone involved in the process (e.g. travellers, managers, travel arrangers etc.)  Some examples include:

  • Anticipatory searches based on calendar information
  • Pre-request approval based historical information
  • Automatic classification of business vs. leisure expense for trips involving both components (bleisure trips now constitute 10% of all business trips) – Nancy Hang, Vice President, Consumer Travel Products, SAP Concur 


6. Consumerisation of business travel leads to massive shifts in OBTs

Over the last 40 years, corporate travel has largely become synonymous with TMC administered booking programmes (aka your company’s travel agent) reliant on one of a few global distribution systems (GDS’). But as travel tools, options, and technologies continue to rapidly evolve for leisure travellers, employees increasingly expect business travel tools to follow suit. In the next year, Online Booking Tools will embrace new content sources to drive adoption, such as Lufthansa NDC Offers, Airbnb, and HRS Hotel Portal. They must also fundamentally evolve their platforms to allow travel managers to capture all bookings, regardless of where they occur, to manage compliance and ensure their travellers are safe. Doug Anderson, SVP Travel Product 


7. Machine learning goes mainstream

A recent report by McKinsey found that while few occupations are fully automatable, 60% of all occupations have at least 30% automatable activities. However, the gains delivered by increased processing power and greater access to machine learning tools by developers will extend well beyond the automation to include unique data driven insights, greater compliance and improved user experiences.  In spend management, ML models that read handwritten tips and totals on receipts will replace legacy technologies like optical character recognition giving companies the ability to analyse and audit spend at unprecedented scale and speed. With the ability to identify patterns and anomalies across millions of data records in near real-time, companies gain the insight and agility they need when improving business processes, reducing costs or deterring fraud. – Tim MacDonald, CPO, SAP Concur


8. Hotel content battles heat up

NDC airline content will continue to grab headlines, but even more attention and competitive effort will be devoted to hotel content. Historically the source of most managed travel programme leakage, travel managers, OBTs and TMCs have long struggled to consolidate compelling hotel content that will keep travellers booking in the traditional channel. In 2019 the TMC’s efforts will start to gain traction, as the likes of CWT’s RoomIt and BCD’s TripSource battle third-party content aggregators like HRS and Booking.com. As long as TMC’s efforts are transparent and unbiased, everyone (except hotel suppliers) wins. Travel managers should see lower leakage, TMCs benefit from improved supplier revenues and OBT’s generate more bookings. Hotel suppliers, unfortunately, are likely to see their distribution costs increase. – Mike Koetting, EVP of Supplier and TMC Services, SAP Concur


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