Some tech companies, like lodging marketplace Airbnb and ride-sharing app Uber, have changed how we travel. Airports and travel planners are already using advanced technologies, like big data and AI. But new advances in old technology, like mobile devices and WiFi, are causing the biggest changes in business travel — and may even redefine what a business trip means.
AI Security and the Airports of the Future
The next time you fly, artificial intelligence might greet you at check-in.
AI is disrupting nearly every field that works with tech, and airlines are no exception. The TSA is using new computer tomography scanners, which use AI to better detect threats (and, if all goes well, make moving through security much quicker). Across the Atlantic, the British government invested £1.8 million into the development of new AI systems that would be used in Britain's busiest airports.
Some airports also plan to use AI to scan customers faces in order to speed up the check-in and security process. At Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport, US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) teamed up with Delta to deploy face-recognition technology in the airport. It isn't usable yet, but facial scanning is planned to allow customers to check-in, drop baggage, and serve as ID at the TSA checkpoint. The technology may feel invasive to some, but that hasn't slowed down plans for the roll-out of the new technology — after Atlanta, Delta hopes to bring the technology to Detroit.
But AI advancements in the airport seem to begin and end with security. The newest and most luxurious airports, like Changi Airport Singapore, are dense with amenities like IMAX movie theaters and free WiFi. Smart technology and AI, however, don't seem to be particularly involved.
Less flashy (but still hi-tech) advancements like in-flight WiFi and AI-assisted travel planning are more likely to have a bigger impact on your trip outside of security.
Always-Online Employees and Business Leisure Travel
And preparing for an extended business trip takes extra planning.
Most flights, especially first-class flights, now offer some kind of internet connectivity while in the air. It is possible to be connected for every second of your trip — from home to destination and back home again. And there are a variety of gadgets and apps that enable employees to keep working on the move, like mobile power banks, routers, and even mobile printers and scanners.
Bleisure (or business leisure) travel — business trips with dedicated time for leisure — is also becoming more common. It is not clear what's driving the change. The trend is seen across all age groups and in major cities across the world. It could be Americans want both more vacation and to take less time off work, or that new technology and gadgets make it easier than ever before to mix business and pleasure.
Tailor-Fit Travel Planning
New developments in tech mean that customers expect personalized experiences — and this is true in corporate travel planning, too. In travel planning, huge amounts of data (referred to as big data) collected at every stage of the process — from booking to the airport to the Airbnb — will allow travel companies to store preferences for both individual travelers and businesses and use that information to create tailored travel experiences.
Business travel agencies will also need to adjust to other changes in customers preference. For example, extended business trips need special planning. And the average length of a business trip is getting longer. Business travel agencies will also need to adapt to a workforce that spends more and more time on the move. 79% of travelers used their mobile phone to complete a booking in 2017. In the future, mobile-friendly apps and webpages will likely go from common courtesy to necessary for success.
How Technology Will Change Business Travel
Technology is expected to change travel mostly by making it more convenient. In the future, travelers on business trips will spend less time going through security and more time collaborating with coworkers. Travel plans will be custom-tailored for both individual travelers and the company they work for. And all of these changes could accelerate as WiFi become even more ubiquitous and technology like 5G radically increases mobile connection speeds.
If the idea of being always connected stresses you out, don't worry — chances are even on a business trip you'll get time to relax.