As a new year kicks off, it’s a great time to think about what lies ahead and the progress that has been made in the travel industry. Here we outline 5 things to look for in 2017 as you think about your travel program for your business.
1 – If you haven’t heard the term ‘Bleisure’ yet, you probably will in 2017.
Mixing Business with Leisure travel has coined the term ‘Bleisure’ which is a simple concept and an employee benefit which many companies are beginning to introduce. Allowing an employee to enjoy the destination beyond the boardroom once the work is done is a benefit which employees enjoy, especially Millennials. Some airlines have also recently introduced business-class companion fares to several destinations in Europe. This allows the opportunity for partners to tag along to that next Paris conference and explore the Louvre while the work gets done.
Additionally, day tours are growing in popularity – Urban Adventures offers in-depth experiences in many cities throughout the globe, allowing you to explore a city from a different perspective. AirBnB has also entered this space, having launched ‘Experiences’ in late 2016 which offer an array of local experiences such as samurai sword lessons in Japan, truffle foraging in France, surfing in Australia and more.
2 – Points programs will likely not get any more generous.
It seems that most airline programs are making it more difficult to rack up the points like the good old days! On some lower tiers for some programs, lounge access will be removed, especially now that lounges are becoming overcrowded. Securing your status early will become crucial so that you can enjoy the benefits granted to the very frequent travellers.
Additionally, Air Canada is now offering customers the chance to bid on an upgrade for their next trip. It’s a fairly simple process where you research whether your flight is eligible for the bidding process, then you submit your offer anytime up until 96 hours before your flight. Once your bid has been submitted, simply submit payment details and then you will receive confirmation around 72 hours before your flight. As soon as your offer is accepted you’ll be charged and all sales are final. This could be a great opportunity to nab a cheaper business class flight but it could also mean there are less seats available if you wanted to use your Altitude status or e-upgrades to get that seat up front.
3 – Improving the checked baggage experience
It’s rare that people actually choose to check baggage these days, especially on a business trip. Perhaps to improve the dishevelled perception of checking a bag, airlines have been working to refine the whole checked-bag experience and it’s likely to continue in 2017. Delta Air Lines is currently leading the pack when it comes to tracking bags that have been checked. Thanks to some heavy financial investment in radio-frequency identification (RFID), the airline is using embedded bag-tags to track your bags in real time. With a $50 million USD investment into the technology, they have reported accuracy rates of 99.9% when it comes to tracking. Other airlines such as Lufthansa, Air France and KLM have suggested they are looking at the technology as well.
4 – Airline and Aircraft innovation will reach new heights
British Airways has developed technology that they are referring to as a ‘digital pill’ with the capacity to monitor your heart rate, temperature, acidity levels and even your sleep phase. This innovation will actually measure how you are feeling by examining how your body is reacting throughout your flight.
The idea is that an ingestible sensor will send the biometrics wirelessly to airline staff who would then take that information to improve the experience onboard for that passenger. Theoretically, if you are feeling cold, a blanket would be delivered to you before you even have to ask!
Additionally, Airbus is raising the stakes with their latest aircraft release – the A350XWB. Only 50 Airbus A350XWB have been delivered to airlines around the world but more are due to arrive in 2017. This new aircraft offers an Extra Wide Body (that is what the ‘XWB’ stands for) and is made primarily of carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer which makes the aircraft lighter and more efficient on fuel. The atmosphere onboard promises to be improved with greater overhead storage, 20% more humidity, wider windows and much less noise of engines humming.
5 – Adding the human element
Annual industry trend reports, including this one, tend to highlight technical advancements. In fact, the travel industry has become synonymous with technological innovation. While such advancements continue at an astonishing rate, there is a shared and growing sentiment that the human connection is eroding. Call it a backlash, a necessity or a natural transition in the face of an increasingly automated world, 2017 will see an emphasis placed on human contact in travel transactions.
Artificial Intelligence is set to make leaps in the coming years, but a robot, connecting to a traveller pleading an emotional case, remains in the realm of science fiction. As we become more entrenched in technology, and the ease that it provides, more disgruntled stories about travellers unable to reach airline officials also surface.
So what does this mean in the foreseeable future? A focus on building an individual, highly satisfying travel experience. We’ll see a shift away from mechanization, towards customization. While technology can help procure data to offer features based on a personal preferences, one-on-one communication with a specialized representative remains an unparalleled way of ensuring an unforgettable trip. Thanks to the evolution of a shared economy and technological leaps, the sentient aspect is also paramount. High-tech services, like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb, are simultaneously enhancing the human touch, connecting travellers to locals and local experiences.