How to Navigate Business Travel’s Shifting Patterns in 2023

Business travel volumes have returned to pre-pandemic levels, but much has changed. Here are some important factors travel managers should keep in mind now.

How much is business travel back? Consider this: Almost half of business travelers said they expected to take at least six business trips in the next 12 months, compared to just 32% who traveled at least six times in the past year.

The data comes from an annual survey conducted by Skift and Navan (formerly TripActions) that forms the basis of the report, The State of Corporate Travel & Expense 2023. And this year’s survey responses—from 1,100 business travelers as well as 700 corporate travel and finance managers—offer key insights that can help companies plan for 2023.

Of course, while travel volumes are returning to pre-pandemic levels, a lot has changed. Below are some key business travel trends from the report; you can get the big picture by downloading the full report from Skift and Navan, The State of Corporate Travel & Expense 2023.

Enthusiasm for In-Person Connections Is Up

One highlight from the Skift report: 84% of business travelers agree that traveling is important for driving their company’s growth. It’s an important statistic, though perhaps not entirely surprising; after all, for employees grounded during the pandemic, the power of in-person connections has become especially clear.

Even though employees may not be stuck at home anymore, many are still working from home—and will be for the foreseeable future. As stated in the Skift report, “The continuing stabilization and adoption of remote and hybrid work solutions may be adding to enthusiasm for in-person connections as an antidote to the constant cycle of virtual meetings.”

And while remote work comes with benefits—people tend to have a better work/life balance and are often more productive—it makes the value of in-person connections more critical than ever.

It’s why more than half of business travelers (61%) and managers (56%) surveyed said they expect travel to increase this year to make up for a lack of daily, in-person interaction.

Get more insights into the sentiment around business travel: Download the Skift + Navan report, The State of Corporate Travel and Expense 2023.

Offsite Team Meetings Have Become Essential

Traveling employees aren’t just traveling to meet clients and attend events, of course—they’re using travel opportunities to bond with colleagues. And more and more, that includes offsite meetings.

An article in The Wall Street Journal showcased multiple examples of how companies that have adopted hybrid work models—as well as fully remote teams—are increasingly leveraging regular or periodic offsite events to “strengthen company culture and foster connections among colleagues.”

And the survey results prove that team travel has indeed become a trend.

In last year’s survey, 63% of business travelers were “strongly” or “somewhat” excited about scheduling and attending regular offsite gatherings to stay connected with colleagues during the pandemic.

But as this year’s report details, “Road warriors are even more enthused now, with those either strongly or somewhat agreeing that they are ‘excited’ for such gatherings increasing by over 6 percentage points. Their intent to participate is also much stronger, with over 73% indicating plans to attend an offsite gathering in 2022, up from nearly 65% in 2021.”

What are business travelers’ biggest concerns these days? Download the Skift + Navan report, The State of Corporate Travel and Expense 2023.

Bleisure Travel Is the New Leisure Travel

The post-pandemic employment crunch spurred employers to take a hard look at employee benefits that could help them attract and retain talent. And one benefit has become increasingly important: encouraging employees to add some personal time off before or after work trips.

In fact, more than half of all survey respondents—54% of travelers and 51% of managers—strongly or somewhat agree on the importance of blended, or bleisure, travel.

And some employers aren’t stopping at encouragement: 34% of managers said they will reimburse employees for some of the costs of their personal travel. However, perhaps the message isn’t getting through: Just 12% of travelers said their companies will offer reimbursements for personal travel.

Still, it’s a benefit that an increasingly wider range of employees can take advantage of. That’s because employees who traditionally didn’t travel very often—like engineers and product teams—are on the road more often, according to Navan data.

Read more about the shifting patterns in business travel and expense: Download the Skift + Navan report, The State of Corporate Travel and Expense 2023.

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