The future of business travel in South Africa: 7 predictions for 2023

November 14, 2022

Business person travelling for work

Business travel in South Africa is going through a period of unprecedented change. There are signs of a global recession on the way and the industry is recovering from a global pandemic.

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

Seven business travel trends: what companies in South Africa can expect in 2023

After a global pandemic brought massive disruption to business trips, it’s time to bring stability to your team’s travel — through cost-effective, sustainable, and safe transport.

To help prepare your team’s future travel plans, here are seven trends our Bolt Business experts in South Africa expect to see in 2023:

  1. The days of high spending will come to an end;
  2. Lift clubs, carpools, and ride-hailing will thrive;
  3. There’ll be a focus on travel policies;
  4. Employers will focus on removing admin hassles;
  5. Sustainable travel will be made a priority;
  6. There’ll be an erosion of the traditional fleet model;
  7. 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 means visibility and control are essential priorities for businesses.

“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, Vice President of Bolt Business

2. Lift clubs, carpooling, and ride-hailing will thrive

Petrol prices in South Africa are unpredictable and can increase at short notice. This is one reason companies will look for alternatives to driving, such as lift clubs, carpooling, and ride-hailing.

Ride-hailing, especially, has undergone significant growth since the pandemic. The number of weekly trips taken with Bolt in South Africa has risen by 89% between 2021 and 2022.

“Because of the unreliability of traditional taxis, people have started using ride-hailing a lot more because it’s on-demand — it’s Netflix for travel. And most people aren’t using it for social use; they’re going to work.”

Alexander Skea, Senior Sales Development Manager

Look out for ride-hailing as an opt-in employee benefit

Providing members of your team with a ride-hailing budget gives them peace of mind that they can get reliable and comfortable transport without relying on public transport. And taking this step can boost employee retention, motivation, and overall job satisfaction.

“As an employee, I could run out of money halfway through the month and not be able to get to work. Or be forced to get onto an overcrowded bus because I don’t have those funds at hand. Whereas, if a transport allowance is allocated, I know that I’ve always got this amount that I can use to travel for work.”

Cyndi Levendale, Country Sales Manager

3. There’ll be a focus on travel policies

As company outgoings increase, it’s essential to have a robust set of travel policies in place. Taking this step will help control spending, give your team a clear understanding of how much they can spend, and ensure 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 when they can travel, where they can travel to, and the transport they can use.

“Around 90% of the companies using Bolt Business in Africa have well-planned travel policies. Companies concerned about how employees use expenses can limit spending and geo-fence trips to and from specific locations and certain times and days. Having that level of control is proving to be a game changer for companies.”

Nick Powell, VP of Bolt Business

Time to move away from travel allowances

Currently, many employers give employees a travel allowance to cover fuel costs. But that travel allowance isn’t necessarily being spent for work purposes. Using Bolt Business takes each person from A to B, specifically for business.

4. Employers will focus on removing admin hassles

After returning from a business trip, employees lose valuable time filling out expense reports. Employers will aim to remove this time-consuming task in 2023, which can be done with Bolt Business, where a digital expense report is provided after each trip.

“With Bolt Business, whether you have an internal or external auditor, you can send them a spreadsheet which contains an invoice for each ride. You don’t have to be taking slips in and refunding people. It makes everything much easier.”

Alexander Skea, Senior Sales Development Manager

5. Sustainable travel will be made 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 genuine drive to act as target deadlines creep closer.

The first goal is to offset current carbon emissions from travel — one reason why companies are keen to see reports on their carbon emissions. The next step is changing employee travel behaviour. As an employer, this means making it easier for employees to travel sustainably, using electric and hybrid cars.

6. There’ll be 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. And companies are beginning to realise that a simple way to remove this outgoing is through ride-hailing. 

“The use of fleets is declining as ride-hailing increases. When you use your own vehicle, you must consider insurance, finance, and wear and tear,” explains Alexander Skea, Senior Sales Development Manager, “but with ride-hailing, you don’t have the stress and extra headache of having to deal with these problems — it’s really convenient.”

More ride-hailing drivers mean less need for a company fleet

As more business travellers turn to services such as Bolt Business, the number of available drivers is rising too. There are over 100,000 active drivers using Bolt in South Africa, meaning your team can get picked up in minutes.

“It’s staggering how many drivers are signing up to drive with Bolt in South Africa.”

Alexander Skea, Senior Sales Development Manager

7. 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. 

Travelling with Bolt Business can help to give your team peace of mind when they travel for work. Bolt’s in-app safety features include the following:

  • A Share my ETA function which lets you share real-time tracking of your journey with family, friends, or colleagues;
  • An emergency assist button to alert first responders to an incident;
  • Dedicated customer support teams with fast turnaround times.

There’s also a ‘Women Only’ category, which lets female business travellers request rides from female drivers. 

Managing travel amid global uncertainties

All signs indicate a strong 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 all top priorities. And to prepare your company’s future travel plans, you should:

  • Prioritise the health and safety of all travellers;
  • Put travel policies in place to control spending;
  • Incentivise lift clubs, carpooling, and ride-hailing amongst your team.

Taking these steps will help to relieve some of the congestion on South Africa’s roads — this is something Cyndi Levendale hopes to see: “By the end of 2023, there will be fewer cars on the road. People will opt out of using their cars because there are better options out there.”

To reduce your team’s dependency on cars, see what Bolt Business has to offer by reading Everything you need to know about Bolt Business

Thanks to Alexander Skea, Cyndi Levendale, and Nick Powell from the Bolt Business team for sharing their insights. 


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