Travel Priorities for Business Leaders in 2023
Unprecedented challenges have become the running theme in recent years for companies and their leaders. With lingering uncertainty as 2022 ends, 2023 will bring new challenges as a test of leaders’ abilities to do more with less. Here are my top predictions for the new year:
Leaders will need to weigh the costs and benefits of their corporate travel program in maintaining key business relationships. The pandemic taught us a lot about the value of business travel. Many companies’ programs were put on pause between 2020 and 2021 to protect business travelers’ health, safety, and well-being, with an unfortunate impact to revenue. According to SAP Concur pulse survey findings from early 2022, most U.S. finance managers (88%) said their company experienced a revenue loss in 2021 as a direct result of employees’ inability to travel at pre-pandemic levels.
It’s important that leaders keep these learnings in mind as they prepare for uncertainty in 2023. In this moment of change, they’ll have to balance saving money where it counts while positioning their company for growth when the economy stabilizes. For example, the GBTA CWT Global Business Travel Forecast 2023 report found that the cost per event attendee is expected to be around 32% higher in 2023 than in 2019. A business may choose to cut down on meetings and events or less necessary trips in the coming year to conserve travel budget for customer-facing opportunities with strong revenue potential.
2023 will test how companies maintain progress on important workplace initiatives, including technology adoption and supporting a hybrid workforce, employee experience and well-being, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and sustainability goals. Trimming here and there may be necessary, but it will be important to prioritize these efforts to ensure that progress continues and employees feel supported.
The talent issues that companies face are likely to remain in 2023, regardless of the economy. Leaders shouldn’t mortgage the company’s future for short-term cost gains.
For instance, the incremental cost of bringing a junior team member on a business trip to gain client relationship skills and see how a senior executive closes a deal is a worthwhile investment in the long run as they progress in their career.
Additionally, some organizations have downscaled their physical offices to accommodate a more hybrid future of work, driving high demand for bookable meeting spaces or internal travel to hold in-person gatherings. Associated costs could be worth it, for the sake of employee experience, workplace culture, and retention in this labor market.
Many companies won't achieve all of their DEI goals by freezing external hiring—and even more importantly, DEI capability-building and employee experience should remain priority investments to retain diverse talent.
And while leaders could be tempted to pause sustainability initiatives to save money until uncertainty has passed, it may not be in the company’s best interest. The benefits of these initiatives extend to corporate reputation and talent attraction and retention. Leaders should strongly consider how sustainability can fit into 2023 plans—including the company’s corporate travel program—as the cost of not doing so will impact long-term growth.
Leaders have a lot to consider as they prepare for what 2023 may bring, with impact to how they approach every facet of their travel program. SAP aspires to serve as a supportive resource that can help guide organizations through the challenges they face, offering travel and expense solutions that create key efficiencies and better experiences for employees in the year ahead.