5 Business Travel Trends Making Their Mark in 2017

The new year is underway, and that means businesspeople are starting to plan the trips they’ll take in 2017. At first glance, this travel will seem routine—business travelers will book flights, pack their bags, chart their itineraries, and board their planes for destinations near and far.

In reality, business travelers in 2017 will operate differently than they have in years past. That’s because new and emerging trends are changing the way businesspeople travel. And that’s impacting not only the experiences of businesspeople, but also the travel industry as a whole. Here are five trends that will shape business travel in 2017. 

More businesspeople are heading overseas.

International boundaries are increasingly blurred. That means more and more businesses are establishing themselves in global markets. And that means business travelers are more frequently traveling overseas in order to cultivate business relationships and keep an eye on international operations.

This increase in international travel comes at a significant cost to businesses. So at the same time that business travelers are heading overseas, companies are scrutinizing expense reports more closely in an effort to cut down on travel costs while maintaining global operations.

“Bleisure” trips continue to grow.

Over the course of 2016, “bleisure” (aka “bizcations”) became a buzzword among those who analyze business travel trends. In 2017, the trend is only expected to grow.

The phrase refers to the growing overlap between leisure and business travel. In 2016, nearly 50 percent of business travelers tacked on extra days to their business trips so they could explore their destination from a traveler’s perspective. In 2017, that number is expected to rise to 75 percent. Meanwhile, businesses that allow these opportunities are winning increased favor among potential employees.

The sharing economy is changing the business travel industry.

Perhaps one of the most unprecedented trends on this list is business travelers’ growing use of the sharing economy. More and more business travelers are foregoing hotels in favor of alternative accommodations such as Airbnb Business and HomeAway.

“Bleisure” might have something to do with this—business travelers are seeking more personalized, authentic experiences at their destinations (even when they’re ostensibly there for business). They’re also more likely to utilize Uber and Lyft over taxis, hotel shuttles, or rental cars. These changes are leaving hotels that traditionally catered to business travelers scrambling to market themselves to different types of clientele.

The use of “smart” luggage is on the rise.

After decades of relative stability, the suitcase market is being disrupted by the “smart” luggage niche. An increasing number of business travelers are utilizing these products, which boast a number of tech advancements that make business travel easier. These features range from built-in digital scales that help travelers avoid getting slapped with overweight-luggage fees to mobile location tracking, built-in USB chargers, and integrated smartphone apps that provide business travelers with up-to-date weather, traffic, and TSA wait time reports.

Mobile continues to dominate.

This trend certainly didn’t start in 2017, and it won’t end this year either. But it remains an incontrovertible fact that mobile tech is transforming the business travel industry.

Business travelers are conducting more aspects of their trips on mobile devices, from booking flights and accommodations to tracking expenses. A whopping 75 percent of business travelers maintain that internet connectivity is crucial to their productivity on the road. (A quarter of business travelers say unreliable Wi-Fi is more aggravating than delayed flights and other hassles of travel.) The demand for Wi-Fi means hotels that fail to provide free internet connectivity will find it nearly impossible to attract modern business travelers.

What’s interesting about these trends is they’re each driven by a different phenomenon. Globalization, technological advancements, a new sharing economy, wanderlust—they’re all combining to change the way businesspeople travel in 2017.