Business or pleasure? Corporate travel should be both

After reading my colleague Madanjit’s recent post about the emotive appeal of travel, I got to thinking: are we underselling corporate travel’s potential for innovation? To me, corporate travel occupies a uniquely exciting position at the juncture of cutting-edge technology and customer experience. Yet when we think digital innovation, travel tends to fall far behind higher-profile industries like finance or retail. What’s going on?

Perhaps we need to shift how people think of corporate travel – not just a numbers game, but also a highly personal experience. Madanjit points out that we travel so much these days that this experience risks becoming commoditised, even mundane. But that also means corporate travel impacts far more people, far more often, than ever before. It’s a space where innovation can have impact on productivity, efficiency, and mental state at a grand scale – as well as being highly relatable to most of us.

The corporate travel sector might do well to take a leaf out of HR’s book – applying the allure of travelling for work, which often attracts new graduates to a role, to how it frames the opportunities for innovation within the sector. When we draw attention to corporate travel innovations, from Airbnb to apps like Concur’s, we could do more to emphasise the impact on passengers’ experience and wellbeing rather than simply dollars or time saved for businesses. A good framework for this is the concept of Traveller Friction by Scott Gillespie. We could also shine more light on the impact of past innovations in the travel space that we now take for granted: it wasn’t so long ago, for example, that online bookings and check-ins were a relative novelty!

Madanjit’s right in saying that we need to collectively focus on improving the emotional experience of travel if we’re to drive innovation in our sector. Before we do so, however, we’d do well to highlight the emotions that corporate travel does elicit in us when we go abroad for work – and use that emotional common-ground as a clarion call to make the experience even better.

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