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How technology is transforming the business travel landscape

July 13, 2021
7 min read
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In many respects, travel is back. The TSA is now screening 2 million+ travelers just about every day, while the sudden increase in demand across the U.S. has created the rental car apocalypse. Even cruising has restarted from American ports.

However, not all segments of the industry are coming back at the same rate. Business travel is one area that’s still struggling to rebound — with some executives using 2024 as a target. There’s some cautious optimism that corporate road warriors will become more comfortable taking to the skies in the second half of this year, but we’re still a long way away from a full recovery.

That said, despite the slow return of business travel, hotels, airlines and other travel providers have continued to develop and deploy technology to improve the overall experience of hitting the road. From biometrics at security checkpoints to keyless entry and touchless payments, these advances are making it easier and more comfortable for business travelers — whether they’re already back to the grind or are continuing to work remotely for the time being.

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Read on to learn more about how technology is transforming the business-travel landscape.

New realities for distributed workforce

Video-conferencing technology isn’t new, but the impact it has on how (and where) workers complete their job responsibilities has taken on newfound importance during the pandemic. While Zoom fatigue is real — and many companies have started reopening offices — there has nevertheless been a notable mindset shift regarding working remotely.

And we’re only beginning to see the implications of this trend on business travel.

Conference rooms may take on an entirely new function thanks to the distribution of employees. (Photo by sirtravelalot/Shutterstock)

Rather than having a large majority of employees based in on-site locations, companies may face a distributed workforce across the country, bringing teams together for in-person meetings only when vital to a project or initiative. A pre-pandemic “off-site” gathering — where office-based employees travel as a group to a non-office location — could be replaced with an “on-site” retreat, with workers across the country converging on the company’s headquarters.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian echoed this sentiment on our Return of Travel webinar back in April.

“There’s also going to be new forms [of business travel],” he said. “There will be people living in different parts of the country, maybe working remotely but still having to travel back to their main source of business” — and even recognized that this presents a significant opportunity for Delta and other travel companies.

And then there’s the increasing blend of business and leisure trips — or “bleisure” travel, to some. With less emphasis on physical proximity to a company’s office, some employees aren’t just working from home but doing so from a destination. Hyatt was the first major hotel company to offer incentives for this exact type of remote model, though chains like Hilton and Marriott have quickly followed suit — though unfortunately, the tech infrastructure at properties doesn’t always support such an approach.

Related: We tried Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott’s work-from-hotel programs — these are the pros and cons

Of course, those jobs that are heavily sales-driven will likely return to their pre-pandemic, in-person forms — “these video technologies are just not adequate to replace the in-person connection,” added Bastian during our webinar — but there’s no arguing that technology geared toward facilitating remote work may have profound and long-lasting effects on business travel.

Tech-enhanced travel experience

We’ve come a long way from the days of paper airline tickets mailed to your house, but providers are continuing to innovate to transform the actual travel experience. And one trend that’s gained newfound traction during the coronavirus pandemic is technology that enables touchless experience. Thanks to the proliferation of easy-to-use airline apps and mobile boarding passes, you can now go from your ride to your gate without touching anything other than your own belongings. This not only ensures a speedy start to long travel days — it also cuts down on shared surfaces and interactions that could pose a potential health risk.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

This is especially notable at security checkpoints. For starters, programs like CLEAR or TSA PreCheck ensure you won’t have to wait — sometimes hours — at those checkpoints. Though not available at all airports, CLEAR uses biometrics to identify travelers when they go through security. And the TSA continues to roll out automated ID scanners at airports across the country, allowing travelers to clear security without even handing over a boarding pass.

Apple is even getting in on the action, with its newest operating system — iOS 15 — slated to add a digital ID to use at security checkpoints later in 2021.

Related: How the pandemic has forever changed the airport experience

And once you’ve made it to your destination, many car rental companies allow members of their respective loyalty programs to head straight to their clean, sanitized cars and get on the road immediately. TPG’s Nick Ewen even used a QR code on his phone to exit the Avis lot at Denver International Airport (DEN) last month.

We’re also seeing a proliferation of this approach from lodging companies like Mint House, specifically designed for business travelers and leading the way in travel convenience by way of touchless entry. Mint House guests could utilize tech-enabled arrival to avoid check-in counters, lines and keycards even before COVID-19.

Now other big brands like Marriott allow you to have your room key at many locations through your phone on their app — and express check-out options mean that business travelers can be on their way (with a receipt in their inboxes) quicker than ever before.

From the beginning to the end of a road warrior’s travel day, advances in technology are making every step easier and more efficient.

Divvy is one company utilizing technology to transform a company's approach to expense management. (Photo courtesy of Divvy)

Budget management for small businesses

The traditional way that employees expense business travel is also becoming a thing of the past. (Some TPG staffers even remember faxing — yes, faxing — in receipts for reimbursement.) Thankfully, technology companies like Divvy combine the power of credit cards with budget management to allow small businesses to eliminate the need for out-of-pocket spending, manual expense reports and delayed reimbursement for their employees. This is done by distributing pre-set spending limits across those traveling for work and then utilizing a single, integrated platform for managing these expenses — including real-time reporting and budgeting.

The great thing about a system like Divvy is that it’s not restricted to just travel but to all business-related expenses. So whether it’s a working lunch, an out-of-town business meeting or those last-minute supplies for the office, you can use the company’s credit card and software technology in tandem to take the hassle out of expensing and reimbursing virtually every business purchase.

Bottom line

Leisure travelers are back in pre-pandemic numbers, and many travel providers are racing to keep up. And even though this surging demand hasn’t translated to a full-throated return of business travel, technology continues to transform the landscape — with solutions like ID scanners and biometric screening along with companies like Mint House and Divvy (to name a few).

If you’re a road warrior who’s been grounded for months, you may face a new experience the next time a work (or hybrid) trip comes around — with technology that makes travel easier than ever before.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
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  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023