The future of business travel in Europe: 10 predictions for 2023

November 03, 2022

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Business person on a business trip

Business travel is going through a period of unprecedented change. A pandemic almost brought the industry to a halt, there are signs of a global recession on the way, and climate change is a growing concern.

But with video-call fatigue setting in, there’s a strong desire for face-to-face meetings. And this leaves anyone managing travel balancing employee safety, cost minimisation, and sustainability targets — which makes planning future business trips a serious challenge.

In this article, you’ll get the foresight of the Bolt Business team to help you make the best travel decisions for your company in 2023. 

10 business travel trends: what to expect in 2023

After a global pandemic brought massive disruption to the travel industry, it’s time to bring stability to your team’s travel. This means arranging cost-effective, sustainable, and safe travel that allows employees to adjust their trips at a moment’s notice. 

To help prepare your team’s future travel plans, here are 10 predictions our Bolt Business experts have made for 2023:

  1. The days of high spending will come to an end;
  2. We’ll see intense periods of travel for face-to-face meetings;
  3. Travellers will get the flexibility they need;
  4. There’ll be a focus on travel policies;
  5. Sustainable travel will become a priority;
  6. Micromobility will have its day;
  7. We’ll see an erosion of the traditional fleet model;
  8. Employers will use travel perks to boost retention;
  9. There’ll be a focus on improving airport transfers;
  10. Companies will take a safety-first approach.

1. The days of high spending will come to an end

Ahead of an economic slowdown, companies are looking much closer at their outgoings. As part of this, spending on business travel will be kept to a minimum. 

Travelling is accepted in many professions, but companies must ensure employees never spend more than a certain amount. This makes visibility and control essential and gives security to the company.

“In the past, business travellers could spend as much as they pleased and come back to the office with a bunch of receipts, not realising how much they’d spent. But those days of nasty surprises are over.”

Nick Powell, VP of Bolt Business

2. We’ll see intense periods of travel for face-to-face meetings

Remote work during the pandemic accelerated the use of video call platforms, proving that many businesses can operate online. But for all of their benefits, video calls can only help to build relationships to a certain point, and the novelty’s wearing off.

“Fatigue from video calls is real,” says Nick Powell, “and this will lead to an increase in face-to-face meetings, especially with external parties.” And to make those trips cost-effective, workers will arrange several meetings when they travel, rather than leaving the office for a single meeting.

Video calls still have their place but will be used to complement in-person meetings. 

Cassandra Albertine, Regional Sales Manager, says, “the best relationships are formed face-to-face. If anything, the pandemic has made us more aware and appreciative of the value of real-world interactions.”

“Businesses are conscious of the costs of face-to-face meetings. To manage those costs, people will travel less, but the travel period will be intense. We’ll see periods of high-intensity travel where there are meetings booked almost 9–6, Monday to Friday.”

Andrew Short, Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager

3. Travellers will get the flexibility they need

A pandemic has shown that plans can change quickly, whether it’s transport cancellations or borders closing. This makes it essential to give your team the flexibility they need when travelling. 

To keep flexibility in line with cost minimisation, build a policy that works and gives trust to your employees to do the right thing.

“Give your employees flexibility. When you’re at an airport late at night, the last thing you want is a travel policy on an app blocking what you need to do.”

Amy Hackett, Head of Sales

4. There’ll be a focus on travel policies

Cost minimisation and flexibility all come down to having a well-thought-out set of travel policies. Investing time in your travel policies is well worthwhile as it:

  • Helps control spending;
  • Puts trust in your team;
  • Makes sure there are no unexpected expenses. 

Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to travel policies, you should have several policies that suit the travel needs of different teams and individuals. That way, each traveller clearly understands the transport they can use, and your costs will always be within budget.

“Travel policies are becoming mandatory as more and more companies want to cut back on spending.” 

Gerhard Spitsak, Country Sales Manager

5. Sustainable travel will become a priority

Business travel is making a massive shift towards sustainability. Companies have been setting climate goals in recent years, and from 2023 there will be a real drive to act as target deadlines creep closer.

The first goal of companies is to offset current carbon emissions from travel — companies are keen to see reports on their carbon emissions. Travelling with Bolt Business gives admins a clear visualisation of mileage, emissions, and proof of offsetting. 

Following that is the need to change employee behaviour regarding travel — making it easier for them to choose sustainable travel options, such as micromobility and electric and hybrid cars.

“Businesses want to provide a sustainability budget for their employees, where individuals get a value per month to spend on greener travel options to get to and from the office.

The aim is to reduce the reliance on private cars but also help wider city sustainability metrics — it’s also a nice employee perk. We’ll see more initiatives where businesses give employees budgets towards micromobility and electric vehicles.” 

Andrew Short, Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager

6. Micromobility will have its day

A push towards sustainable travel means taking new approaches, which will see micromobility options (such as electric scooters and e-bikes) having their day.

Travelling for work on a scooter or bike is a fast, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly alternative to getting around a city. And from the employees’ perspective, the demand for micromobility options is increasing.

One company in Sweden is ahead of the curve on micromobility. They give their employees unlimited access to Bolt scooters to encourage environmentally-friendly commuting at a cost-effective rate within Stockholm’s city centre. 

One concern around micromobility is safety. Scooters are a new way of travelling for many people, and the Bolt Business team is here to support them as much as needed.

“We’re seeing a rise in sustainability events, where our corporate clients ask us to provide scooters to teach their employees how to use them safely. This summer [2022], we hosted over ten such events in Tallinn alone.

Gerhard Spitsak, Country Sales Manager

As part of this, look out for mobility budgets which reward employees with a monthly sum to spend on more sustainable transport options (trains, buses, electric scooters, and e-bikes) in exchange for their car or right to a company vehicle. 

Many of the priorities your business will have over the next year can be catered for by a mobility allowance: sustainability, cost minimisation, and flexibility.

Belgium is at the forefront of sustainable mobility allowances after adopting a Mobility Budget in 2019, which employees can use to finance environmentally-friendly travel alternatives to the company car. But your company doesn’t haven’t to wait for national legislation to offer employees a similar benefit.

“Expect mobility budgets to come in a bigger way across Europe — whether that’s via legislation or company driven.”

Tom Nutley, Strategic Partnerships

7. We’ll see an erosion of the traditional fleet model

Company cars have been a popular perk for many years. But a need to reduce costs has put the spotlight on these depreciating assets.

Keeping your costs to a minimum means reevaluating the current modes of transport you’re offering to your team. And when it comes to fleets, they come with a long list of expenses: rent, insurance, maintenance, parking, and fuel. 

An easy way to strip those costs is through car-sharing services, such as Bolt Drive, and we’re seeing “a definite shift towards car-sharing in the corporate world,” as Gerhard Spitsak has noticed. 

Changes to the traditional fleet model are coming, but car-sharing won’t replace fleets entirely. The employees who use company cars all the time will hold onto their cars, but those on the fringes (using a car once or twice a week) will be moved to a car-sharing model. 

“Further down the line, we could see businesses with a 50/50 model when it comes to fleet ownership — 50% owned, 50% car-sharing.”

Nick Powell, VP of Bolt Business

8. Employers will use travel perks to boost retention

Hybrid working is here to stay, but many employers want to see their team in the office at least some of the time. So, how do you make coming back to the office desirable? It’s long been accepted that commuting costs are the employee’s responsibility, but offering travel perks can boost retention and engagement

Offering travel perks to your team can see you win on two levels: employees have healthy, environmentally-friendly ways to travel, and they’re back in the office.

“Giving employees an incentive to travel to the office is a smart way to boost employee retention and engagement. Smart businesses have recognised this and are adopting travel perks to get their employees back to the office.”

Nick Powell, VP of Bolt Business

9. There’ll be a focus on improving airport transfers

Landing at an unfamiliar airport can be daunting as you consider your onward travel. 

Rather than facing unfamiliar travel options and having to exchange money on arrival, opening a mobility app is far more straightforward:

  • Pay securely in the app — no need for cash;
  • Get picked up by security-vetted drivers;
  • Enter your destination in the app without needing to explain to your driver where it is. 

Looking after your team, even when they’re not working from the office, should be your priority. And for travellers to know they can use the same method of arranging transport at home and abroad helps to relieve any anxieties.

Employers need to provide a solution where travellers know how to get to the hotel or the office when they land.

Using a service like Bolt Business shows travellers where they’re going and how long it’s going to take to get there, and you can see on the map that you’re going to the right destination. It’s a significantly more secure feeling than getting in a taxi — unsure of how long it will take or how much it will cost. And you don’t have to worry about currency.”

Amy Hackett, Head of Sales

10. Companies will take a safety-first approach

Rounding out the team’s business travel predictions for 2023 is health and safety. As an employer, the health and safety of your employees should always be priority number one. And when employees are out on the road, you should do all you can to ensure they feel safe from start to finish — physically and mentally. 

Anyone working from home during the pandemic had a chance to see what their working life would be like without a commute. Not driving to and from the office and sitting in traffic proved great for people’s all-round health as they:

  • Had less stress;
  • Could spend more time with family;
  • Could make the most of morning productivity levels.

Now more than ever, the hours spent driving to and from work in slow-moving traffic is seen as lost time. People want as much of this time back to be productive.

“I used to commute for 3 hours a day — 1.5 hours there, 1.5 hours back. That was dead time. I couldn’t do anything, and it made me miserable. After the pandemic, nobody wants to go back to being miserable.”

Nick Powell, VP of Bolt Business

Managing travel amid global uncertainties

All signs indicate a rebound in business travel over the coming 12 months. But anyone managing business travel still has plenty to consider when booking trips — costs, sustainability, and employee safety are top priorities, so businesses must:

  • Offer flexibility;
  • Cater to what your employees prefer;
  • Make it easy for your team to choose sustainable transport.

To prepare your company’s future travel plans, see what Bolt Business can offer by reading Everything you need to know about Bolt Business

Thanks to Amy Hackett, Andrew Short, Cassandra Albertine, Gerhard Spitsak, Nick Powell, and Tom Nutley from the Bolt Business team for sharing their insights. 

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