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Technology advances business travel

For years, analysts have predicted that technology would replace the need for business travel. But, contrary to expectations, the two are growing together

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A traveller using her smartphone. Technology is having a transformative effect on business travel
A traveller using her smartphone. Technology is having a transformative effect on business travel 

Thanks to the rise of digital technology, our world has fundamentally changed over the past 20 years. It has never been easier for us to connect with one another: we can freely chat to people on the other side of the world or send large documents around the globe in seconds. The demand for business travel is at its very lowest – and yet, something strange has been happening.

This technological revolution has coincided with continued growth in global business travel. Despite having access to these amazing communicative tools, we are more likely than ever to travel abroad on business. Analysis by the Global Business Travel Association shows that the level of business travel has consistently risen over the past five years, with a predicted growth in 2015 of between 6.9 and 8.6 percent.

So what’s going on? At a time when the need for us to travel is lower than ever, why are we travelling more?

Instead of technology replacing business travel, it has simply made it smarter

New breed
Instead of technology replacing business travel, as many analysts had predicted, it has simply made it smarter. It has given rise to a new breed of business traveller: equipped with a smartphone or tablet device, we now have unlimited access to the digital tools that are transforming the nature of business travel. The old idea of being ‘out of office’ has been turned on its head.

Now, the ‘smart traveller’ takes the workplace with them. Using a raft of powerful apps and communication tools, they can stay connected to the office from wherever they are in the world – whether that may be an airport lounge, a hotel room or a bustling city centre.

Rewind to 1995
Back in the mid 1990s, a business trip was something that would require weeks of preparation and planning. Just 0.4 percent of the world’s population was using the internet and most companies relied on travel agencies to arrange business trips – but this time-consuming and costly process meant that trips would need to be arranged months in advance with little room for travel plans to be adapted or changed last minute.

Compare this to the way that today’s smart travellers operate, and it’s clear to see that business travel is running in radically different circles – what used to take teams of people weeks to arrange can now be done by an individual with a computer, a credit card and 15 minutes to spare.

Mobile working
One of the headaches that smart travel has helped to relieve is the arduous process of recording travelling expenses. What used to be an agonising task – a bundle of unfathomable receipts that would need to be sifted through upon the traveller’s return to the office – has become practically painless as a result of mobile working.

The expenses management tool webexpenses is climbing to the top of the virtual itinerary for any smart traveller. Using the smartphone app, users are able to take a photo of any paper receipt and instantly convert it into a digital form, ready for uploading to the user’s account. With real-time currency conversion based on time and location, as well as credit card integration, travellers are able to do in seconds what used to take hours. And for those managing expense accounts, the app also allows the monitoring, approval and rejection of employee claims, preventing any expense claim backlogs from building up.

It is clear just how technology has given rise to this new generation of smart travellers – how a powerful set of tools is helping to redefine the rules of how we do business. However, what truly defines today’s smart traveller is this openness to adapt and react to whatever situations present themselves. Smart travel is a more organic and flexible approach towards work; a move away from the rigid mind-sets of the past. It’s a change that is flourishing throughout the corporate sphere, as mobile working unlocks a fresh approach to the ways in which we view the world of business.

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