On the Road: The Evolution of Business Travel

Personal Branding

Over the past several years, the corporate ecosystem has changed drastically as a result of a slowed economy and increased technological advancement. One aspect of business that has been impacted by this shift is travel. Due to constrained budgets, and availability to video conferencing, the need for employees to constantly be on the road has seemingly dwindled. Sure, the days of 5-star hotels and thousand-dollar client dinners are behind us, but that doesn’t mean that corporate travel is gone.

Despite the rise in technology, people still run the world of business. People buy from people, and make decisions based on their relationships with others. This requires many professionals to still travel frequently, spending time with clients and colleagues in different locations around the world. But it’s no longer the same as it once was. Let’s examine how business travel has changed and what it means for today’s corporations.

In the past, businesspeople, especially sales people, would travel frequently, often spending more nights in a hotel than in their own home. Because of big revenues in the 90’s, per diems, client entertainment, and hotel limits were very loose, meaning that corporate travelers could live lavishly, and expense a lot to their company credit cards. Conference season was a series of adult parties, with thousands of business folks converging in exotic locations to “learn” from one another during the day and to party at night. Truly, times were pretty good for the corporate traveler.  “In the late ‘90’s, you’d stay where you want, spend as much money as you want, didn’t matter,” says technology consultant Perry Sellers.  Others, such as Brian Egger, don’t remember travel as fondly. “Packing for a business trip in the early-90’s involved a few extra checklist items: a cellphone (the old bulky version); a pager (a must in the days before phone texting); and a [Palm Pilot].”

As mentioned, with the recent recession and economic downshift in discretionary budget for many companies, travel has changed. Organizations have adopted strict travel codes, with monetary limitations on food, hotels, and airfare. Corporate travelers are feeling the pressure too, having their every expense heavily scrutinized. In fact, according to a recent survey by Orbitz for Business, 70% of corporate travelers feel obligated to save their company money while on the road. Despite these restrictions, technology affords today’s travelers the benefit of convenience. Travel organizations are able to better understand the wants and needs of their corporate customers, and provide services to make their travel more enjoyable. For example, National Car Rental has introduced the Emerald Club, an exclusive program that gives travelers convenient benefits such as faster rentals and returns, a larger selection, and alerts for important travel information. Business travelers who are frequent renters can achieve even higher status, making their trips far more efficient.

Bill Connolly is a Content Marketing Manager for a full-service digital advertising agency in New York. He is a Millennial, and travels frequently to attend conferences, meetings, and to give presentations. “Obviously, I wasn’t traveling for work 15 years ago, so my frame of reference is rather limited,” he says. “When I’m on the road, I know what my limitations are, and in general, those limits are reasonable. If I ever want to extend beyond the standard expense rules to do something fun, I have no problem paying out of pocket for it. The way I look at it, I got to travel to this location for free, so I might as well enjoy it while I’m here.”

Connolly’s mentality is one that is more appropriate for up-and-coming talent, who still enjoy the novelty of traveling and has limited responsibility at home to get in the way.  “I enjoy traveling because it immerses me in different locations, with people of unique perspectives I can learn from. I believe that it makes me a more well-rounded and useful employee, and it certainly helps me to network with other like-minded individuals as well.”

It appears that while corporate travel has changed, it has not and is not going away. As mentioned, business is still conducted by people. It’s important that people, especially in a global economy, can connect with each other through technology as well as in person. Successful organizations understand this idea. Perhaps employees will have to learn how to travel on an actual budget, but with the right mindset, they can still accomplish a tremendous amount.

How has your corporate travel changed over the years? Please comment and share, we’d love to hear your thoughts! By commenting on this post you are eligible to win a business travel prize pack (valued at approximately $400).

For transparency, this is a sponsored post and was co-created with National Car Rental.